1 May 2010
WHEN Bentley’s Mulsanne replaced its venerable Arnage predecessor, it had to deliver the same gravitas and sense of history, combined with modern technology and performance.
A brand-new body with sculpted coachbuilt lines made possible through the use of vacuum-formed panels sat atop a new platform with a new engine displacing the traditional 6.75-litre V8 format as the Mulsanne's ancestors.
The new engine also retained the 90-degree twin-turbo V8 layout with a dual-plane crankshaft, single camshaft and pushrod-operated valvetrain.
Bentley claimed the engine's cylinder deactivation system cut CO2 emissions by around 19 per cent during “real world usage”.
Engine outputs were rated at 377kW of power at 4200rpm and 1020Nm of torque (peaking at 1750 rpm instead of the old engine's 3250), which was 4kW and 20Nm more than the Arnage.
An eight-speed transmission co-developed with ZF was shared with Audi’s contemporary A8, with software and calibration designed for Mulsanne and driving the rear wheels.
Bentley replaced the Arnage hydraulic suspension with a newly-developed air suspension set-up allied to the double-wishbone front and multi-link rear, with infinitely variable twin-tube dampers developed with Continental. Components like the air springs were shared with the A8.
The 5.6-metre Mulsanne was 175mm longer, 26mm wider and 6mm taller than the Arnage T, yet at 2585kg was 25kg lighter and capable of accelerating from zero to 100km/h in 5.3 seconds, half a second quicker than the T, en route to a top speed of 296km/h.
Bentley claimed a 15 per cent improvement with in fuel cosumption – the Mulsanne consuming a claimed 16.9L/100km combined, while emitting 393g/km of CO2.
Inside the completely overhauled cabin, the driver sat within a ring of fine wood, the highly polished hand-cut veneer with 20 coats of lacquer taking five hours to apply and four days to cure, laid over solid wood.
Hand-stitched high-quality leather throughout came from Alpine cows – because they meet fewer biting insects and wooden fencing is less damaging to skin than barbed wire – and the hides were tanned near Milan using a traditional process that delivered the right smell.
Bulls-eye air vents and knurled organ-stop controls remained, yet the Mulsanne was also a modern car, with a bigger instrument display in front of the driver and a multi-media interface and screen to access the Sat Nav, telephone, radio and other media.
There was a 60GB hard disc drive, voice control for major systems, an optional 20-speaker 2200W sound system and even an iPod drawer as finely-wrought as the rest of the car.
Standard fit were 20-inch wheels, ESC, ABS, traction control, hill hold and ventilated disc brakes (400x38mm up front and 370x30mm at the rear).
Heated door mirrors with reverse-dip, puddle lamps, keyless entry, soft-close doors, 12-way adjustable seats with massage function and park distance control were also included in the price.
The three-mode Drive Dynamics system offered ‘Bentley’, sport or comfort modes. In addition, the Mulsanne offered customisable damper settings and steering tuning.
When it was new