First unveiled at the 2016 Geneva motor show, the revamped Mulsanne range is comprised of four models for the first time as customers can choose from two specifications of Extended Wheelbase - one with increased rear leg room and the other offering six seats in a four-up, face-to-face rear-seat configuration.
In addition, the entire Mulsanne range has been facelifted with what its makers describe as a “fresh and modern” look and new chassis tech to deliver what is claimed to be “the world’s most refined ride”, as it bids to assert itself against newer flagship rivals ranging from the Rolls-Royce Phantom through to the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.
Underlining the importance of the Mulsanne to Bentley, chief executive Wolfgang Durheimer, said: “The Mulsanne is the epitome of Bentley’s DNA - exquisite, individual and powerful. It defines luxury in the automotive world.”
2016 Bentley Mulsanne powertrain and chassis
Power for the standard car comes from the same 6.75-litre V8, which is linked to an eight-speed automatic ZF transmission and which delivers an unchanged 505bhp and 752lb ft of torque. The 0-60mph time remains 5.1sec, with a top speed of 184mph. Official fuel economy is 19.3mpg, up from 16.8mpg, with CO2 emissions of 342g/km, down from 393g/km.
New chassis hardware includes active engine mounts and revised suspension bushes, which deliver a more controlled ride that drivers can adapt between Bentley, Sport, Comfort and custom modes. Meanwhile a new tyre construction that features sound wave-absorbing foam created in partnership with Dunlop reduces cabin noise by up to 4dBA - which is more than half of the noise level generated in the cabin in the current car.
2016 Bentley Mulsanne exterior styling
Although the new-look Mulsanne stays true to its predecessor, the redesign is extensive; the entire front-end forward of the A-pillar is new, including the bumper, bonnet, radiator, shell, grilles and lights. Key to these changes has been a philosophy of integrating all the design elements so that they flow and work together more neatly, as well as giving the car more visual width and therefore presence.
The new stainless steel grille with vertical slats - 80mm wider than before - is the stand-out change on the front. Aping the design of historic Bentleys, including the 1930 8 Litre, Embiricos and R-Type Continental, it has the more recently used mesh detailing of modern Bentleys cited behind it. “The vertical slats give the car a strong presence and imply luxury, while the matrix mesh implies a sportiness,” said Bentley’s Sang Yup Lee, head of exterior design.
It is framed by a pair of floating all-LED headlights, which offer adaptive technology for better night vision, and which adjust their lighting pattern according to the prevailing conditions. By pushing some design elements farther to the corners of the car, Bentley’s designers have again worked to give the car more visual width and presence.
That theme continues at the rear, where the changes are more focused on the bumper and light treatments. The bumper, for instance, is 26mm wider at its lower edge, and includes a feature line designed to catch the light and give the car a more purposeful look. The rear lights are also more stylised in a ‘B’ shape, to give the car a more instantly recognisable look at night.
2016 Bentley Mulsanne interior
Inside, the most significant update is a new 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system, modernising the cabin ambience and updating the sat-nav to the latest standards. The system is compatible with Apple Carplay, Android Auto and MirrorLink.
The audio and visual capabilities are underpinned by a 60GB hard drive. Buyers can also spec an 18-speaker, 19-channel Naim audio system with a 2200 watt amplifier and super tweeters. In the rear, two 10.2-inch Android tablets sit in the backs of the front seats, and are 4G, wifi and Bluetooth enabled. The tablets are detachable and link to the infotainment system so passengers can stream music or video or control the sat-nav.
Other new tech includes headlights that automatically adjust according to town, country and motorway conditions, a blind-spot monitoring system and a new stability control system that can intervene if it detects a potential accident.
Interior changes are focused on a new style of seat, new door trims and armrests, glass switchgear and what Bentley claims is an industry-leading choice of 24 different colours of leather finish, available in a single or twin colour arrangement. Emphasising the quality claims, the leather interior is said to take 150 hours to trim - out of 400 hours to build the whole car - while 40 interior parts are said to be handmade.
2016 Bentley Mulsanne Extended Wheelbase models
In particular, Bentley is targeting growing sales for the extended wheelbase model, especially in China and the Middle East, the second and third biggest Mulsanne markets behind the US. The standard model boasts a new style of reclining seat that the firm describes as providing “first-class air-travel experience for the road”.
That car has an extra 250mm of rear leg room, and the pair of seats - separated by a console - have leg rests that can be extended for bed-like comfort. Buyers can also specify retractable tables, so they can work on the move. In addition, the rear passenger compartment has its own sunroof to add natural light to the cabin. Durheimer describes the rear seats as setting the “benchmark in automotive comfort”.
Few details of the six-seater version of the Mulsanne were revealed prior to its Geneva unveiling, beyond the revelation that it has a wheelbase extended by a metre to accommodate the four rear seats, which face each other in the rear. The car will be called the Bentley Grand Limousine by Mulliner, with each car built to order. It is described by an insider as “invoking the spirit of coach building”. Although no sales predictions were released, a spokesman admitted it is a “low volume” car.
2016 Bentley Mulsanne Speed
The Mulsanne Speed is powered by the same 6.75-litre V8, but with 530bhp, 811lb ft of torque and a recalibrated eight-speed gearbox, resulting in a 0-60mph time of 4.8sec and a top speed of 190mph. It also has a sports suspension mode for a more dynamic driving experience. Visual differentiators from standard models include a dark tint finish on exterior chrome details, unique 21-inch alloys, a different bumper design and sports exhausts; Bentley summarises these changes as “menacing”. Inside, quilted sports seats come as standard, as do alloy pedals and a sportier gearlever design.
With order books open now and around three months needed to build each car, first deliveries are expected to arrive in early autumn 2016.