Old rivalries enter a new era with the arrival of the Bentley Mulsanne alongside the Rolls-Royce Ghost. Steve Cropley makes a tough call.
Why not Mulsanne versus Phantom?
Rolls-Royce is perfectly happy for its number two model (at least in price, if not capability or quality) to be compared with Bentley’s new number one. Bentley, predictably, is keener for the Mulsanne to be seen as a Phantom rival, arguing that its car, already around £30,000 more expensive than a Ghost, can easily cost £260k-plus by the time you’ve added the bespoke features the company wants every owner to consider. But then Rolls owners buy bespoke options too…
Given this (gentlemanly) disagreement, our casting vote was to match Ghost and Mulsanne – because both are relatively practical cars, well able to be used every day, whereas the Phantom is so large, imposing and valuable that it’s almost ceremonial.
The Mulsanne is 175mm (or just under seven inches) longer than the Ghost – not much of a difference in an overall length of 5.5 metres. Both cars weigh roughly 2.5 tonnes at the kerb and use a unique, mainly steel monocoque body with air suspension (to deliver the same ride standards whatever the car’s load condition). Each has a twin-turbocharged engine of just under seven litres, with copious power and torque fed through one of ZF’s new eight-speed gearboxes.
The Rolls majors on simplicity. As in the Phantom, controls are arranged in a strict hierarchy – and non-essentials are hidden – so owners will never be able to complain of complexity.
The Bentley impresses in an entirely different way, by being comprehensive and more appealing to the sporting driver. It has a superb array of dials and switches – including a tachometer and about the best-looking central transmission quadrant put into a car.