Two new luxury cars battle it out in a tough to call twin test
28 May 2010

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…

See the exclusive pics from the Bentley Mulsanne vs Rolls-Royce Ghost twin test

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.

Similarities

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.

Interiors

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.

Engines

On our solus test of the Bentley, we wondered if its V8 hadn’t lost character in the latest round of re-engineering, by becoming a shade too reluctant to produce the V8 thunder of old (although it will do it). But against the always-silent Rolls it is quite a character, whose party trick is amazing thrust barely above idle (peak torque is 752lb ft at 1750rpm).

The Rolls’s twin-turbo V12 is nominally more powerful if you rev it out (peak power is 563bhp at 5250rpm) but its peak torque is nearly 200lb ft less. On combined fuel consumption, there’s quite a gap: the Rolls beats the Bentley’s fairly poor 16.8mpg (combined) by almost 25 per cent.

Dynamic ability

The Bentley is – narrowly – the better driver’s car. It is as fast and absorbing as a sports car, and a damned sight more comfortable. With every mile you can feel how well its four-position Drive Dynamics Control has been honed, because you find yourself tuning the car for driving conditions and your own state of mind. The Rolls has just one well-chosen setting.

Verdict

I’d choose the Rolls-Royce. As I said when we first drove the car, the choices made by this car’s creators about price, size, powertrain, suspension settings and styling are all of the highest quality. Above all, I’d prefer the Rolls for its styling, surely the best balanced of any four-door luxury saloon since the discreetly brilliant Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow of the mid-1960s.

Trouble is, having sampled the first-class driving experience this latest Mulsanne affords, I suspect I’d wind up dissatisfied if I chose anything else. In this case, there could be only one alternative, the so-called squillionaire’s option. Buy them both.

You can read the full story, plus see more exclusive pictures from the test, in this week's Autocar magazine, which is on sale now.

See all the latest Bentley Mulsanne reviews, news and videoSee all the latest Rolls-Royce Ghost reviews, news and video

Join the debate

Comments
32

24 May 2010

I'd agree with Steve here, and take the Rolls. The Bentley's alloys are absolutely horrific, they look like something from Mex Power, terrible! Chrome on white looks bad too, the interior in the Bentley however, looks great. Roller looks better on the outside though, the styling looks so cohesive and well-resolved.

24 May 2010

Both are beautiful cars and I'd be happy to have either but given the choice Id have the Bentley.

Yes the Bentleys front lights are slightly more "Dopey", but I much prefer Bentleys interior, and I imagine that driving the Ghost would be a similar experience to driving a Range Rover Sport... Wonderful until the real deal pulls up next to you!

24 May 2010

Next to the Rolls, the Bentley looks like an astonished, smiling caricature cartoonish car !

24 May 2010

i'd be torn in to which i'd choose unfortunately i'm unlikely ever to be in a position with such dilemma however i think the Bentley would just edge it (just)

24 May 2010

I've recently bought a 6 year old Arnage. The Rolls looks interesting but I perfer the Bentley and will probably buy a 5 or 6 year old Mulsanne in a few years. Won't be white though, probably dark blue or black.

24 May 2010

The Ghost takes it for me. It is has the edge on ride comfort and refinement which are absolutely crucial in this sector of the market (although the Bentley is still very good in those areas too) and it knocks the Bentley for six with its more desirable styling. The interior designs are a matter of personal taste, but I just prefer RR's more restrained and elegant effort than the Bentley's more glitzy approach. It just looks more classy

The only area the Bentley is better is the handling. But the According to the article, even there the Ghost runs it close and it also matches its performance.

24 May 2010

The Mulsanne has hints of Ford Cortina Mk3 about its rear 3/4 styling and when viewed in profile looks too high and long at the back. The Rolls looks well balanced and very classy. The fact Bentley is launching this car in white with chintzy alloys says it all about the type of person this car will appeal to.

Thumbs up to the Rolls, the jurys out on the Bentley but in a nutshell both are a hit next to the Maybach and any limo from the states.

24 May 2010

Man, those interiors on both cars look great. Wish I could have a great interior like those on my car.

24 May 2010

I'm sorry, but, both of these cars cost over £200,000, yet still are made mostly from STEEL. For that money, I would absolutely demand aluminium, possibly even with lashings of carbonfibre. This is nowhere near good enough - these dinosaurs will rapidly be overtaken by more modern (if less prestigious) competitors. Gimme an XJ or an A8 over one of these heffalumps any day.

24 May 2010

Absolutely majestic. Those bridges over the Firth of Forth are timeless. I suspect the cars in question will be less so. I have to disagree with the majority here and say I prefer the look of the Bentley inside and out. For me, it's a more cohesive, balanced design whereas the Ghost is not. That horrendous two tone bonnet, tasteless grill and doopy tail will surely date quickly.

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