Bentley's new Mulsanne is undergoing final testing around the world as the British marque prepares to launch its Rolls-Royce Ghost rival.
Autocar's Greg Kable joined the development team in the old mining town of Kimberley in South Africa, as they put the Mulsanne through hot-weather and dust testing.
When we meet up in Kimberley, Bentley’s engineering team has already spent a good part of the previous week out on the road, putting miles on the Mulsanne. In a bid to gauge the level of progress, two prototypes have been flown in from England; one reflects where the Mulsanne’s engineering was at a year ago and the other has all the very latest developments planned for the production version.
It’s already late in the day when we meet the team, so we waste little time in hitting the road. The test procedure today involves driving at legal speeds with a stop every 30 miles or so, at which everyone swaps seats. This way I get to experience the Mulsanne from the front and (importantly, given that most buyers will be chauffeured) the rear.
Not far from Kimberley there’s a long and straight gravel road covered in a thick layer of fine dust. It’s hardly where you expect to see a limousine performing full-bore getaways before running up to typical British motorway speeds and then backing off. However, it proves perfect for testing the rubber seals Bentley has chosen for the Mulsanne’s huge doors.
The next day, under bright blue skies, we head out of Kimberley again for a variety of different tests, including some sustained high-speed runs on surprisingly well maintained bitumen roads. Before we set off, though, there’s a 10-minute briefing to detail the day’s activities and focus attention on a report placed in each of the Mulsanne prototypes.