The only other car sitting alongside the new Mulsanne on Pebble Beach’s immaculate turf was the Bentley 8.0-litre. Not just any old 8-litre either. It was only the second one ever made and W.O.’s personal car.
Just to recap, the 8.0-litre was the last car that the company produced before W.O. was forced to sell his company to Rolls-Royce in 1931. The not so subtle message therefore is that this Mulsanne is the first ‘proper’ big Bentley produced at Crewe for nearly 80 years and, according to the company’s current boss Dr Franz-Josef Pfaegen, the sort of car that W.O. himself would have made.
But what are the first impressions? Well the Mulsanne is yet another new car that looks so much better in the metal than it does in the photographs.
In the soft Californian light of Pebble Beach it looked fantastic. Big and muscular, obviously, but graceful at the same time. The whole body is an amazing mixture of sharp creases, giving way to either convex or concurve panels. A lot of them are shapes you can only achieve with a hand built car or by pushing pressing technology to the limit, according to Bentley’s engineering boss Dr Ulrich Eichhorn.
No-one was allowed to sit in the Mulsanne today - they’re saving that treat for Frankfurt motor show - but I saw enough to see that a current Arnage owner is not going to feel displaced. It’s extremely traditional, with the classic ‘T-shaped’ dash layout with all the chrome-ringed dials and turned metal controls inlayed into a single piece of wood.
One pleasing thing is that it looks far more spacious than an Arnage too. Not that difficult to achieve, admittedly, but the Mulsanne is around 30 centimetres longer than an Arnage and it looks like a decent chunk of that has gone into rear accommodation.
What didn’t I like? I’m still not sure about those secondary lights, diagonally down from the main lights. Design boss Dirk van Braekel was quick to point out to me that it’s an old Bentley design cue. Yes, but does it work on a modern car? Then again, judging by the comments I overheard from the Pebble Beach audience I’m in the minority on that one.
Overall though it looks like being a fine effort and if it drives as well as the company bigwigs are privately boasting it’s going to give the new Roll Royce Ghost some extremely stiff competition.
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