The Mulsanne has gone and I’ve had a few days to mull over my thoughts. For all the plush carpet, fine veneer wood and luxury gizmos, I can’t say the Bentley is a car that suits UK roads.
Apart from the frequent bouts of road rage it seems to evoke from other drivers, the Mulsanne is simply so big that it doesn’t ‘work’ on our narrow strips of Tarmac.
It’s so large that urban driving is a nightmare – and as my trip to the Lake District proved, it also doesn’t enjoy narrow, country lanes either.
No, the Bentley is going to sit most comfortably on a US highway, a wide Hollywood boulevard, or outside a prince’s house in the UAE.
I love the comfort, the turn of speed in ‘sport’ mode and those electric, sliding privacy curtains in the back but the UK-built Mulsanne should be ‘Export Only’….
Road rage. What’s that all about? Well, if you want to wind up another car driver then sell the house and buy a Bentley Mulsanne my friend. After three days in the Lake District, I’m mighty relieved to be back in the Deep South. That’s the Cotswolds, if you’re not English.
It started with a van driver, who was determined not to let the ‘posh’ car past on a dual carriageway. He managed to drag his overtaking manoeuvre out for three miles then swerved violently sideways towards me as I wound the Mulsanne up to slip by.
Later that evening, a spotty oik in a Peugeot 206 decided he wanted to overtake the Bentley on a winding country lane, about the width of, well, a Bentley Mulsanne. What followed was a cat an mouse game of madness. Yes, I should have stopped and let him past but I was moving at a swift pace and there seemed no logic in his actions.
Finally, last night a Mini lodged so close on the back bumper I was afraid to brake. If I had, he/she would have discovered the penalty for tailgating a Mulsanne is probably £30k+.
At least I discovered what those automatic rear curtains are for – blocking out the following headlights of lunatics… And that the Mulsanne isn’t meant for Beatrix Potter-style lanes in the Lakes…
There’s one very unwelcome element to driving any Bentley – the unwanted attention of ‘angry’ drivers. You know the sort – people who pull out in front of you on a dual carriageway and then deliberately slow down as they overtake.
It seems to be a weird national sport in the UK, especially among white van drivers who are upset at the fact you just happen to be in an expensive car and therefore, by their screwy reasoning, must be a posh git.
It happened yesterday as I drove up to the Lake District (averaging a quite remarkably 23.3mpg!). Not even a flash from those big plate headlights would make the plonker move over.
I suppose the joke’s on him ultimately because I couldn’t even afford a set of tyres for the Mulsanne.
Never judge a man by the wheels he is driving…
You could argue the Mulsanne isn’t a pretty car from the front. The bug-eyed headlights somehow don’t marry with the macho grille and totally dominate the car’s appearance.
Car headlights simple don’t need to be that large any more – because they actually work these days! Just look at the slit-eyed beamers on the brilliant new Audi TT. I’m sure other designers will soon follow suite.
I’m not sure I’ve seen headlights as big as those on the Mulsanne since, well, those old Bentley blowers of the 1920s and 1930s. And why were they so big? Simply because lights were rubbish back then.
The outer daytime runnings lights on the Mulsanne are ringed in bling LEDs – they’re a bit smaller and probably about the same size in area as the TT. So why do we need the two, dinner plate headlights inbetween?
Those headlights spoil an otherwise beautiful car…
Is that right – £5,100 for a set of black curtains in a Bentley Mulsanne? There’s something rather funereal about the gentle glide of the electric motor that draws them together and cocoons the back seat in darkness.
And just what are they for? I suppose that if you are an Arab sheikh, who doesn’t want to wear sunglasses to avoid publicity, they could be quite useful. Or maybe they’re so the chauffeur can have a kip in the back while waiting for his passenger…
Personally, I think heavy tint glass might be more effective, and cheaper. Although that could be deemed rather uncool these days, as even Ford and Skoda owners can black out their windows for maximum bling appeal.
Still, there’s no finer place to be than in the back seat of a Mulsanne. It’s like flying first class, with deep pile Wilton overmats (an extra £1,060) and the Entertainment Pack (£21,145).
What’s that? Well, it turns the Bentley into a Wi-fi hotspot and adds picnic tables – crafted from solid metal, fine veneer and leather – that are designed to accommodate an iPad and wireless keyboard.
Add twin eight-inch LCD screens incorporated into the backs of the front headrests, a 20 GB hard drive and DVD player, plus a pair of Bluetooth headphones and a remote control, and you can see why this is the only way to fly…
Bizarre as it might seem, piloting a 6.75-litre V8 happens to be the best way to avoid a speeding ticket. The Mulsanne’s 505bhp unit would rip the metalwork off a lesser car but because the Bentley weighs 3200kg, it’s just about the right power to weight ratio.
In fact, being whisper quiet and smoother than a vat of butter, the Bentley doesn’t feel like it’s travelling until you hit 70mph. So for the last two days I’ve been cruising around at very sensible speeds, soaking up the leather and ash interior in my own private gentlemen’s club.
It’s such a big lump of motor car that I don’t feel any inclination to push the Mulsanne on winding English roads at all. What this Bentley needs is a German autobahn for a trans-Europe journey of epic proportions.
What’s most fascinating is the way other drivers react – this isn’t a car for shrinking violets. Don’t expect to be let out at a junction either. You’re more likely to get a friendly wave driving a Russian tank…
If you want an excuse not to buy the Mulsanne try this. It doesn’t fit in my garage. At 220 inches long you definitely need a palatial parking place to go with your palace home.
However, if you are in the market for a car fit for royalty, the Mulsanne is far more forgiving than it might appear on paper. Admittedly, I’ve had to make a few adjustments to my parking procedures at home but otherwise, it’s a relatively straightforward drive.
Sitting in the driver’s seat for the first time, there’s no baffling array of buttons to master; the seat adjustment is as easy as any other Volkswagen Audi Group car; even the £21k upgraded infotainment system requires very little thought.
While last week I was reaching for the manual of the Outlander PHEV every five minutes, I feel perfectly at home in the Bentley. Explain that one Mr Mitsubishi?