Bentley Motors finally took the wraps off its all-new flagship grand tourer, the Mulsanne, at the Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance in Monterey, California on the weekend. The Mulsanne is inspired by the company founder W.O. Bentley’s crowning achievement in 1930, the 8-liter. Fittingly, W.O.’s own sensitively preserved 1930 company car shared the podium with the new Mulsanne in Pebble Beach. This early motoring masterpiece represented the last big Bentley that was designed, engineered and built from the ground up by Bentley engineers – until now.
Nearly 80 years later, while paying respect to this illustrious past, this Mulsanne is a thoroughly modern statement of luxury driving and grand touring. Conceived, styled and engineered entirely at Bentley’s headquarters in Crewe, England, the Mulsanne, with its completely new and unique platform, goes into production next year in a recently-created state-of-the-art manufacturing facility within the Crewe factory.
Introducing the Bentley Mulsanne at Pebble Beach, where Bentley was the featured marque, Dr Franz-Josef Paefgen, Chairman and Chief Executive of Bentley Motors, said: “The challenge we set our engineers was to create a new grand Bentley that would stand as the pinnacle of British luxury motoring, offering the world’s most exclusive driving experience. They have responded to this challenge with real passion and the result is a luxury grand tourer that sets new standards in terms of comfort, effortless performance and hand-crafted refinement – the very qualities for which Bentley is renowned.”
The Bentley design team, led by Dirk van Braeckel, has created a flagship that offers the classic sporting, styling cues long-associated with Bentley – expressed in a thoroughly contemporary way.
“From the very first hand sketches in the styling studio, we were inspired by the traditions of the grand touring Bentleys and have sought to evolve this story for a new generation of Bentley enthusiasts.”
The return of the Mulsanne name to a car carrying Bentley’s iconic ‘Winged B’ emblem underlines the company’s racing pedigree and nowhere reflects that heritage better than the famed Le Mans circuit, the scene of no fewer than six Bentley triumphs. Few places offer a stronger or more emotive connection with the Bentley marque than the famed Mulsanne corner.
Bentley was founded in 1919 by W.O. Bentley, who had made quite a name for himself producing powerful and reliable radial aircraft engines during WW1. Bentley's engines powered later versions of the famous Sopwith Camel aircraft. Bentley took two years to get his first car out of the showroom but what followed was a glorious period on the road and racetrack where its major competitor was Bugatti. Bentley won the Le Mans 24 hour race five times in its first decade and constantly made headlines due to the exploits of the Bentley Boys – a ratpack of wealthy bons vivants headed by Wolf Barnato who eventually became company chairman.
The Bentley 8-liter displayed alongside the Mulsanne in California was first shown at the 1930 London Motor Show. It was the second-built and was W.O. Bentley’s company car for two years. Capable of reaching more than 100mph (160kmh), the 8-liter demonstrated W.O. Bentley’s ambition and ability to build a grand luxury car capable of surpassing every other leading manufacturer of the day. A total of 100 cars were built in 1930 and 1931.
“The 8-liter’s breathtaking performance and quality was perhaps the finest example of a ‘pure’ grand Bentley. Every mechanical detail carried W.O. Bentley’s unique stamp and it was the clearest demonstration of a car built without compromise,” said Dr Ulrich Eichhorn, Member of the Board Engineering.
“The Mulsanne has been designed with exactly the same guiding principles, so it is entirely fitting that these Bentleys from different eras share the same stage.”
The Bentley Mulsanne will go on sale from mid 2010. It will also be displayed at the forthcoming IAA Frankfurt Motor Show (15-27 September 2009) where Bentley Motors will provide additional product information.
Throughout its history, the name Bentley has offered a driving experience characterized by a massive wave of torque – though heavy, all Bentleys come with impeccable road manners and massive torquey engines that simply fling the car at the horizon. If you have never had the experience of driving one of these magical motorcars, do yourself a favor and see if you can arrange it. Apart from effortless acceleration, the level of craftsmanship surrounding the driver makes one feel quite special.