Best of the Best 2011: Sedans: Bentley Mulsanne

    While motorcars become greener, lighter, smaller, and less expensive, Bentley clings to its heritage by offering the Mul­sanne, a supersized sedan with a carbon footprint as large as that of a South York­shire coalfield. The world of motoring—plus an estimated 10 percent of Bentley owners—is all the better for this mighty $290,000 museum piece, which weighs close to three tons, barely fits between parking meters, and delivers about a dozen miles to the gallon.

    The Mulsanne—named for a terrifyingly fast straight at the Le Mans race circuit, where equally big Bent­leys reigned during the 1930s—is an unashamed throwback to an era when building one car took weeks. Now, as then, assembly is performed by hand, and no feature or component is considered too elegant, too expensive, or too expansive, because nothing of majesty should involve scrimping on size, cost, or luxury. Thus buyers can order the Mulsanne with monogrammed tread plates, marquetry on the doors of the backseat cocktail cabinet, stainless-steel parts that have been polished by hand for 10 hours, and wood veneers that require five weeks to complete their journey from oak and walnut root balls to dashboard paneling. Mulsanne buyers also can visit the factory in Crewe to choose an exterior paint color from a palette ranging from pastels to primaries, or to take a tea break with the lady who hand-stitches the steering-wheel covers.

    Like all Bentleys, the Mulsanne represents a triumph of power over tonnage and drag. It may weigh 5,700 pounds and stretch 18 feet, but its 6.75-liter V-8, encouraged by a pair of turbochargers, generates 505 hp—with 752 ft lbs of torque. That is enough to push the Mulsanne from zero to 60 mph in just over five seconds and enable it to reach a top speed of 184 mph.

    Traveling in the Mulsanne, smoothly and quietly, offers a sense of occasion that might be old-fashioned but is never out of fashion.

     

    Bentley Motors, www.bentleymotors.com

    Photo by Olivier Staub
    Robb Report takes the new and improved three-wheeler for a spin on the roads of Malibu, Calif.…
    With a new, contemporary design, this is not your grandfather’s Continental…
    Performance and style have perhaps never converged so beautifully as they did in European...
    In May, the home of the American automobile will host three days of films, discussion panels, and...
    Photo by ALPINA Burkard Bovensiepen GmbH + Co. KG
    The refreshed coupe turned heads at the New York International Auto Show...
    With Formula-1 aerodynamics and a powerful engine, this so-called “daily driver” offers flagship-...
    The all-electric vehicle’s design is just practical enough to inspire hopes of production…
    Photo by Tom Ziora
    Truly a road-going racecar, we spent some quality time behind the wheel of the Mono…
    An improved power-to-weight ratio allows the car to reach a top speed of 217 mph…
    McLaren, Rolls-Royce, Porsche, Cadillac, and Lincoln, among others, made stunning showings…