Between three distinct body styles and numerous engine specifications, Bentley has made more versions of the Continental over the years than we would care to count. But one thing it has, by and (very) large left alone is the Mulsanne. Sure, it’s done some special editions and some extra equipment packages – it’s even toyed with the idea of a two-door convertible version – but at the end of the day, the Mulsanne soldiers on as a four-door sedan with one engine and one engine alone. That may be about to change, however.
Fueled by ambiguous pronouncements from Bentley’s returning chief Wolfgang Dürheimer, rumors from the UK suggest that the Flying B marque is preparing a more performance-focused version of the Mulsanne to debut at the Paris Motor Show this October.
Details are few and far between, but we’d expect the Mulsanne’s long-serving 6.75-liter V8 engine to be further tuned beyond its current specification of 505 horsepower and 752 pound-feet of torque, accompanied by a stiffer suspension, bigger brakes and other upgrades. Historically Bentley would turbocharge the Mulsanne’s predecessors (to turn the 90s-era Brooklands, for instance, into the Turbo R), but the Mulsanne’s engine is already spooled up, so the British automaker will likely have to massage the extra muscle out another way.
We wouldn’t count on it swapping the engine out entirely, though: though the most potent version of the company’s 6.0-liter W12 engine as found in the Continental GT Speed produces more power (at 626 hp) than the Mulsanne, at 605 lb-ft it’s significantly down on the big sedan’s trademark tidalwave of torque.
Since taking over Bentley, the Volkswagen Group has done a lot to modernize the marque and its products. And no small part of that came down to the engines. Under VW stewardship, Bentley introduced its ubiquitous W12 that makes it the largest producer of twelve-cylinder engines in the world. It then rolled out a smaller V8 co-developed with Audi that offers nearly all the benefits of the larger twelve but with less weight and better fuel economy. There’s even been talk of hybrids and diesels. But one thing the Germans have avoided touching is the 6.75-liter V8 in the Mulsanne.
Based on architecture that dates back to 1959, the Bentley L Series engine is one of the oldest automobile engines still in production. But while the basic architecture may remain the same, the engine has, of course, gone through many updates over the past several decades. Introduced when Bentley was still under Rolls-Royce ownership, official output figures were not released, but suffice it to say you can rest assured that it has increased dramatically from the “perfectly adequate” ratings of the original to the effortless 505 horsepower and 752 pound-feet of torque it produces in the Mulsanne today.
And for the foreseeable future, according to Autovisie, the car section of Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. Which may seem like a foregone conclusion, but does not represent the wisdom of a couple years ago. Speaking with an unnamed spokesperson for Bentley, Autovisie reports that the Flying B marque has no intention of retiring the big old V8 that’s still demanded by Mulsanne customers who are not interested in a newer or more technologically advanced engine brought in from Germany. The 6.75-liter V8 is a Bentley signature, after all – much as it was for Rolls-Royce before the two split and new parent BMW developed a V12 of the same capacity for the Phantom – and that’s not about to change any time soon, emissions legislation be damned.
From its more mainstream, popular origins in the original Honda Insight and Toyota Prius, the hybrid powertrain has worked its way up to the the corner office, the big chair, the top slot in the corporation. Bentley has announced that it will introduce a plug-in hybrid option on its SUV due in 2017. Before then, we’ll see what an electrically assisted Bentley looks like at the Beijing Motor Show when the Crewe automaker shows off a copper-accented Mulsanne that’s been reworked into its Hybrid Concept, pictured above.
We don’t have any official specs just yet, the only major announcement being that any Bentley hybrid will be able to travel at least 50 kilometers (31 miles) on pure electric thrust and get a power boost of “up to” 25 percent from its electric side. We use the phrase “any Bentley hybrid” because the company’s CEO says “we will gradually introduce this powertrain across our model range” to 90 percent of the brand’s lineup.
We’ll know more when the Beijing show commences. For now, there’s the press release below and the high-res gallery above.
The Bentley Mulsanne is the reigning king of the ultimate luxo-barges, at least until Rolls-Royce decides to replace the Phantom. Part of being the king is being exclusive, and how can you ensure you keep your crown? That’s right – you make it exclusiver.
While focus in the automotive industry this week is undeniably on the Detroit Auto Show and the North American market, Bentley has introduced a new special edition overseas based on the Mulsanne.
Named after Sir Henry “Tiger” Tim Birkin, one of the legendary Bentley Boys of the 1920s and ’30s, the Mulsanne Birkin Edition upgrades on Crewe’s flagship limousine with some unique touches. Available in Ghost White, Damson burgundy or a two-tone Fountain Blue and Dark Sapphire paintjob, the Birkin Mulsanne features unique 21-inch wheels, special tread plates, a unique Flying B logos stitched into the headrests and inlaid into the dashboard and rear picnic tables.
Each of the 22 examples to be made will also come with a custom luggage set and comes standard with the optional Mulliner Driving Specification and upgraded entertainment system with twin 8-inch LCDs in the seatbacks, DVD player, wifi hotspot, Naim audio system and integrated iPads. Bentley hasn’t announced pricing for the special European model, but if there were ever an example of “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it,” surely this is it.