Bentley makes the Mulsanne more distinctive

Bentley Mulsanne Mulliner frontThe automobile has been around for just over 100 years, so it can be difficult to build one that truly stands out from everything that has come before, and everything currently occupying the crowded marketplace. Nonetheless, Bentley claims its new Mulsanne Mulliner, debuting soon at the Geneva Motor Show, is both “distinctive and sporting.”

The name may sound like an aristocrat mumbling about caviar, but it is steeped in Bentley history. Mulsanne is the main straight at Circuit de la Sarthe, home of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s most famous endurance race. Bentley won Le Mans four times in a row (1927-1930), and again in 2003, establishing its reputation as a builder of performance cars. H.J. Mulliner & Co. is a British coachbuilder founded in 1760; it currently builds custom cars for Bentley.

The Mulsanne definitely looks distinctive; it’s straight flanks and traditional, upright grille defy modern aerodynamics and scream old money. It also makes Bentley’s claim that the Mulliner edition is “sporting” seem hard to believe. How can a 219.5-inch, 5700-pound (more than a base-model Cadillac Escalade) sedan with a hood ornament be sporty?

Bentley did try to shed some of that weight. The Mulsanne Mulliner has lightweight 21-inch aluminum alloy wheels, attached to the hubs with titanium bolts. The Mulsanne’s Driving Dynamic Control computer gets a “sport” setting that sharpens the suspension and steering.

The engine is untouched by the Mulliner treatment; buyers will have to make due with a twin-turbocharged, 6.8-liter V8 making 506 horsepower and 752 pound-feet of torque. The sole transmission option is an eight-speed automatic with a manual shift mode. Bentley says the car will do 0-60 mph in 5.1 seconds.

Unique trim bits include polished stainless-steel fender vents sporting the Mulliner name, Diamond Quilted leather upholstery, and “knurled and coined” switchgear. The Mulliner also gets drilled alloy pedals which, Bentley says, promote “confident, spirited driving.”

One option that does absolutely nothing to improve the Mulsanne’s performance is the new champagne cooler. It fits between the rear seats and has a frosted glass door with LED accent lighting. The purchase price includes three hand-cut champagne flutes designed to match the Mulsanne Mulliner’s 21-inch wheels.

Bentley did not quote a price, but if you want one, sell your house now. The standard Mulsanne starts at $296, 295; expect the Mulliner to cost a little bit more.

The Mulsanne does incredible things for such a heavy, luxurious car. However, it is unclear how the Mulliner edition improves on the original’s performance. New wheels and suspension settings do not make a new car, but the Mulsanne Mulliner will still be the fastest car with a champagne cooler. It will also be very distinctive.