Based on the configuration of an engineering classic first built in
Crewe fifty years ago,The new Mulsanne engine is a V8. But while it is a fitting tribute to the original, the Mulsanne’s V8 engine has been completely redeveloped to be more refined, efficient, lighter and integrate the latest technologies.
The new GT V-8 coupe offers 12 percent less power and 6 percent less torque than the 12-cylinder model, but it costs 10 percent less. That might sound like a fair bargain, but we wonder if that narrow pricing gap does enough to decisively define these two models for what they are: the fun one and the fancy one.
The V-8 GT’s agility is mainly the result of the 175-pound-lighter engine up front, which changes the car’s front-to-rear weight distribution from 56/44 percent to 51/49. Turning into corners, you can immediately feel that balance pay dividends in steering precision and turn-in sharpness. And once you breach the stability limit, the car exhibits less tendency to understeer than the front-heavier W-12 version. With the traction control off, the stability system allows the right amount of slip to push the car into an easily controlled drift. The eight-speed gearbox also enhances the car’s agility. It shifts faster than the regular ZF six-speed in the W12 GT, which is nice when you’re at part throttle and need to pass—now.
And yet, Bentley highlights this athleticism only barely, with minor trim changes such as red “B” badges, a black-gloss mesh grille, a new three-segment lower-front-bumper design, and double-oval exhaust tailpipes. This strikes us as more of a ¬German than British approach to product differentiation. Otherwise, we’re hardly complaining. We don’t even mind that it cruises 500 miles on a tank of gas.
It’s a rare event and a privilege
"As a designer, it’s a rare event and a privilege to be asked to create a new grand Bentley - a contemporary expression of our brand. But to move forward, you must be true to your heritage. Character is everything in the quest to find a clean, pure Bentley look that feels authentic. Customers also told us they wanted a driver’s car, something powerful and elegant. So we combine classic Bentley shapes, details and proportions with a forward-looking design. When I gaze upon the car today, I’m struck by how it oozes emotion. It’s truly a work of art, made by individuals, for individuals."
The all-new grand Bentley
The story of the new Bentley Mulsanne is inspired by W.O. Bentley’s crowning achievement - his 8-litre engine, a powertrain that transformed his vehicles from being rugged, sporting tourers into refined automobiles. While the Bentley Mulsanne pays respect to the past, it is also a thoroughly modern statement of luxury driving and grand touring from
Crewe. At its heart, it is as much an engineering masterpiece as the 8-litre. And like its predecessor, it offers the world’s most exclusive driving experience.
FLAGSHIP BENTLEYS HAVE BEEN POWERED BY MIGHTY V8 ENGINES FOR OVER 50 YEARS AND MULSANNE IS NO EXCEPTION.
Anyone who has experienced the effortless acceleration that arrives regardless of engine speed or gear selection will know just how astonishing the effect can be. With those objectives in mind, the Mulsanne’s engineers considered a variety of engine configurations before settling on a radically re-engineered version of Bentley’s acclaimed 6¾-litre V8.
Every major component from the forged crankshaft to the pistons are now designed for even better engine response.
To achieve a significant reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions plus improved refinement and torque, the Mulsanne’s V8 sees the introduction of two new control systems: Cam Phasing and, a first for the flagship motoring sector, Variable Displacement. Variable Displacement imperceptibly powers down four cylinders when cruising with a light load. The moment you press your foot down, however, it seamlessly brings all eight cylinders back into play.
The Mulsanne develops 512PS (505bhp / 377kW) while the massive torque (1020Nm / 752lb ft) is now delivered even earlier at 1750 rev/min. This dramatic ability to produce maximum torque from just above idle and then right through the rev range ensures that with a mere tap of the accelerator you are immediately rewarded with that characteristic deep, muffled V8 burble and relentless acceleration.
Driving the big-daddy Bentley Mulsanne is like driving a very powerful, very deluxe English drawing room. Driving a twin-turbo 567-hp, 12-cylinder Continental GT is less so, even if the smaller car still does a fine impersonation of Ron Burgundy’s apartment—i.e., many leather-bound books, smells of rich mahogany. And it’s probably a safe bet that nobody who bought either one ever cared about what kind of mileage it got.
“But those days are over,” says Bentley marketing director Mark Tennant. “Today, Bentley customers are as much focused on environmentally friendly technology as on power.” In that spirit, the German-owned British luxury brand is soon to launch a new, smaller twin-turbo V-8 for its top-selling Continental models, starting with the coupe and convertible, followed by the Flying Spur sedan. The target is to reduce consumption by 40 percent compared with the existing W-12–powered cars. “We are expecting to sell 50 percent of the Continental range with the new V-8,” Tennant says. After driving the new car, we have little doubt he’s right but probably not for the reason he thinks.
Our first access to the Continental GT V-8 coupe came at the Silverstone circuit in the
and on English back roads. The V-8 GT—call it the entry-level entry-level Bentley—is powered by a version of the direct-injected 500-hp, 4.0-liter turbocharged V-8 that does duty in the Audi S8 (520 horsepower) and S7 (420). But it sounds different here than in the Audis and transforms the car into one that’s more aggressive yet better balanced than its 6.0-liter, W-12–powered sister. That said, acceleration suffers from the loss of two liters and four cylinders: 0 to 60 mph comes in an estimated 4.6 seconds (we figure the W-12 GT at 4.2 seconds); top speed drops 13 or so mph to 185. U.K.
Under acceleration, the engine emits a strong burble—a less metallic, more couth version of the classic American V-8’s rumble. Between 3000 and 4500 rpm, the sound hardens to a growl. At 5000 rpm, it’s wailing like Hendrix at
. If you ignore the turbos’ little gaps during load changes, this engine mimics a big-displacement, naturally aspirated V-8. It has cylinder deactivation to knock out four pots at opportune moments, but the system is so well managed that you never notice the dropout. Monterey
So: direct injection, cylinder shut-off, an alternator programmed to charge the battery mainly during deceleration, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and a tougher personality than the version fitted in the Audi S8. Not bad. Nor are these numbers, as if any potential buyer cares: 22 mpg on the European driving cycle, 8 mpg better than the W-12 GT. On our open-road tour of the
, we observed 13 mpg. U.K.