• Available for £50,000
• 6.75-litre V8 petrol twin-turbo, rear-wheel drive
• Planet-smashing torque
• Royalty-satisfying luxury and comfort
• Excellent reliability despite fewer robots in the build
• Don’t call it a Volkswagen
A limousine you'd want to drive yourself sounds like an odd concept but that was the sales spiel for Bentley's 2010 Mulsanne. The first production vehicle to be independently designed by Bentley since the John Steed-style 'trucks' of the 1930s, the Mulsanne had big boots to fill as the successor to well-liked models such as the mighty but flawed Turbo R and Arnage, many of whose buyers had strong views on what constituted a proper Bentley.
Bentley didn't go back to the 1930s for the Mulsanne's engine as that would have been ridiculous, but Bentley’s new owners Volkswagen did allow them to dip back to the 1950s for the powerplant. By the time the Mulsanne line stopped in 2020, its L-series 6.75 litre engine had stamped an unassailable place in history as the world's longest-serving V8. Obviously, this heroic lump has gone through a fair bit of development in its sixty-year life. In the Mulsanne, it was lighter than it had ever been and featured modern trickery like cylinder deactivation and variable cam timing.
Although the Mulsanne’s 5.6m length (or 5.8m in the extended wheelbase version) meant there was nearly enough legroom in the back to accommodate a circus stilt walker whose stilts were still lashed in place, this Brobdingnagian beast was squarely aimed at the four out of five owners who wanted to be a foot or so behind the wheel rather than six feet behind it. You could understand why people might want to drive a Mulsanne too because it was one of those physics-defying automotive creations that made a mockery of its own weight, which in the Bentley's case was massive. Today, it's beaten on heft by the Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 SUV (the what now?) and the batteried-up BMW XM, but as recently as 2018 the Mulsanne was the UK's champion weighbridge-buster at 2.6 tonnes – the same weight as two average family hatches.
Despite that, it was a rapid machine thanks to its unctuous twin-turbo 6.8-litre V8 engine. There was nothing special about its 505hp peak power figure, but there certainly was about the 752lb ft torque which glooped in from just 1,750rpm. The word acceleration didn’t really do justice to the Mulsanne did. Imagine instead what it might feel like being tied to a boulder being fired by a trebuchet.
At the 2012 Geneva show a Mulliner Driving Specification model was launched featuring lightweight 21-inch alloy wheels with titanium fasteners, diamond quilted leather, Bentley logoed headrests, drilled alloy pedals, knurled interior door handles and new unbleached wood veneers and marquetry options. A Sport setting was added to the Driver Dynamics Control system.
A year later at the same show three new interior packages were announced, Comfort, Premiere and Entertainment. Another year after that, in 2014, the £250,000 Speed was revealed. Features specific to this model included a Sports mode for the suspension system settings, a dark tinted grille, new headlight and taillight designs, 'colour split' diamond quilted hide, a 60Gb hard drive, electrically-operated tables with recesses and connections for iPads and matching keyboards, and a Wi-Fi hotspot. With more efficient combustion and 'rifled' twin exhausts the V8’s power was lifted to 530hp and the torque to 811lb ft, a mad number which at the time was beaten only by Bugatti's claims for its Veyron. The 0-62mph time dropped into the fours and the v-max rose from 184mph to 190mph, encouraging Bentley to call the Speed the world’s fastest limousine.
If you wanted an actual limousine the Extended Wheelbase (EWB) joined the range in 2016 with an extra 10-inch of rear legroom plus airline-style seats, a second sunroof and among a great deal of other stuff the option of a 'long console' rear seat divider with more switches and controls than a Gemini moon lander. Regular Mulsannes were substantially revised at this time with LED headlights, B-signature taillights, a new, squarer grille, new colours and trims and all-new body panels ahead of the windscreen.
A Mulsanne W.O. Bentley by Mulliner edition was released in 2019 to celebrate the company's 100th anniversary. It could be ordered with either the Speed or the regular engine, and in standard or extended wheelbase form – although if you went for the EWB you had to have the lower-powered engine. Onyx Black paint with gloss black 21-inch alloy wheels was the default colour scheme, but as you might expect Bentley wasn't about to say no if you wanted something else. The heritage hides could only be had in one of four colours however, namely Beluga, Fireglow, Newmarket Tan or, well, Camel. A slice of the camshaft from W.O. Bentley's personal 8-Litre car was inlaid into the rear console drinks cabinet. Unsurprisingly, one hundred of these cars were made for the global market, four of them allocated to the UK. No official prices were made public, but a delivery mileage car was seen for sale recently at 325,000 euros.
In 2020 the Mulsanne was conspicuous by its absence from the Bentley brochure. It was another big saloon to fall victim to the rise of the SUVs, with Bentley's own Bentayga being largely responsible for its demise. Even so, Bentley sold more Mulsannes than Rolls-Royce did Phantoms, and our beloved late Queen had not one but two of them, one for Windsor Castle and one for Buckingham Palace. Both were 2013 cars in Barnato Green and were owned by Her Maj for just two years. The Windsor car was sold in 2019 while the Buck House one went on sale in 2021 at which point it had done 2,000 miles. The price was a few bob under £180k. This excellent story by our Matt will tell you all that and more.
Talking of posh folk, here's a Mulsanne-based business idea for you. VIP transport. No matter how bad things get, there'll always be wealthy people needing to get somewhere in style. Even an eleven-year-old Mulsanne will have plenty of style, and because of the quality of build the chances are it will look just as good as a two-year-old one. There's a big difference in the prices of old and new(ish) Mulsannes though, as you’ll see at the end of this piece. Early ones start at under £50k, quite a drop from the £225k price in 2010.
So, you’ve got your £50k Mulsanne. How much can you charge for it as a luxury taxi? Here’s a quick illustration based on an existing London-based firm that’s using a Rolls-Royce Phantom. You wouldn't have to pitch your Mulsanne prices much lower, if at all, because most if not all of your passengers would rate the Bentley's 'specialness' at least on a par with that of a Phantom. You could be looking at £130 an hour for a minimum 5-hour stint, over £1,000 for an 8-hour day and £440 for the trip from Heathrow to central London. Of course, there'll be substantial running expenses, but if you've bought at the bottom of the market and you’ve got a decent PR operation in place you should soon get your investment money back, after which you'll be in the gravy and you’ll have some great stories to tell when you retire. Maybe. Naturally, PistonHeads absolves itself of all responsibility if it all goes horribly wrong.
How wrong could it go, though? How substantial might your expenses be? Could there be some unwelcome events waiting to blow your shiny new business to kingdom come? Let's take a look.
SPECIFICATION | BENTLEY MULSANNE (2010-20)
Engine: 6,750cc, twin-turbo V8
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 505@4,200rpm (537@4,200rpm Speed)
Torque (lb ft): 752@1,750rpm (811@1,750rpm Speed)
0-62mph (secs): 5.2 (4.9 Speed)
Top speed (mph): 184 (190 Speed)
Weight (kg): 2,585
MPG (WLTP combined post-'17): 17.4
CO2 (WLTP g/km post-'17): 365
Wheels (in): 9 x 20
On sale: 2010 - 2020
Price new: £225,000
Price now: from £50,000
Note for reference: car weight and power data are hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it’s wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
Each Mulsanne engine was hand-built and there was a plaque atop every one of them to tell you who was responsible for it. The V8 design was as old as the hills – sixteen valves, pushrods, single cam – but thanks to the Brunellian robustness of the mechanicals and the two Mitsubishi puffers giving them the hurry-up there was nothing old-fashioned about the manner in which the Mulsanne hurled itself up the road.
The redline was set at 4,500rpm, which was diesel territory, and old diesel at that. Peak power arrived at a comically low 4,200rpm, but it was funnier than that even because the last 1,700 of those revs were pretty much redundant. This unit was all about big, syrupy slugs of torque oozing through a ZF 8-speed torque converter auto so mellifluous it was hard to tell when the cogs were shifting. In normal creeping about you had to strain to hear anything at all from the drivetrain. Only at higher rpm was there a suggestion that there might be a bombastic V8 under the aircraft-carrier bonnet. Exploring that higher range came in handy for those occasions when you wanted to make a noise, for example when storming angrily away from a board meeting that hadn't gone your way. In such circumstances the surreal experience of flat sticking a Mulsanne would cheer you right up. The Speed was a little bit less discreet in its exhaust note but normal conversations in any Mulsanne were perfectly possible at speeds up to and including the top ones.
We’re not even going to bother talking about fuel consumption but servicing at a respected independent will typically cost £530 for year one (10k miles) and for every other odd numbered year/mileage (3yr/30k, 5yr/50k etc). The major services from year two (20k) will start at around £800 and rise to £1,150-£1,200 in the even-numbered years thereafter (4yr/40k, 6yr/60k etc). The 100k/10yr service will be nearer to £1,650.
We found no common problems with the Mulsanne, and as far as we can see there have been no Mulsanne recalls, all of which is jolly hopeful from an ownership point of view. As a note of caution however we should say that ownership information is quite thin on the ground, at least in part because of the oddly secretive nature of UK-based owners’ clubs. More on that in the Verdict at the end. If you’re of a cautious disposition and you wanted to get an official Bentley warranty these are of course available. We can tell you that one Flying Spur-owning PHer was quoted £3,300 and £5,550 for 12 and 24 months cover at the end of 2021, and that in the spring of this year (2022) a Conti GT W12-owning PHer was quoted £2,690/£4,500 for the same periods. Neither of these cars are Mulsannes but it gives you an idea.
The Mulsanne had adaptive air suspension and four driving modes, two of which (Comfort and Sport) sandwiched the factory-recommended 'B for Bentley' setting. There was also a Custom setting wherein you could assign preferred individual values to the engine, suspension and steering.
On the suspension, Bentley's engineers tried to give the Mulsanne a sporting edge, and the resultant ride wasn't as pillowy-soft as that of the Rolls-Royce Ghost. On the upside, the Bentley's steering feel and road grip felt sharper than the Ghost's and it rolled a lot less vividly through corners than you might expect for something so humongous. In that respect, the Mulsanne accurately maintained the traditional space between the two brands: 'Rolls for the gentleman, Bentley for the bounder.'
You could raise the suspension for rough roads, such as those encountered in what used to be known as third world countries, or indeed in many parts of the UK today. At higher speeds the Mulsanne would lower itself for more efficient progress. It might seem odd that you didn't get modern safety tech like lane departure warning or blind spot detection in a Mulsanne but nor was it hard to imagine Bentley customers telling the company that they wanted nothing to do with such electronic distractions. Of more real-world interest to owners were the partially foam-filled Dunlop tyres which ran with eery silence. Active engine mounts helped to further reduce the already near-imperceptible noise levels.
Most of the Mulsanne's body panels were conventionally pressed. The wings and the soft-close doors were made out of aluminium, making you wonder what the car would have weighed if they hadn’t been. Some elements like the rear three-quarter C-panels were hand-formed using mystical metallic mixtures, nearly-forgotten techniques and more than the odd dab of witchcraft.
At the Mulsanne’s launch in 2010 Bentley claimed it was the only manufacturer using polished stainless steel rather than boring old chromed metal for its brightwork and for iconic items like the 'organ stop' vent controls which actually controlled microswitches for damper servos, a neat trick. You could build a large and very swish chicken coop from the vast quantities of metal mesh up at the front end, which had an air of bullish distinction about it that was nicely counterpointed by the jewelly Bentley-labelled headlight units. The sight of a Mulsanne steaming majestically along smaller roads was usually enough to get oncoming traffic edging over onto the nearest verge.
Considering the size of the rest of it the Mulsanne's boot wasn't spectacularly large at 443 litres. You didn't want to be lobbing oily old bikes and suchlike in there as it was trimmed in leather and carpeting. There again, you probably wouldn’t be riding oily bikes.
There are many reasons to buy a Bentley but the most compelling is surely the sublime opulence of the interior. We simply haven't got the space to cover off everything you got in a Mulsanne. Let’s just say that over half of the Mulsanne's total build time was spent on crafting the cabins. The leathers were cured using a traditional rather than a more modern process, taking more time, but that's how customers wanted it. You could pick literally any colour for any of the 24 varieties of hide.
The position you adopted in the extremely comfortable seats was actually reasonably low, again confirming the car's 'driver' status, and no VW group switchgear was allowed to cheapen the Bentley's interior – it was all bespoke, with much of the switchgear being made of glass – but when it came to comfort it wasn't too hard for buyers to create a wide old-school class gap between the front and back compartments. All you had to do was indulge in the rather wonderful extras that were available for the rear, like the Rear Seat Entertainment system in which the TV screens scrolled deliciously out from inside the front seat backs. A lovely option, but then again maybe it should be at £16,000. A sliding frosted glass cover between the back seats meant your car had the refrigerated bottle cooler with cut crystal champagne flutes, a relative snip for 2013-on model year cars at around £8,500. Comfort-spec cars had heated and ventilated massage seats. Extended Wheelbase cars offered airline-style seats with recline and stretch, whirring under-calf supports and separate scatter cushions just like the ones your gran had in her parlour. While the rest of us put up with rubber overmats from Halfords, the overmats in a Mulsanne were made of wool. Yes, the overmats.
Four-up touring hits a new level of sybaritic luxury when you've got quad-zone climate control, which the Mulsanne had. The dash info screen was either laughably small by modern standards or correctly small if you bought into the Bentley heritage thing. Bluetooth compatibility and even radio reception was not great on early cars. You’d want to keep a close eye on your ignition keys too, as new ones came in packs of two at a cost of not far short of £2k a pack.
The phrases 'Bentley Mulsanne' and 'great value' are rarely seen in the same sentence, but it's hard to argue against that juxtaposition when you see (a) just how much sheer stuff you got in one of these cars and (b) the starting price tag of under £50,000 for a used one.
Some Bentley types resolutely stuck (and stick) with their pre-VW cars on the grounds that they felt more 'hand-built', more characterful and therefore easier to love, but if you approached the Mulsanne with an open mind and drove it as it was intended to be driven it was an authentically fabulous package of luxury, serenity and reliability. As a used proposition you can genuinely add fantastic value to that.
On broken roads, a perfectionist owner might quibble at the Mulsanne's 'neither fish nor fowl' suspension compromise but it's practically impossible to steer around that conundrum on any super-heavy air-suspended cars. On even vaguely smooth roads driving a Mulsanne will feel like driving on velvet. You'll never tire of the beautifully engineered operation of features like the sunroof and window blinds, or of the stony silence at idle.
That's if everything is working as it should be of course. The good news is that it usually is because our investigations indicate that very little goes wrong with them, as far as we can ascertain anyway. There isn’t that much in the way of owner experience data out there. You have to be a member of the UK-based Bentley Drivers’ Club or of the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts’ Club (RREC) whose strapline is ‘the international club for Rolls-Royce & Bentley enthusiasts’ in order to access their forums. There’s evidence that some of those who have joined such clubs after buying a ‘VW era’ car haven’t felt inclined to stick around too long.
Anyway. You’ll see late low mileage cars like this 2020 6,200-mile Mulsanne 6.75 Edition, thirty of which were made, being advertised at well over £200k but don't despair, you'll find a good choice of Mulsannes and Speeds in the £70k-£100k bracket. If you did want to start your own VIP ferry service, the most affordable Mulsanne on PH Classifieds at the time of writing, and arguably the best value one (with the usual caveats that always go with that sort of statement) was this 2011 car with 44,000 miles on the clock. You won't be talking to marque experts here – the ad talks about a V12 engine – but if there's good paperwork this could be £49,750 well spent.
The lowest-priced Mulsanne Speed on PH as we went to press, or the internet version of that, was this privately owned 2016 car in silver with 46,000 miles and 20-speaker, 2,200-watt Naim audio (a £7k option) at £70,950. If you want to go full Simon Cowell here's an Extended Wheelbase car from 2016 with just 11,500 miles covered and a £200k price tag. It’ll give you a good guide as to what you can enjoy in one of these red-carpet gracing behemoths.
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