Some weeks back, just before the World of Bentley exhibition held in Malaysia, ‘(00) was invited to test drive the new V8 powered Bentley Mulsanne and Continental GTC. Both cars were fresh off the boat from UK, as part of the fleet of test cars during the exhibition, and we were amongst the first to get our hands on them. We started off in the Mulsanne first, weaving through KL traffic towards the highway before swapping into the Continental GTC for the journey home.
Visually, the Mulsanne is a curious character; it looks old-school luxe but with plenty of modern touches to keep it current. The Arnage was due for a replacement after an 11-year life-span, and when the Mulsanne debuted in 2010, it took over as Bentley’s flagship vehicle. Everything about the Mulsanne is supersized – 5.6 meters long, almost 2.6 tonnes, and massive 21-inch wheels. Personally, I love the styling up front – the giant headlamps (about the size of dinner plates) with the massive mesh-grilled air intakes work well together, giving the Mulsanne an almost perpetually happy look. The solid, muscular lines start from its nose, running through the sides, and extending all the way to the rear. There’s an air of regality to the Mulsanne, commanding awed respect wherever it goes.
Open the expansive bonnet reveals a 6.75-litre V8 that makes 505bhp and a mountain shifting 1,018Nm of torque. Despite the car’s massive heft, the Mulsanne goes from Zerotohundred in an almost comical 5.1 seconds (quicker in the sprint than a VW Golf R!), topping out at a faintly believable 301km/h. While the Arnage had only four speeds, the Mulsanne gets a ZF sourced eight-speed auto to move all that power. Gearshifts are ultra smooth with no detectable lag, allowing the Mulsanne to get to ludicrous speeds with no detectible effort. You’ll get a better idea of this when you watch our video of the behemoth in action.
Step inside the Mulsanne and you’re greeted by an unprecedented amount of opulence. There’s no shortage of veneer or hide, nor is there a doubt that this is one of the most decadent interiors around. Despite looking traditional, there’s plenty of digital tech in here, including an eight inch sat-nav and iPod connectivity. Occupants are cocooned in massive seats that are 12-way directional in front, and 8-way in the rear. Clearly, the Mulsanne was not made as a driver’s car, which explains why half-way through my test drive, I requested to lounge in the rear: with 1,050mm legroom and 940mm headroom there was more than enough space to fit my 5’10 frame. And, for the first time ever, I discovered how it actually felt to be #LikeaBoss.
The Mulsanne is equipped with a four-mode air suspension system, and even in the sportiest setting, manages to maintain excellent composure and waft-ability. We’ve not tested many other uber-luxe cars and only have the Porsche Panamera and Jaguar XF as comparisons, and the Mulsanne easily bests both. Despite its gargantuan size, visibility out the car was surprisingly easy, which made maneuvering KL traffic much easier. Plant your foot in the accelerator and you get a Zen-like warble, and the only hint that you’re picking up speed via the landscape that gets increasingly blurry. Stopping is an altogether different story though, as the Mulsanne is unable to defy the laws of physics. Take it from me; you’ll need plenty of tarmac to bring this beast to rest, especially so at speed.
As I switch cars, I take some time to gawk at the Continental GTC. To me, the car looks absolutely stunning. It is by no means small, but the clean flowing lines, muscular frame, and redesigned headlamps work really well together – like Vin Diesel in a Brioni. There are some cues that differentiate the V8 powered GTC: black mesh grille, red enamel ‘B’ badges, and tailpipes that resemble the figure of eight. The drop-top also gains a more pronounced rear spoiler compared to the coupe. The Continental GTC is also clearly the sportier, younger car when parked next to the Mulsanne.
Power in the GTC comes from a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, pumping out 500hp/660Nm to all four wheels via eight-speed ZF autobox. Unlike the Mulsanne, the GTC is very much a hooligan – it bellows its intent clearly for all to hear, especially when you floor the throttle and the revs climb past 4,000rpm. Turbo lag is minimal, shifts are super smooth, and zerotohundred blitzes by in a scant 4.8 seconds. Keep the throttle pinned and the car is good for a 303km/h top speed. Performance figures are mighty impressive, especially when you consider how the W12 twin-turbo mill has 567bhp/700Nm and does the sprint in 4.5 seconds. Have I also mentioned how the V8 returns almost 40 percent lower consumption figures compared to the W12?
The interior of the GTC, like the Mulsanne, exudes an aristocratic, luxurious ambiance that very few can match. Swathes of leather is used in abundance, along with plenty of wood and fit and finish is of the highest standards. Our test car came spec’d up with a light-coloured veneer which we didn’t quite fancy but as you might expect, customers will enjoy almost limitless choices for customization. The automatic drop-top is four-layers thick and come in a choice of eight shades. It does a good job of keeping wind noise out, allowing for enough of the V8’s soundtrack in to the cabin. Dropping the hood takes about twenty seconds and allows for passer-bys to get a glimpse of the luscious interior. I’m not a fan of convertibles, but I have to admit the GTC looks really good, especially with the hood stowed. Oh, and just in case you think the exhaust note from the V8 is not sonorous enough, good news because a Sports Exhaust system will soon be an option.
We drove the GTC through a good mix of highways and city traffic and discovered two very different facets of the car. Through smaller city roads, the GTC is well behaved, shifting seamlessly through the eight gears. As soon as the roads cleared up, we put our foot down and the GTC revealed its more raucous nature: emitting a deep V8 bellow, pushing its occupants deep into the seats. Even on its firmest setting, the GTC remained compliant through undulations, keeping composure through bends. You could attribute that to its huge mass, but once again the laws of physics come into play; the steering is positive and the nose darts whichever way you turn the wheel, although it won’t be the sharpest tool in the shed. Braking requires you to step deep into the pedal and whilst this can be slightly unnerving initially (we had our fair share of heart-dropping moments), is easy to understand and modulate after several tries.
Our test came to an end all too soon – several hours is barely enough to discover two very different cars, that come with an extensive list of gadgetry to fiddle around with. But the reason why Bentley decided to equip their line-up of cars with V8s was clear: efficiency. After all, even the most well-heeled gentlemen would not complain to spending less money on fuel. Both the Mulsanne and Continental GTC also benefit from cylinder deactivation technology; that means at low revs and speeds, half the banks are cut off, in the pursuit of better fuel efficiency. Both cars have incredible presence and seem to garner plenty of respect. Especially so the Mulsanne; on the highway, I overtook a minister’s car that had four police escorts, way past legal speed limits, and was not stopped. Going through guardhouses posed no problem either, even with windows wound up.
At the end of the day, smaller engine equals cheaper price tag. But cheap is relative because prices start from RM2.4mil and RM1.7mil for the Mulsanne and Continental GTC respectively. The sky is the limit when it comes to customization of course, and likely so will be price tag. In truth, I really enjoyed both cars and whilst the Continental GTC is clearly the better driver’s car, I’m just incredibly attracted to the Mulsanne. Yeah, in my dreams…