Many British things aren't always as British as their British PRs, British ad slogans and little British flags make them appear. UKIP ties, for example, are made in China. Boris Bikes come from Canada, HP sauce is shipped in from the Netherlands.
Of course, it's no secret that the Volkswagen Group owns Bentley, helps iron out some of the engineering gnarls and even lends it an engine on occasion. But with each year that's passed since VW took over in 1998, the brand has been given more autonomy, allowing this once great bastion of truly British Britishness to flourish – and on British soil. And its new Mulsanne is its most British car since its 1930 8 litre.
OK, so the Mulsanne name's not that British, but each one of these enormous flagships takes 400 British hours, 5,800 British welds and a British factory to build – a factory which takes delivery of 300,000 tonnes of raw material every month to put into a car that's as British as the empire and twice as big.
And this is the first thing you notice when you step inside - where 150 British hours have been spent hand-stitching its trim - it is utterly, utterly vast. It takes up 5.5 metres by 2.2 metres of your life, and there's not a single centimetre that isn't hard at work. Which is something Bentley's CEO, Wolfgang Dürheimer, is at pains to remind us as he admits that the news of Rolls-Royce’s discontinuation of the Phantom leaves a very big gap in the market for very big, very luxurious cars.
And the new Mulsanne fills it. Amply. Beyond its sheer scale, there’s a car artfully tailored to luxury motoring, and little else. Big manufacturers often succumb to the temptation of throwing every trick possible at their flagship cars - we’re looking at you Mercedes - but here, all the gadgetry feels thoughtfully curated. There are active engine mounts and suspension bushes that stop vibrations, noise-absorbing tyres, and it rides on an air bed that soaks up neglected paving. An especially useful feature for Brit buyers, and one developed in the Crewe factory.
Then there’s the engine. Completely assembled in Crewe too, it comes in two different states of tune. The 6.75-litre V8 (or 6 ¾, as the engine cover insists) that’s fitted to the ‘Consummate’ and new 250mm longer ‘Extended Wheelbase’ models produces 505bhp, 752lb ft of torque, gets to 60mph in 5.1 seconds and doesn’t stop till it gets to 184mph. The ‘Speed’ makes even more - 530bhp and 811lb ft of torque, whittling the 0-60mph sprint down to 4.8secs and boosting the top speed to 190mph. Which, in a 2.7-tonne car, is madness, and testament to our home-grown engineers.
Come to think of it, the whole car’s a rolling advert for British industry and endeavor. So often, especially in the luxury space, British goods can be a confusion of good intentions failing to meet aptitude or expectation. But everything about the Mulsanne, from the Extended Wheelbase’s stunning retracting rear table which has 671 parts, to the wood finish on the dashboard that’s as grainy and rich as a conker, proves that when it comes to car manufacturing, Britain can still sit at the top table.
Source: The Telegraph Photos: Bentley