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2011 Bentley Mulsanne

By Kim ReynoldsPublished: January 01, 2011

I recently had the chance to drive the utterly astounding Rolls-Royce Ghost, a Queen Mary of a car so expensive it could cause that banker in the Monopoly game to drop his monocle. “Good Heavens! $245,000 for an automobile?” 
   
I also recently drove the startlingly modernistic Jaguar XJ sedan, a car everybody seems to love – but moi.
   
Well, the Bentley Mulsanne tops them both. Expensive? Try $285 grand, Mr. Moneybags. Modern performance and Old World charm? The Mulsanne is simply the most graceful automobile I have ever driven. And take note of that word “graceful.” It is my idea of how to gracefully advance the Old World charm of an aristocratic English sedan to the current calendar year.
   
The Mulsanne’s bodywork is at once regally proportioned and sweepingly seductive. Its enlarged, round headlight assemblies recall those of classic 1930s luxury sedans; between them sits a wire-mesh grill reminding you of 91 years of continuous Bentley building. Still, nothing about this car’s exterior seems the least bit old. It’s the same inside. The instrument panel – punctuated by classic gauges – is a magnificently polished wood swath requiring five weeks to progress from rough stock to mirror-finish veneer. The leather encasing the steering wheel requires 15 hours to hand stitch. Yet simultaneously, these coexist with all the contemporary features you might expect in a modern car costing nearly a third of a million dollars. Example: An impressive 60 gigabytes of memory for music storage and a contemporary navigation system share the stage with classically tanned hides for the seating surfaces and Bentley-unique carpet piles. A timeless contrast. This, in my opinion, is exactly how to re-imagine such an automobile.