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Bentley Mulsanne debuts in Boston, three sales confirmed

Posted by Bill Griffith  May 11, 2010 12:30 PM

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(Jose Ordovas for

Herb Chambers, of Bentley Boston, and Emma Northey, great granddaughter of company founder W.O. Bentley, take the covers off.

Dear Globe reader: Advertising research tells us that "you" are part of a valued readership demographic, one that's targeted by upscale automobile dealers.

Thus, we bring you to the pinnacle of upscale: the 2011 Bentley Mulsanne, the marque's new flagship vehicle. If you have to ask, the MSRP is $285,000.

Bentley had an array of its vehicles, past and present, on display at the Boston Harbor Hotel in late April. However, the centerpiece — the Mulsanne — remained under a cover in the hotel's waterfront gazebo.

On hand to help introduce the car was Emma Northey, great granddaughter of company founder W.O. Bentley. She had been "stranded" in her Boston home by the volcanic ash cloud that kept her from flying back to England for a wedding.

Northey grew up surrounded by Bentleys and only later realized that the "Matchbox" toy cars she played with as a child were actually custom models of Bentleys past, present, and proposed.

Helping her unveil the Mulsanne were Christophe Georges, president and COO, Bentley Motors, Inc.; Herb Chambers, owner of the Bentley Boston dealership; and Paul Downey, salesman (the title doesn't come close to describing the man) at Bentley Boston.

Chambers, who sells more than 40,000 cars per year at his 48 (and counting) dealerships, was positively passionate about the Mulsanne. The first one that arrives at his dealership will be the launch/promotional vehicle; the second will be for him. "I'm ordering it in white — bright white," he says, "That's the hottest color going right now."


(Bill Griffith for The Boston Globe)

Bentley Boston salesman Paul Downey, left, smiles with Northey and Chambers.

For him, Bentley isn't about sales volume — it's about passion for the cars. "I'm projecting we'll sell 60 Bentleys this year ... if we can get them," he says. As for the Mulsanne, Downey got three "golden handshakes" at the event for the car, which will hit the showroom this fall. "I could feel a real current of excitement when the car was unveiled," Downey says.

Chambers says what we all realize. "All of these luxury cars are fabulous performers. You can compare them to ice cream. Which flavor do you prefer? In the end, people buy with their eyes, not by how the cars perform."

The unveiled Mulsanne turned out to be in a color called Brodgar, to my eye one of those earth tones in the sage-beige-green family. It's one of 114 "standard" colors available. Of course, Bentley will be happy to build you one in the color of your choice. You'll also have a choice of 24 "standard" interior colors and 23 seatbelt colors.

Build time is nine weeks. However, Georges says, "It will be a year before you get it because they can only build so many and the orders are arriving."

The Mulsanne succeeds the Arnage as flagship. Both names come from Bentley's racing success at Le Mans. The Mulsanne originally was a 3.7-mile straightaway on which race cars topped 200 miles per hour, then having to brake heavily to take the sharp Mulsanne corner.

This new Mulsanne might be capable of those speeds; however, top speed is "limited" to 184 mph. It's a rear-wheel-drive sedan, powered by a 6.75-liter V-8 that produces 505 horsepower and 752 lb.-ft. of torque. That flows through an eight-speed automatic transmission.

An air suspension system offers the driver four options: sport, comfort, "Bentley," or custom. An automatic system adjusts vehicle height to speed and road conditions.

The Mulsanne is filled with the latest technology. There are satellite navigation, Bluetooth, audio-video with 60 GB hard drive, and a not-to-hidden compartment to hook up USB, mini-USB, standard auxiliary, and Apple devices.

An owner's "personalized" key sets most everything: favorite radio stations, seat, climate control, phone book, steering wheel position, seatbelt tension, and privacy blinds.

Rear seat passengers have fully adjustable reclining seats, each with individual climate controls.


(Jose Ordovas for

Mrs. G found it so comfortable in the rear seat that we thought she didn't want to exit the car. It turned out that she'd locked herself in and needed to be "rescued" by one of Bentley's guests, who observed, "Maybe she was trying to tell us that she'd really like to own one."

The bodywork, starting from the optional retractable "Flying B" hood ornament, is a combination of creases and curves that ring with traditional Bentley styling cues. The aluminum metalwork is done via a "superforming" process taken from the aerospace industry. "Some of those creases are where another manufacturer would place a chrome strip because they can't produce that shape," says Chambers.

The Mulsanne's unique feature is a pair of round headlamps surround by a ring of LED lights. Those flank the trademark matrix grille in a "brightware" finish, the result of a 10-hour production process.

A first view from any angle makes anyone who appreciates fine cars catch their breath.

And, yes, it has cupholders.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
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Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
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