The world of large, long wheelbase, luxury saloons has shrunk a little over the past decade or two, but thankfully for those who desire one, there are still some outstanding products available, typified by the Bentley Mulsanne Extended Wheelbase model.

Basically, these regal cars are designed for customers who like being driven and there are still a lot of those around. Bentley points out that the extended Mulsanne offer ‘a first class air travel experience for the road,’ but I’d say that this car goes well beyond that. Of course, you don’t have to have a chauffeur to own an extended Mulsanne and lots of buyers just like to have a car with exceptional roominess and one in which they can give important business clients a comfortable run from the airport.

With this Mulsanne, the 250 mm stretch is devoted entirely to rear passenger legroom and the front area stays much the same as that of the standard variant, though it is exceptionally spacious and already has enough comfort for driver and front passenger. Bentley claims that this model is the most generously proportioned luxury car in its class, though Rolls-Royce probably has something to say on that point. Certainly this Bentley is one of the most comfortable ways possible to travel on four wheels, regardless of price or maker.

For such a large car, the Mulsanne is unexpectedly sporty. The experience we’ve had with big Bentleys has always been a surprise because they are a lot more agile than one might think, given their bulk. They can be driven along winding rural roads with decent agility and the steering is responsive and precise. Simply by the numbers, the car will top 100 km/h in only a shade over five seconds and run right up close to 300 km/h at the top end. It’s also a very elegant car to look at with almost a fastback design to the roofline. This Mulsanne may be longer than its standard wheelbase sibling but it doesn’t show very much when being driven.

Power comes from a 506-horsepower twin-turbo V-8 that’s silky smooth and quiet. An 8-speed automatic gets the power to the rear wheels. Technically, the car is fairly straightforward but that doesn’t mean that it lacks engineering sophistication. The refinement and sound-deadening alone is a major achievement and is a key factor for buyers who may want to travel very considerable cross-continent distances without stress or tiredness.

The rear passenger area has just two seats, so these are very luxurious perches indeed and even have extending airline-style electronic leg rests integrated into their bases. The result is that rear passengers can choose between a reclined position and one involving a more upright posture. Obviously, there is room for three, but Bentley wisely decided not to skimp on optimal space for two.

Rear occupants get a roomy and luxuriously appointed centre console that features handcrafted veneer, metal, glass and leather. It houses some useful items including USB ports, pen and cup holders and a glass-covered stowage area. To make it even easier for those who want to work on a journey, a deployable folding table can be added to either or both seats. Above the rear seat area, there’s a large sunroof with a blind, both of which can be controlled from the rear seats.

There’s no question that this magnificent saloon was designed to be used chauffeur-driven, but it has a level of performance that will tempt the owner to get behind the wheel whenever possible. Few large saloons offer the kind of experience this Bentley does and although it’s part of a class that has diminished in recent years, it’s great that the British carmaker still offers a model like this and enhances and upgrades it year by year.

ENGINE: 6.75-litre twin-turbo V-8, 506-horsepower.

TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic. (Rear-wheel drive).

ACCELERATION: Zero to 100 km/h in 5.5-seconds.

TOP SPEED: 296 km/h.

I LIKED: Amazing combination of performance and handling allied to outstanding ambiance, quietness and refinement. Focus on two rear passengers rather than three is a sensible move and is probably the way most buyers would want it.

I DIDN’T LIKE: It would be good to have four-wheel drive like the Mulsanne’s stablemate Continental GT, but perhaps there were technical challenges with the extended wheelbase layout.

MARKET ALTERNATIVES: Rolls-Royce Phantom Extended Wheelbase, Rolls-Royce Ghost Extended Wheelbase, Jaguar XJ LWB, Mercedes-Benz S 560 LWB.

WHO DRIVES ONE? Customers who prefer to be driven plus those who simply desire a very roomy luxury saloon.

PRICE AND AVAILABILITY: Available now at €401.000.


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