Bentley bliss

first_imgThe Mulsanne with its 505 bhp of max power and 1020 Nm of max torque, besides superb road holding, revels in the Scottish Highlands with short straights, gentle curves and breathtaking viewsThere is a fairytale castle in the background on the banks of a long lake surrounded by lush green,The Mulsanne with its 505 bhp of max power and 1020 Nm of max torque, besides superb road holding, revels in the Scottish Highlands with short straights, gentle curves and breathtaking viewsThere is a fairytale castle in the background on the banks of a long lake surrounded by lush green rolling hills. It’s that part of the country where, on a sunny day, the locals tell you that you are blessed because you’re enjoying one of the two sunny days of the season. I am trembling with anticipation. The locals think it’s because the lake behind me is the Loch Ness and I’ve already had nightmares about the creature haunting its depths.The actual reason, though, is quite different. The trembling can be attributed to two incidents, one that has just occurred and the other that is about to. I have just been out for a ride in W. O. Bentley’s personal 8-litre car, the second of the hundred ever built. This was Bentley’s flagship car; the largest, most luxurious and most expensive car made by the marque before it merged with Rolls-Royce back in 1930! And now I am about to set off in the spiritual successor to the original 8-litre: Bentley’s new flagship, the ultramodern Mulsanne.From the banks of the Loch Ness, I am going to drive north to Inverness, the famed setting of Macbeth, and look upon the North Sea before crossing the breadth of Scotland to the western shores at Loch Ewe before returning to the Glen Ord distillery to sample the best known produce of Scotland). The town of Inverness does not quite fit in with its pristine surroundings; it is an ugly jumble of modern buildings juxtaposed with ancient ones, narrow streets and industrial areas. But I have the V8 under the hood of my Mulsanne and over a thousand newton-metres of torque to call upon. I put the power to good use and let the concrete jungle of the capital of the Scottish Highlands disappear behind me. It is perhaps the picture postcard country that Scotland otherwise presents that makes me want to get away from Inverness. If you ignore the looks, it’s a pretty decent city, and ranks in the top 10 in the quality of life index of British cities.By now, I’m climbing the narrow mountain roads which, after a heavy downpour, are glistening in the harsh sun, a ribbon of sunlight upon the bright green Scottish highlands (to misquote the famous British poet who drew his inspiration from the Welsh mountains). Is this all wrong, I wonder.For roads like these, one needs a superagile, fast-accelerating light car that can play the straights, pirouette around the curves and accelerate hard till the next turn. The Mulsanne, on the other hand, is huge and it takes a lot to get the nearly three tonne mass of steel, alloy, fluids and flesh up to speed before bringing it to a near stop for the tight corner.The stateliness of the Mulsanne makes it fit for the driveways of castles such as the Aldourie, on the banks of the Loch NessThe roads all seem to edge valleys with smoothened out hills on either side with a river or lake keeping the road intermittent company. The countryside looks a lot like Austria; only these hills are lower and more rounded and the greens brighter than that seen on the continent. The men working in the countryside are all wearing netting around their faces. I’m told it is to keep at bay the midgets that breed in the hundreds of thousands in summer and cause huge discomfort when they bite.The Mulsanne, meanwhile, is proving to be quite a nimble vehicle, belying its size. It’s as if the jumbo jet has learnt the tricks of an MIG-29 and is intent on showing off to all and sundry. The car gets up to 100 kmph from a standing start in just over five seconds and, though I am yet to look up the dimensions, the ventilated brake discs in the 21-inch wheels seem awfully large. Indeed, they bring the Mulsanne to a complete stop with just a tremor.Agility coupled with nimbleness, which in itself is stunning for a car of such mammoth proportions, is not the only selling point. After all, a Bentley isn’t a Bentley until it is opulent and stately and luxurious as well. The Mulsanne feels like a barrister’s library from the days when wood and leather were the norm in the lair of every successful man. It is sheer opulence on wheels. While my own indulgence is complete as the twin-turbochargers whirr their way to the car’s unmatched performance, my co-passenger-a gentleman from Dubai-revels in the sound of the 20-speaker, 2200-watt Naim Audio music system.We stop for mid-morning coffee at the house of a gentleman who has already made his millions and now indulges his twin passions: riding classic motorcycles in India and philanthropy. His house is situated on the side of a hill which forms part of a bowl made by mountains.The only way to get here is to follow a river up a valley which ends in the bowl. Only a few families live in the neighbourhood and our host’s closest neighbour is a family which made its fortunes from something called Lego. So it’s quite normal for them to have a series of Bentleys drawing up into their driveway and turning their front yard into the most expensive car park in Scotland, perhaps.The interiors are a mix of fine materials and exclusive equipmentOur lunch stop is at The Pool House, an exclusive hotel overlooking the bay which sheltered many allied convoys during the World War II. Run by a family, it caters to authors and artists as well as the occasional pop star or two. I savour the lunch but am the first one to get back into the car. Not because our next destination is the Glen Ord Distillery, whose biggest client is Johnnie Walker, but because I have just been told something amazing: there are no speed limits over the next hundred kilometres or so, because these roads are seldom used.The road hugs the coast for a bit, before turning inland over the Scottish mountains as the Mulsanne gets its wind, proving its mettle as a Bentley and living up to its name, derived from the famous straightaway and village at Le Mans.Glen Ord is one of the finest distilleries in Scotland, offering two types of single malts, one matured in sherry casks and another matured in bourbon ones. After learning how simple it is to make single malts, I think up the distillery that I will set up back in India. And then I am told the secret to the flavour and quality of each of whisky is the water. Each distillery here has its own source of water, which makes each of its malts unique. Dreams die fast.It’s time to head back to Aldourie Castle and this time I am safely tucked into the rear seat. (Of course I prefer the front right seat of cars in the UK, but the fumes of the single malts from the maturing rooms could have found their way into my blood stream and I cannot drink and drive after all.) To my surprise, the rear seat is actually a good place to be in. I see our chauffeur for the evening, the head of PR for Bentley, quietly turning the knob from Sport to Bentley, a setting that most favours the car and I can immediately feel a cushiness in the ride, thanks to the quickreacting, adaptive air suspension.Ensconced in British luxury at its best, single malt fumes swirling around in my head, before I know it, the car is drawing up to the castle and a bagpiper striking up a tune as the village lasses gather in the main hall to welcome back the lord and dance away the evening Stripping the Willow, a Scottish Highland fold dance where couples weave through a line up of other couples. Did I fall asleep?Indeed dozing off is not difficult in the Mulsanne, the ultimate statement on wheels. Of course, if you want just a luxurious statement, you could buy a Rolls-Royce. But then you wouldn’t get the thrills that come with driving an exotic car. For speed, you could put your money on a Bugatti, but that’s not allowed on a regular road, or a Ferrari, which is downright impractical.Although more refined, the engine has the same configuration as the flagship of the 30sTo make a perfect statement, you need a car that has presence, a powerful engine and unparalleled luxury. In keeping with the times, it should be green as well. And last, but definitely not the least, the marque should have heritage. The Mulsanne, which replace the aging Bentley Arnage, therefore, is the perfect statement to make. Well, as perfect as can be in our imperfect world.To create its new-age car, the company decided to use things from its past as the basic building blocks. After all, a large part of a Bentley is the heritage of the marque.The new car looks a trifle slab sided from the front, more like one of the large American cars rather than a British one. What this front does is give the car a mammoth presence that you’d be hard pressed to find in some of the other exotic cars available around the world. The rest of the car is pleasing with smooth flowing lines that are traditional as much as modern, strong haunches and a rear dominated by large exhaust pipes. The shape of the headlamps are reminiscent of the original Bentley 8-litre. Then, large headlamps were needed to increase visibility and help the driver see better in the dark. Now, on the Mulsanne, it is the smaller, lower pair set towards the outside that performs the function of the main headlamps.The cylinders on the Mulsanne engine number eight and have a basic configuration that is the same as the engines built 50 years ago at Crewe. Although the six- and three-quarter litres of displacement may be the same as that of its predecessors, the engine on the Mulsanne houses cutting edge technology. Basically, the engine consumes less fuel depending on the load situation and can even shut down four of its eight cylinders under 2000 rpm so as to be about 5 per cent more fuel efficient overall. And although the car itself is heavy, much like the elephant or hippo of cars, the 1000 Nm of torque can propel it to over 100 kmph in just over five seconds and to a top speed of nearly 300 kmph.The weight comes not so much from the body as from the fixtures and fittings in this luxury liner of cars, because though the main body is of high-grade stainless steel, the doors and the bonnet are made of alloys, in the interest of shaving off some weight. The bootlid, meanwhile, is made from composites and houses the sat nav antennae. Ingenious methods have been used to make the car cutting edge in performance while preserving the Bentley look and keeping technology away from the occupants. For instance, although the car has a keyless entry, the door handles are made of solid stainless steel-providing the feel one would expect from a Bentley.The car is surprisingly easy to drive. Electronics help keep it stable under hard acceleration and the emergency braking that was often required on the drive on the scenic roads near Inverness. advertisementadvertisementadvertisementThe slab-sided front gives the car enormous presence. It is the smaller pair of lights that form the main headlampThe 6.75-litre V8 engine has oodles of power on tap and the eight-speed conventional automatic gearbox works very well on the Mulsanne. The gearshifts are seamless and, with eight ratios, there is no perceptible jerk when they change. And keeping in touch with its sporty nature, the Mulsanne has gearshift paddles on the steering wheel as well.The drive experience is good and the rear seats even better, but what stands out is the earlier mentioned Naim Audio 20-speaker, 2200-watt music system. Even to an untrained pair of ears, it sounds like the best sound quality experienced in a car to date.The Mulsanne’s suspension is adaptive and you can choose between Comfort and Sport and Bentley modes, depending on your requirements or driving style. You can also design your own custom set-up in case you’re not satisfied with the presets on offer. On the move, the loudest noise comes from the tyres on tarmac, and that itself is slight enough for you not to notice.Although people may have mixed opinions on the looks, there is no denying that Bentley has achieved what it set out to do. The Mulsanne is more than a generation ahead of its predecessor, the Arnage, and yet retains the old world charm of the earlier cars with the technology hidden away behind wood and leather. Not surprising then that the production for next year is already sold out and all you can do is join the queue for a car in 2012. SpecificationsEngine: 6752 ccPower: 505 bhp @ 4200 rpmTorque: 1020 Nm @ 1750 rpmTransmission: 8-speed autoTop Speed: 296 kmph6. 0-100kmph: 5.3 secondsLxWxH: 5575 x 2208 x 1521 mmWheelbase: 3266 mmCrewe cutCrewe is a legendary place. Legendary because the engines built here powered a generation of aircraft from the world wars; because its racing teams have won the most difficult and arduous of races; and because its craftsmen painstakingly craft the interiors of Bentleys and pass their skills with wood and leather down from generation to generation. Close to 200 hours of work goes into the making of each Mulsanne interior. Oxen hide for the interiors is sourced from Scandinavia, where the skins are cleanest and have no insect or bite marks. And then there is the customisation. Buyers can pick what materials they want in their car, and the colours they want it in. It is totally possible to make the Bentley entirely your own and not have another like it in anywhere in the world.last_img

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