To Bonneville and Back in a Bentley Continental GT V-8 and Mulsanne
The last time I took a road trip to Utah, I was stuffed inside a charter bus with 50 other rowdy high school kids en route to Salt Lake City’s finest ski resorts for a snowboarding trip. When Bentley asked us to drive a Mulsanne out to the Bonneville Salt Flats, though, I didn’t have to think twice. Before I set off on a 1300-mile roundtrip journey in the Mulsanne, Bentley called with a bit of “bad” news: I was to drive a Continental GT V-8 on the way out, and get behind the wheel of a Mulsanne on the way back. Poor me.
I was invited to the Bonneville Salt Flats for a behind-the-scenes look at a film in a series the British automaker is releasing later this year. In the film, current land-speed-record-holder and Royal Air Force pilot Andy Green does what he does best in the Mulsanne. The short film can be seen here on Motor Trend in December along with exclusive shots and an interview with the world’s fastest man.
My chariot to Utah, gleaming in Sunburst Gold, arrived at our headquarters a couple days before I set off. The gorgeous paint color complemented the black-gloss grille mesh, black wheels, twin figure-eight tailpipes, and red “B” badges. Dark chocolate brown leather consumed much of the interior, with seats wearing a diamond-quilt pattern. The outstanding level of craftsmanship is obvious, and the tech-bits aren’t bad either. As a connoisseur of navigation systems my other half (a mapmaker) marveled over the Conti’s nav system. He was particularly fond of details such as the GPS coordinates, elevation reading, and the choice among 2D, 3D, and topographic views. Yet with such an elaborate setup, the infotainment system was child’s play.
The route I took to Utah was long, flat, straight, and anything but scenic. Nevertheless, I was driving with rose-colored glasses on. The Conti’s silky leather sport seats coddled me, and unlike other seat massagers, the Conti’s felt good. Instead of feeling a bar rolling up and down my back, the Conti’s kneading back massagers were splendid. The air-cooled seats were refreshing, although when turned to the highest setting, they sounded like an air pump blowing air into a bounce house. Turn it down one notch, and problem solved. The Mulsanne’s, however, were nearly silent.
The only sound permeating the Conti’s cabin was the sound of the throaty 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-8. Was I missing out on the W-12? If I cared about bragging rights, yes. But, with 15/24 mpg city/highway for my trip, I was a happy camper with the V-8. It’s fast (in Motor Trend testing, it accelerated from 0-60 mph in 4.2 seconds, 0.2 ahead of a Conti-12), butter-smooth, and it stayed hydrated for the most part (I averaged an indicated 21.9 mpg, though trip computers can be optimistic). Braking was right on cue, thanks to $13,600 carbon ceramic brakes. And who could deny those bodacious hips? Although the Conti is hefty, it’s agile enough for canyon carving.
Driving a $200,000 car felt good, but driving a $300,000 car felt even better. After spending time at the Salt Flats, it was time to swap the golden gem for the uber-lux Mulsanne. And I wasn’t going to take the straight-shot way back to L.A. — I was going to take the scenic Route 6 to the U.S. 395 for a one-night stop in Mammoth Lakes, CA. The 6 runs through two lone cities in Nevada, meaning services are hundreds of miles apart. I was a bit hesitant taking the opulent gas guzzler (11/18 mpg) that route in fear of running out of gas, but I planned accordingly. Flying carpets aren’t real, but the Mulsanne is probably the closest automotive equivalent. Going 80 mph felt like 2 mph. By the time I got to Mammoth, I had averaged an indicated 16.3 mpg.
Back in civilization, I had trouble parking the Mulsanne. The hood alone seems like it’s the length of an average car; the car has an imposing presence.. If I didn’t have a park distance control system and rearview camera at my aid, I would’ve been in trouble. The sensors are fantastic, though; when the Flying B senses you’ve come close to something, the screen shows an aerial graphic of the car and gives a detailed view of how close you are to an object. While I appreciated the system, I wouldn’t have minded the addition of a multi-camera-based system likeInfiniti’s Around View Monitor.
The way back to L.A. gave me a feel for the Bentley’s adaptive cruise control. The only gripe I have about the car is that I didn’t hire Jeeves to drive me around. The rear seats are where it’s at, with a $9910 entertainment system, heated/ventilated/massager seats, picnic tables (iPads are extra), illuminated fold-down vanity mirrors ($1610), and quarter vanity mirrors. The Pale Sapphire paint alone is $4225, and the Flying B ornament on the hood is an extra $3000. Sounds ridiculously expensive, but after spending some time with the Mulsanne, I’ve found it’s ridiculous in all the right ways. It may not be the sportiest or fastest of them all, but it’ll make you feel like royalty.
For exclusive photos and an interview with Andy Green about his experience driving the Bentley Mulsanne at the Bonneville Salt Flats, stay tuned for the story and video coming to MotorTrend.com in December.