Greetings from England, where we are attending the international launch of the 2011 Bentley Mulsanne. We've just returned from touring the model's new assembly line in Crewe with Project Leader Ashley Wickham, and we have some powertrain tidbits to share with you.
As the head honcho of Bentley's range-topping line, Wickham informs us that the Mulsanne was designed exclusively as a rear-drive model, preserving the decades-old lineage of the Arnage and its variants. When the new model was being conceived, all-wheel drive and a higher cylinder count were indeed on the table, as the Mulsanne's less-expensive stablemate, the Continental, has both more driven wheels and more firepots (twelve versus eight). However, the decision was made to keep the new Mulsanne as a more traditional grand touring model in the Arnage mold, hence its RWD and identical 6.75-liter V8 engine displacement (despite outward similarities, the twin-turbo engine is, in fact, all-new).
When we asked Wickham about future powertrain possibilities, he acknowledged that flex-fuel is in the cards; a predictable enough development considering that Bentley's high-profile Supersports spearheaded the news that the entire Continental range will go flex-fuel in June. And while Wickham stopped just short of ruling out a future diesel model, he did comment that one isn't presently in the works. Despite diesel's low-revving, torque-rich similarities to the company's gasoline V8, Wickham openly questioned how well such a powerplant would align with the marque's heritage. Equally unsurprising is that Wickham didn't mince words about hybrid technology, making it clear that gas-electric power is most definitely not in keeping with Bentley's flagship model.
For the moment, at least, those planning on commissioning a new Mulsanne will be forced to make do with the traditional gas-fed V8. Given that the new engine offers 505 horsepower and Bentley's famous 'Wall of Torque' delivery (752 pound-feet of the stuff) along with improved emissions and fuel economy, we're guessing that buyers won't find this any great hardship.