2011 Bentley Mulsanne - True Blue Blood

DESIGN ANALYSIS | Robert Cumberford

It's quite a trick to create a body design so it is obviously new without deviating too much from what went before. But in a market where traditionalists are almost the only customers, it must be done, even if no surface or detail is carried over. Like their counterparts at BMW's Rolls-Royce, VW's Bentley stylists have nicely accomplished that task so that no owner of an older Bentley will feel abandoned, and every Mulsanne owner will feel accepted into the inner circle. To sum up this restrained and instantly recognizable sedan: it is conservative, clean, and classical. Good work.

1 This little vent, hopelessly undersize for the volume of the body, is a current British cliché, but here it is happily unobtrusive.

2 The front fender peak leads the way assertively, flanked by a hard line separating the fender side from the frontal plane.

3 Neither windshield nor backlight merit bright metal trim in the Bentley, like the solution chosen for the Rolls-Royce Ghost.

4 The front corners of the body are cut off, making the bumper into a sort of buttress underlined by a huge grilled area, with the traditional grille above.

5 The single round lamp is slightly oversize and is filled with a lot of sparkly elements, but it does recall the huge lamps on classic pre-Rolls Bentleys. Nice.

6 The amount of wood in the rear compartment is suitably restrained, but there is an excess of leather to compensate.

7 Back-seat passengers suffer a bit from the sumptuous front headrests, but stadium seating provides riders with a decent view ahead if they need a rest from their stock portfolio or BlackBerry.

8 This hard line fades out completely on the rear door skin and on the lower portion of the rear fender behind the wheel, but it defines the fender profile completely.

9 Other hard lines derive from the backlight, define the upper surface of the trunk, and provide a clear vertical surface around the license-plate alcove.

10 It's interesting to see that both BMW and VW have maintained taillight sizes and proportions established by the old Vickers Rolls-Royce/Bentley vehicles.

11 Both German acquirers of the iconic British marques have chosen the same steering wheel hub solution: a round housing for the air bag on both Bentleys and Rolls-Royces.

12 And both have kept, happily, the simple round vent outlets long established by the British for the once-twinned marques.

13 Here, cultural incomprehension overcomes good taste. There is entirely too much wood in the front compartment of the Mulsanne, indicative of flawed Germanic appreciation of British tradition.

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