We are eating orange-infused quail breasts in the banqueting hall of Schloss Elmau, an historic hotel lying in the shadow of Zugspitze, Germany’s highest peak. A wall of windows yields a theatrical panorama over the snow-capped Bavarian Alps that rise jagged and majestic above the forested hillsides sloping up from Schloss Elmau’s groomed lawns. All our eyes are drawn outwards, as though we are in a cinema, though the room itself is lush with gold leaf and warm textured walls. In 2015, Schloss Elmau was home to the G7 Summit and world leaders gathered around this very table for dinner. But we’re not here to discuss global events and politics – I have come with a small group of British journalists to discover and enjoy Bentley’s family of redefined and new Mulsannes – the Mulsanne, the Mulsanne Speed and the Mulsanne Extended Wheelbase. Determined that we appreciate just how luxurious and refined the Mulsannes are, Bentley has spared no attention to detail to put us in the right mood – there is even a Bentley B in chocolate on the plate of jewel-coloured macarons that we all find in our enormous, airy, mountain-facing suites.
‘You could be sleeping in Barak Obama’s, Angela Merkel’s or David Cameron’s room tonight,’ jokes Wolfgang Dürheimer, Bentley’s Chairman and Chief Executive, as he welcomes us and ushers us into dinner. He describes the Mulsanne as ‘our flagship and essence of Bentley’s DNA – exquisite, individual and powerful….not just a car, an automotive work of art.’ Sitting on my left at dinner is Stefan Sielaff, Bentley’s Director of Design. He’s particularly enthusiastic about the Mulsanne Extended Wheelbase: ‘It’s the crown jewel in our portfolio. It represents a point at which luxury and performance merge,’ he tells me.
The next morning the swathes of cloud that had shrouded the mountain peaks have disappeared and the glossy fleet of Mulsannes gleams in the warm sun. With my co-driver, we ease our way along the gravelled drive in an Azure Purple Speed. Encased in its assertive Beluga black leather interior with Piano Black and Carbon Fibre veneer, we delight in pushing the mighty 63/4 litre V8 engine to 200 kph on the unrestricted Autobahn before stopping for coffee by a waterside boathouse at La Villa, a graceful 19th century hotel on Germany’s fifth largest freshwater lake, Starnberger See.
Then we wind our way into Austria, through wildflower meadows and villages with onion-domed churches and pitch-roofed chalets, merry with bright geraniums tumbling over balconies. Just south of Kitsbühel, a cable car takes us up 1,645 metres to Hahnenkamm Lodge. On a balcony overlooking the start of the dramatic Hahnenkamm ski run a barbecued feast awaits us. We absorb the warm sun and mountain air before changing car into an elegant Fountain Blue Mulsanne with a cool Linen coloured leather interior. As we bowl along by the shore of a mountain-fringed lake, green as Lalique glass, it is a delight to drive – solid and robust but silkily powerful.
Finally, a chauffeur takes over and we experience the Extended Wheelbase as passengers. Ours is a stately Peacock Blue with a sumptuous Saddle hide interior. The biggest difference from the Mulsanne’s or Speed’s exterior lies in the extra 250 mm in length and the disconnected power line between the front and back but the effect is just as sleek, partly because all the Mulsannes’ paint finishes are polished for 12 hours to achieve their gleaming mirrored finish.
The back seats are built to resemble reclining airline seats on a private jet with electrically-powered leg-rests. I subside blissfully into comfort bolsters and lean into the butter-soft suede pads against the comfort headrests. The seat, that can be either cooled or warmed, will give you a back massage after a long day (a feature available in all the new Mulsannes). Between the seats is a console with a refrigerated bottle-cooler with frosted glass front and custom-made crystal champagne flutes. There are dark stained burr walnut picnic tables in the seats in front but if you need to work, the touch of a button in the console will release fold-out tables that have been tested to take the heaviest computer or pile of papers. They can be tilted, extended or swivelled until you have the ideal working space.
The in-car Bentley ‘‘theatre’’ comprises twin 10.4” tablets, which pop up from the back of the front seats when needed and can be taken out and into the office or house. The in-car system easily synchs with your own mobile devices. Obviously, there is Wifi at all times. It’s easy to imagine using the back of this car as an office – the expansive glass sunroof allows plenty of daylight, making the car seem airy and spacious. Once work is done, the touch of the button will activate the Alcantara sunblind and you can close the blackout curtains, recline the seats and watch a movie with a chilled glass of champagne or just sleep comfortably with your feet up. Bentley’s engineers have ensured that this is one of the most silent cars on the road, with advanced noise reduction technology in place.
For all its luxurious amenities, the Mulsanne is above all built to perform – anywhere on the globe. It has been tested in the hottest, dustiest deserts and in the iciest mountains. This is a car that takes 400 hours to hand-build – 200 hours longer than the standard family saloon car. It takes 150 hours to hand-stitch the 480 pieces of leather that make up the interior. There are 40 pieces of wood veneer (all robustly tested to ensure they withstand any environment) that make up the new Mulsanne’s interior. ‘We’re more akin to fine furniture makers than car manufacturers,’ says Simon Blake, Director of Body and Trim Engineering. To ensure optimum performance at all levels, the Mulsanne contains two and a half miles of optic cable that would run up and down the Empire State Building five times.
As I reluctantly prise myself out of the Mulsanne’s embrace at Innsbruck Airport, I remember the words Stefan Sielaff had used: ‘It’s a cocoon, a sanctuary,’ he’d enthused over dinner. ‘If you had one of those, you wouldn’t really a need an office any more – or even a home come to that,’ jokes my co-driver wistfully as we trudge into the airport terminal. Bentley’s current strapline is ‘When extraordinary cars meet extraordinary people, extraordinary things happen.’ The transformative joy of the Mulsanne is that it makes ordinary people feel extraordinary too.
* The Mulsanne starts at £229,360 and our Fountain Blue model with specifications is £275,415
* The Mulsanne Speed starts at £252,000 and our Azure Purple model with specifications is £318,030
* Mulsanne Extended Wheelbase starts at £275,000 and our Peacock Blue model with specifications is £344,850
* Website – www.bentleymotors.com