Almost two hundred years ago, King Edward VII asked his tailor to create a new evening coat for a dinner at Sandringham. And, in a world full of velveteen smoking jackets and exuberant tailcoats, Savile Row’s Henry Poole ignored the flair and flamboyance of contemporary eveningwear. He ditched the tails, pared back the design and kept the colours subtle.
It was a jacket that changed formalwear forever. An unprecedented success, it set new black tie standards — all thanks to its understated style. Rather than overtly showing off wealth and exclusivity with the garment, the tailor had presented something restrained, refined and altogether unique.
It was a bold move in the world of luxury — and a rare one at that. But it’s an approach that Bentley, the storied British carmakers, replicated to a T with their remarkable luxury saloon, the Mulsanne.
An icon of understated design
“With Bentley, we always try to do classic, timeless designs,” says Stefan Sielaff, Director of Design at Bentley, and Head of coachbuilders Mulliner. “We do not have to be noisy, because our customers appreciate the elegant and quiet statement.
“Real luxury,” adds Sielaff, speaking exclusively with Gentleman’s Journal, “shows distinctive style.”
And the Mulsanne is nothing if not distinctive. Named for the Mulsanne Corner of the Le Mans racing circuit, it’s a car that takes the traditional Bentley style — and then softly adds a modern touch. The S-Type of the 1950s is evident in the design, and the new radiator grille evokes the vintage Embiricos Bentley. Everything is measured, considered and consciously underplayed.
“We take the time to mature the design themes that we work out for our future Bentleys,” reveals Sielaff. “Everything which is perfect takes time, like a fantastic wine or an extraordinary cheese. So, despite the fact that we develop our new designs digitally these days, we strongly believe in craftsmanship. This means that we mill our data in clay and work together with our modellers on full-size clay models.
“With Bentley, we always try to do classic, timeless designs…”
“It’s artistic work,” the design director continues, “like a sculptor works on his pieces in marble or clay, and I believe that this shows in the final result.”
The trio of luxury Mulsannes
If one weren’t enough, there are currently three variants of the Mulsanne offer: the Speed, the Extended Wheel Base and the Signature. And, while each is as refined as the next, the different models offer something unique to potential drivers and owners.
The Mulsanne Speed is Bentley’s most powerful and exquisite model. As the most powerful four-door car in the world, it’s a machine renowned for its confidence and control, and is built for a driver who appreciates the full potential of near limitless power — twinned, of course, with exceptional levels of luxury.
Next up, and the most luxurious Mulsanne, is the Extended Wheel Base. Expect world-class comfort and refinement and a class-leading chassis, that together ensure the pinnacle travel experience, where travel time becomes thinking time. The extended wheel base is designed for customers with a preference for being driven — but is perfect for you to take out on your own on a weekend.
The final Mulsanne, the Signature, sets the benchmark for inspired visionary design. Crafted with a blend of timeless elegance and visionary design innovation, the Signature Mulsanne offers both understated elegance and phenomenal power.
The defining spirit of the Mulsanne
Due to the racing history of the brand in Le Mans in the 1920s and more modern times, and the racing activities of the Bentley Boys, there is a strong link to performance with the Mulsanne. According to the brand, most Bentley owners drive their cars themselves — and the Mulsanne Speed is most definitely a car to drive yourself.
“One of Bentley’s defining specialities is the fusion of the best: Performance and luxury,” says Spielaff, before adding that Mulliner have created several unique, coach-built Mulsannes to up the luxury factor even further.
“One of Bentley’s defining specialities is the fusion of the best: Performance and luxury…”
“One-offs or a very limited edition is what our customers are asking for,” says the design director. “It is very clear that customers realise the power of the luxury brand Bentley and that they dream of something within this brand – something that only exists once. We are doing ever more to fulfil this wish now, step by step and together with our customers, so they can truly achieve their dreams.”
They may be dreams, but with the Mulsanne, they remain grounded in reality. Perhaps the feature that sums up just how understated the Mulsanne is comes perched at the end of the bonnet — or, more notably, not perched.
The Flying B mascot, which epitomises every luxury Bentley, is surprisingly optional on the Mulsanne. Even if you do opt in, the iconic adornment is retractable. And it is this, more than anything else on the super saloon, that shows that Bentley have mastered the art of understated style.
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