Motoring Bentley

Since 1919, when W.O. Bentley founded the company, it has been turning out powerful, luxurious and very expensive cars. The famous Bentley Boys who raced in the 1920s made the marque famous for speed, and the legend was sealed.

You often hear me say that l could have driven to Monaco, had a coffee and driven right back again, and this comes from the fact that in the 17th and 18th Century, it was traditional for young men and women of the British nobility to undertake a Grand Tour around Europe as an exciting voyage of discovery. 200 years later, this inspired the term ‘grand tourer’, hence GT, to refer to a car that combines a truly exhilarating driving experience with the comfort to make even the longest distance effortless. And here we have another of those rare cars – a true Grand Tourer.

Mulliner started as a coachbuilder for Bentley in the early 20th Century before becoming part of the company. It is now Bentley’s personal commissioning division, responsible for producing some of the most lavish and expensive models in the line-up.

Last year, l reviewed the GTC and was very impressed with the car – but the Mulliner takes it to an entirely new level. Where to start? The attention to detail in the interior stitching, the diamond-milled Breitling clock, exterior Mulliner wing vents, the huge painted and polished 10-spoke 22” wheels, bright chrome double diamond radiator grille and a choice of 80 colours that then run through into the interior accent trim.

“It takes almost 400,000 stitches to deliver this quilting across the cabin of the car,” says Bentley, “with each diamond containing exactly 712 individual stitches – each one precisely aligned to point to the centre of the diamond it creates. Developing the embroidery process to deliver this process alone took 18 months.”

As a GT, it is two-door of course but where you might expect the usual cramped space for adults, l invited two adults into the back for a 60-mile drive, and they didn’t want to get out due to the space and comfort.

Engine-wise, you have the choice of the 4.0-litre V8 or the mighty 6.0-litre V12; one of the last V12s available in any car and Bentley confirm that this engine will cease production in April 2024. Mine was the V12 and really, it has more then enough power, producing 659bhp. The nose turns in beautifully due to the superb weight distribution and the all-wheel drive, affording it 0-60 in 3.5 seconds and a top speed of 208mph. With a kerb weight of 2,273kg, it is remarkably quick and agile for such a heavy car. The V12 is magnificent but for the buyer, the V8 really is the one to go for as it is lighter and more fuel efficient.

With a new torque-vectoring rear differential, retuned active anti-roll bars and an adaptation of the rear-steering set-up from the Flying Spur saloon, the stability of the car is superb, with very little roll – even on the sharpest of corners – and tremendous poise. The acceleration is quite unexpected for such a large car and with the pedal buried into the shagpile, it’s a fast as anything out there and is hugely satisfying, with an unbroken torrent of speed whilst you sit in supreme, calm comfort.

All of this is accompanied by a symphony of growling from the exhaust when pushed, and yet near-silence when driving calmly, thanks to the highly effective sound deadening and the double-glazed windows.

As l review over 45 cars a year for Platinum, l am often asked what my favourite car is. I can never really answer, as there are so many cars that are great for one or two reasons but not as an all-rounder. For a pure driving car that is not inches from the ground and shakes your fillings lose on the appalling UK roads, the Bentley Continental Mulliner has just dropped into the top spot. It is supreme, calming, stately, luxurious but furious when required and, with the exception of the quarter million you need to buy it, what more could you possibly ask for?


Model tested: Continental GT Mulliner W12
Power: 659bhp
Speed: 0-62 3.5 seconds
Top: 208mph
Economy: 20.6mpg combined
Price from: £214,750
AS TESTED: £240,124

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