The Showdown: Rolls Royce Phantom vs the Bentley Mulsanne
…….Good….better….best….never let it rest, til the good’s better and better’s best! This is a showdown between the Big Boys. The indomitable icons of the formidable ultra-luxury land yacht class…….superlatives of superlatives….how dare I? I love them both. These began their existence as two separate cars, and then were merged when Rolls Royce purchased Bentley. So the Bentley brand was always the ‘super-charged’ Rolls Royce for the owner/driver that wanted to maintain a lower profile without the sacrifice of luxury or performance.
Then there came that bitter battle between BMW and The VW Group…..a mud-slinging, back biting brawl in the street it was! The hilarious part was that they both had equal rights to each others trademarks but lacked the authority to use the brand name, for instance, Bentley had rights to “The Spirit of Ecstasy” but lacked the authority to use the name therefore they could not use it. Rolls Royce had rights to the Bentley “Flying-B” etc but could not use the name…..to solve the fight, after a reasonable hour or two in the “time-out room”, BMW purchased all rights to the Rolls Royce brand and The Volkswagen Group purchased all rights to the Bentley brand…….oops, VW had to rely on BMW for engines for a while!
…..the beat goes on….so BMW gives VW a certain amount of time to engineer their version of the car’s engine with just a year’s notice to withdraw their supply……which gave birth to VW’s formidable W12! It is like the Hatfield’s & the McCoy’s with luxury dream cars! So now, after growing up with Rolls Royce & Bentley as stablemates…….now, they are fierce competitors, so who is King of the Hill?
I thought I would put them side by side and let YOU be the judge. I have to remain neutral because I love them both dearly and it cut to the quick to see them separated. But it is a new Century with a new view of the world-class luxury car segment. With all that said, here is the story of the magnificently designed and engineered Rolls Royce Phantom
and the ultra-elegant equally as magnificent Bentley Mulsanne together as competitors. Here is the First strike against Bentley…..I had to use the standard wheelbase version of the Rolls Royce Phantom for this comparison, it is taking Mulliner way too long to come out with an EWB version of their Mulsanne. Naughty!
Bayerische Motoren Werk AG gave the Rolls Royce new grace and dignity while retaining the formidable reputation as the most desired luxury saloon in the world………giving the legend a ferocious V12 engine, the car is known as the automobile that “does everything better.” From the “Spirit of Ecstasy” adorning the classic Parthenon inspired grille to the seemingly endless rake of aluminium architecture, this is every inch a Rolls Royce.
But then,The VW Group retained the eminent Mulliner Custom Coach Builder as an in-house department, which escalated the bespoke nature of the Bentley Mulsanne to a truly enigmatic experience with each car produced as a one of a kind masterpiece. Not as easy as you thought huh? Which one is better? I shall continue……
To quote each Manufacturer:
“We are Bentley Motors – the definitive British luxury car company, dedicated to developing and crafting the world’s most desirable high performance cars.”
“Creating a grand new Bentley is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We have a heritage and a style that is unique. As a designer, I look for those classic shapes, those British proportions, with no hard lines…that sense of graceful elegance you’d expect in a hand crafted car from Crewe. But make no mistake; this will be a supremely potent driver’s car with modern technology hidden under the skin. Power with refinement….Then again, a pure Bentley is a fusion of extremes.”
……..Ashley Wickham, Project Leader at Bentley Crewe
“From launch in 2003, the Rolls-Royce Phantom established itself as the benchmark in automotive luxury, a reputation it has held ever since,” said Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. “These cars are timeless in their appeal, but technology moves rapidly and we cannot afford to stand still.
The Phantom is a family of models that feature significant improvements in design, drive-train and technology. As a consequence of these changes, we will continue to present with pride the best motor cars in the world, which re-confirm Rolls-Royce’s position at the very pinnacle of the ultra-luxury goods marketplace.”
Each automobile is a refined work of contemporary rolling art. Quality with design all the way thru production, and meticulous craftsmanship in its exemplary form is exhibited with both Phantom and Mulsanne. Each has its own unique existence of the ultra-exclusive market segment niche it helped to create.
No two Rolls Royces are ever alike. This is a truly bespoke vehicle that reflects the owner’s good taste with the numerous configurations available. Either a four seat or a five seat interior can be requested along with an electric division for privacy.
New driver assisted technologies are introduced with a modern user interface and a redesigned multi media controller. A new satellite navigation system was fully updated with 3D maps, landscape topography, guided tours with enhanced points of interest, as well as composite route planning. Information, maps and video content are displayed on 8” control center monitor with programmable book marks for key functions for the driver.
Rolls Royce was the first to include full LED headlamps as standard on a production car. They deliver a whiter light augmenting safety while preventing driver tiredness. Their unique Curve light functionality uses electronically controlled reflectors to focus headlamp beams in the direction of travel providing greater illumination of the road ahead when cornering. Adaptive headlamps change the cone of light projected onto the road in response to driving speed.
The Bentley Mulsanne saloon is a contemporary work of art. It’s steel and aluminium monocoque structure has energy absorbing front and rear crumple zones which accordion at a controlled rate upon impact. This beautiful aerodynamic envelope’s bonnet, boot, doors, and front wings are made by the ‘Superform Process’ where a sheet of aluminium is heated, then forced into or onto a single surface tool that creates complex three dimension shapes out of a single sheet, thus, eliminating the need for body seams and welds.
Even the rear window, was designed into the body work through Bentley’s process of ‘hand brazing’ that produces perfect joins around the curves.
The power for Bentley comes from redesigning the notoriously reliable 6.75 litre V8 engine. It is twin turbocharged and crafted from light weight alloys with an upgrade in technology. Cam phasing and variable displacement expedites the advanced technology. The engine’s intake valves are electronically adjusted to improve breathing, while closing four of the eight cylinders at cruising speeds. Bentley is the first of the ultra-luxury brands to use variable displacement. These features combined with its wind cheating design greatly improve fuel economy.
The power for Rolls Royce comes from a direct injection 6.75 litre alloy V12 engine producing 453 bhp @ 5,350 rpm with 531 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm peak torque. It is mated to a new eight-speed ZF transmission that changes gears almost silently and imperceptibly.
HOWEVER, the Bentley Mulsanne is the more spirited of the two and is the preferred driving enthusiast’s Grand Tourer. The Mulsanne’s 6.75 litre V8 delivers 505 bhp @ 4,200 rpm with 752 lb-ft @1,750 rpm peak torque……but then, the Bentley has always been the “performer” of the two hasn’t it? Therefore, we can’t really hold that against the Phantom, because it is more stately and dignified; I can’t imagine trying to show off my Rolls Royce Phantom at 220 mph.
The Phantom is the more “prim & proper” of the two. The Mulsanne is your “rudely elegant” more robust performer, like a bull wearing a velvet jumpsuit. So again we are “stymied!” Which one? OK I will continue……
Each offers personalization……each offer a unique bespoke experience……
Through Bentley personal commissioning, there are an extraordinary number of possible choices of design, color, leather texture/grain, and wood veneers for the interior. The Mulliner Driving specification escalates the Mulsanne to an even more exclusive level of elegance, comfort, and convenience.
Being completely bespoke, there are limitless exterior paint choices in a range of Solid, Satin, and Pearlescent finishes, you create your own personal masterpiece. Actually, the colors are infinite they span beyond the boundaries, color customization is a specialty. One could take a favorite tie or purse to the designer to match, then, it appears on your vehicle just the way YOU want.
It takes nearly three weeks to paint the Mulsanne depending upon your specifications. With a Satin finish, it is applied at the end of the process, the metallics use a layer of unique ‘Mica” and an aluminium mix, and of course, the solids have no metallic components. The Pearlescent colors balance solid and pearlescent layers of paint and is also extremely difficult to control but it gives an unparalleled depth to color and dazzle.
And back to that special Mulliner magic….one can build a special version of the Mulsanne with everything personalized right down to the ride control. The prodigious design studio of H.J. Mulliner has been a reputable coachcrafter adding their special touch to both Rolls Royce and Bentley successfully for many decades. Owning a Mulliner Masterpiece is the equivalence of owning the Mona Lisa…..a magnificent work of art in both cases.
Rolls Royce has an equally impressive bespoke program that allows the client to create a car that is completely personal to them. An interesting and popular option is the ‘Starlight’ headliner which incorporates thousands of fibre optic lights woven into the headlining to simulate a star-filled night sky. When Rolls Royce says “bespoke” they mean it in every sense, this is what goes into the personalization of a Phantom; 450 individual leather pieces laser-cut and hand sewn, 112,533 stitches for the Phantom upholstery embroidered detail, 11 individual varieties of wood veneer hand applied in over 20,000 wood veneer combinations with 58 layers to every Phantom wood part, 44,000 exterior paint colors using 100 pounds of paint during the process, and 60 pairs of hands taking over 400 hours to construct each Rolls Royce Phantom.
This is just one of many available luxury editions in the Rolls Royce bespoke collections, so personalization is as infinitely imaginative as its owner.
So we are still not sure….right? Let’s look at the styling
The Rolls Royce Phantom with its long bonnet and short deck represent classic contemporary simplicity. The Spirit of Ecstasy a top the hand crafted radiator shell alerts the world to its presence. Its classy self-closing rear coach doors have umbrellas conveniently stowed away in each.
The car’s striking front end mixes past, present, and future Rolls Royce styling cues. The high waist line of the car makes it appear even larger and longer, it is designed to sweep end to end with no interruption to its classic lines, with simplicity, it is understated luxury at its finest. A Rolls Royce never had to scream its arrival. Not only is the Phantom the signature model it is the very essence of the marque.
The Bentley Mulsanne is a sleek network of sweeping lines that seem to ‘never begin and never end’; making the eye travel all the way around the car tracing its attractive aluminium body design.
The Mulsanne features bold front end styling dominated by the traditional Bentley matrix grille and prominent round projector headlamps with chrome surrounds embossed with the Bentley name.
The car’s seamless, elegantly formed lines are tasteful and understated elegantly. The classic sporting proportions with the long bonnet, short front overhang, and long rear overhang portray a sense of drama with dynamic movement…….the car looks like it is in motion even when it is not. Its silhouette is augmented by muscular haunches and sharp sculpted lines that flow gracefully from the front wings all the way back to the contemporary ellipse style tail lamps.
Still no winners yet, they both are gorgeous!
Bentley Mulsanne media equipped
There are numerous configurations to the infotainment and media apps in both saloons. They both can be equipped as rolling board rooms with hard drives mounted in the trunk. Hi res monitors are installed into the rear of the front seat head restraints for the rear occupants. An impressive array of electronic choices such as power folding veneer tables with Bluetooth wireless keyboards, and iPad systems that control everything from the rear seat……your favorite music, telephone system, DVD players, electrically adjustable rear seats, even temperature control. When bespoke….sky is the limit.
Rolls Royce Phantom media equipped
Now, after reading about both of these supreme achievements in motoring, which one is the winner? They are unique, ultra-luxurious, automotive masterpieces. There is no winner and there is no loser in this rare arena. They are both considered highly respectable and are immediately identified in any gathering of fine automobiles, and they both excel beyond the competitors. Keep up the exemplary work Rolls Royce and Bentley……the world loves you!
If you enjoyed this post…stay tuned for Part II of “The Showdown.” The next will be a more critical review. It will also showcase their upgraded technology since the date of this post. If you would like to send an email to me I may be reached at: email@example.com. Let me hear from you, which Rolls Royce models would you like to see contrasted? The Continental GT vs the Wraith so far is gaining momentum…what do you think? There is also a new RR site I am preparing for release soon. Thanks for looking, hope to hear from you!