Fit for a Queen

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Highway 128 in Northern California winds through manicured vineyards and rolling, open terrain decorated with gnarly old oak trees. It’s a road ideally suited for a warm day’s drive in a small, lightweight vintage sports car, convertible top retracted.

But it’s just as delightful navigating the same twisting, narrow two-lane road in a 2017 Bentley Mulsanne Speed. It’s a 6,000-pound luxury apartment on wheels. It’s about the same size as one of the trendy new tiny houses. But those don’t have a 2,200-watt, 19-speaker symphonic-quality sound system or chilled champagne flutes stored in the back seat wet bar. They don’t have tires that might provide inferiority issues for monster truck owners, painstakingly groomed wood panels and elegance fit for a queen.

Which makes sense. Bentley has long been the chosen car of the Queen of England.

Some 3,000 are distributed in the United States, including about 200 Mulsanne models. You’re in rarefied company if you’re driving one like I recently did for a few days.

The Mulsanne, named for a turn at the LeMans racetrack in France, is the flagship. It’s big, beautiful and quiet. It’s not too dissimilar from a well-crafted vintage sports car. It accelerates quickly and drives with precision and superior maneuverability. The caveat: It’s more than 18 feet long and 6 feet wide.

Bentley has two other monolithic achievements. It was the original car author Ian Fleming selected for James Bond. And it’s won the 24 Hours of LeMans six times. Pedigree is important in luxury cars, but Bentley has plenty else to offer. The Mulsanne’s 6.75-liter V8 engine produces 530 horsepower. It’s peaceful, supremely confident and made with top-line materials and expert craftsmanship. Glass switches and dials slide, snap or click into position as if magnetic.

Bentley vehicles are more attractive because they’re refined, not flashy. The gigantic chrome front grille, bright enough to communicate with ships at sea, is as showy as Bentley gets. Removable Samsung tablets are stored in discreet compartments and they emerge from the top of the back of the front seats via a push button. There’s a massage feature, also activated by push button near the seat adjustment levers. There’s a host of state-of-the-art technology features.

Customization combinations are nearly limitless for Bentley customers, including facing rear seats in the Mulsanne Extended Wheelbase model, of which only about two dozen are made annually. They’re likely best reserved for tycoons, international businesspeople and perhaps a few rogue sheiks. Anyone who appreciates an ultimately unnecessary car of intoxicating appeal. 

James Raia, a freelance writer based in Sacramento, California, specializes in sports and lifestyle topics. He publishes the website


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