Requiem for a heavyweight: Saying goodbye to the Bentley Mulsanne and its 6.75L V8 – Roadshow

The Mulsanne Pace is without doubt one of the final of its variety.

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The concept of changing into infatuated with one thing that powers one thing else is rare. It is also a bit bizarre. As people, we do not usually get enthralled with such ideas, not to mention wax nostalgic about them. No one venerates the Duracells or the drive motor of their childhood Walkman. Only a few get moon-eyed over the chipset that powered their first video-game system. It is a notably geeky quirk solely choose hobbyists share, and I’ve discovered that automotive individuals and horology buffs are extra vulnerable to this than most. Regardless of being an fanatic of each vehicles and wristwatches, I am often fairly removed from somebody who fetishizes mechanicals. However, the tip of 2020 has me wanting again and taking inventory of my automotive yr, a memorable portion of which was spent with this little bit of blue-blooded British royalty, a mannequin that has now handed into The Nice Past. Enable me a number of moments to belatedly eulogize Bentley’s venerable 6.75-liter V8 and the Mulsanne Pace.

It is ridiculous, actually. I’ve by no means had the wherewithal to personal any Bentley, not to mention one with the corporate’s legendary “six-and-three-quarters V8.” (That is how the automaker refers to this engine — you’ll be able to nearly hear the British accent and see  the outstretched pinkies.) That mentioned, I have been stupendously, irrationally lucky to have a handful of six-and-three-quarter experiences that can endlessly loom giant in my reminiscence. So listening to that this engine’s production line finally went dark late this spring after 61 years, properly, the passing of the trade’s longest-running manufacturing V8 made me slightly unhappy and loads nostalgic.

After all, saying this Bentley’s engine was ever the results of a “manufacturing line” is itself form of deceptive. I am guessing that while you hear that time period, you image a string of imposingly giant contraptions that manufacture widgets after which place these elements within bigger elements. Or perhaps you envision a conveyor belt of mechanical and digital fantasy stored buzzing by a collection of extremely educated women and men carrying onerous hats.

That is nonsense. When Bentley revealed that the 6.75’s production facility in Crewe had idled, it disclosed that there have been simply seven of us assembling these engines they usually had 105 years of expertise amongst them. This kind of craftsmanship simply is not achieved a lot anymore, buddies.

The Nice Eight sitting underneath the Marlin Blue hood of this explicit $377,965 Mulsanne Pace? It was constructed by Graham. Sure, simply Graham, a manufacturing line of 1. I do know this, as a result of Graham’s signature is engraved on a metallic plate atop this huge powerplant. It sits proper there, entrance and heart, just like the identification tag that hangs subsequent to a priceless murals in a museum. Appropriately, the tag is without doubt one of the first issues to greet you while you swing open the Mulsanne’s gaping hood. Graham assembled this Pace’s V8 in what I think about was a blissfully solitary act — constructing it from scratch in a cleanroom on a hefty wheeled engine stand, bit by polished bit, methodically setting up one of many world’s costliest jigsaw puzzles. I wish to suppose there was classical music taking part in within the background. Wagner, perhaps.

To be truthful, this V8 is a factor of profound mechanical magnificence, particularly by in the present day’s requirements. Open the hood of a contemporary automotive, and there is a 99.9% probability you may be met by a nondescript plastic field with some bits of seen plumbing and wiring connected. Designed to muffle sound and subtly discourage proprietor upkeep, these powerplants appear as if uncharismatic lumps that may as properly energy your house’s HVAC or sump pump.

Chris Paukert/Roadshow

In contrast, the Mulsanne’s twin-turbo V8 seems just like the costly, highly effective and particular factor that it’s, seeming each weighty and inherently mechanical. Take a look at that central backbone of consumption runners, snuggled simply so. They’re flanked by a pair of ribbed metallic valve covers, every of which seems like they have to weigh a superb 50 kilos. If you happen to occurred to search out your self in a practice museum and determined to steal a glance beneath the engine cowl of a steam locomotive, for those who noticed this Bentley 6.75 staring again at you, you’d nod approvingly, as if to substantiate you’d suspected it might be there all alongside.

Admittedly, not way more than the bore spacing and configuration stay from the V8’s authentic 1959 design. Then once more, Bentley hasn’t precisely been recognized for blisteringly fast product enchancment cycles — particularly previous to its Volkswagen Group possession. Unsurprisingly, then, popping the hood on this Mulsanne Pace provides me a profound state of deja vu that stretches again properly over a decade.

I’ve stared at a number of examples of this excellent L-Collection mill’s 36,000 siblings after a variety of notably memorable drives, if solely to listen to them tick, hiss and funky after a exercise. In 2008, I sampled one of many very first Brooklands Coupes to return off the road within the UK, placing a whole bunch of miles on it in and across the beautiful roads of Tuscany.

Months later, I’d take my then-young son tent tenting in one other Brooklands in rural Ohio, blatting down nation roads because the engine swilled high-test gasoline in a gloriously indulgent mechanical bacchanal. My boy’s eyes had been as massive as saucers on that drive — nearly as massive because the eyes of the disbelieving others sharing our campground later that day.

Pre-glamping with the 6.75-liter V8-powered Bentley Brooklands in 2008 within the time of low-res images.

Chris Paukert/Roadshow

Not lengthy after — about 10 years in the past — I drove one of many first Mulsannes of this ultimate era at its launch gala in Scotland. I vividly recall nervously piloting that sedan’s substantial girth on slender nation lanes. I had by no means pushed something near that large from the opposite aspect of a dashboard earlier than. It took some time, however I as soon as once more grew comfy sufficient right-hand-drive to open up the 6.75, and it wasn’t lengthy till I used to be wheeling the three-ton sedan at a startling charge of pace.

Like I mentioned: stupendously, irrationally lucky.

I admit it is a bit odd {that a} conventional, ultra-luxury sedan of the Mulsanne’s worth and magnitude has by no means supplied V12 motivation, however with 505 horsepower and 752 pound-feet of torque out of the 6.75, this Mulsanne Pace is not simply fast, it is also much more of a driver’s automotive than you’d count on. Lots of that’s instantly attributable to the V8’s prepared energy and lusty, bellowing tone. This is not a high-revving V8, and that is simply advantageous. The spec sheet’s heavy-duty-pickup-worthy torque determine rumbles in from 1,750 rpm and sticks round to round 4,000 rpm, by which level the ZF eight-speed automated has obsequiously plunked you within the subsequent gear to maintain you within the meat of the facility band. Fashionable gasoline V8s do not sound like this, they usually absolutely do not rev like this — in a method, the 6.75 feels extra like a diesel than the rest, inexorably chugging sooner and sooner.

Sure, Bentley’s personal Continental Flying Spur might be had with a pair of lighter, extra environment friendly 8- and 12-cylinder choices that permit the far-less-costly sedan to be faster, sooner and higher dealing with. Actually, there is not any doubt the 6.75 is a roaring anachronism, what with its pushrods, cam-in-block design and two-valves-per-cylinder structure. On this regard, the engine’s old-school vibe isn’t in contrast to Mulsanne, itself a gloriously hand-built throwback to a distinct motoring age. Unsurprisingly, maybe, with its engine going out of manufacturing, the Mulsanne vary itself did not final a month earlier than its epitaph was signed, too — Bentley confirmed the tip of manufacturing on the shut of June with the completion of the ultimate 6.75 Edition, the final of 30 particular sendoff fashions.

Chris Paukert/Roadshow

Final month, Bentley announced plans to go fully electric by 2030 — a reasonably outstanding aim for a corporation that presently solely provides a single plug-in hybrid. Previously, Bentley could have spent complete many years pickled into indolence by its personal traditions and the lame state of its funds. Nonetheless, due to the Volkswagen Group’s processes and capitalization, in the present day, the corporate and its automobiles exhibit considerably extra urgency than even a decade or two in the past, so this aim is not as outrageous as is could appear.

The reality is, the concept of an all-electric Mulsanne resurrection strikes me as a wonderful one (albeit a wholly completely different form of glory than the automotive seen right here). Massive Bentleys have all the time been about combining obscene luxurious with monstrously torquey powertrains in profligate, obese packages. Actually, Crewe’s automobiles have lengthy delivered confounding ranges of athleticism that appear inconceivable in such massive our bodies. These virtues and vices all scream “EV” to me. And with the UK being on the vanguard of each taxing and banning inside combustion engines into irrelevance, Bentley absolutely has motivation to surge forward with its battery-powered improvement applications.

Regardless of all of this fawning a few behemoth, gasoline-swilling relic, I’m very a lot on board with our electrical future. I really like EVs, and their prompt and seemingly boundless torque will make a beautiful and applicable counterpart for future Bentleys. That mentioned, a few years from now, I can not fathom that anybody will likely be eulogizing the passing of the electrical motors, battery packs or controller that energy the primary Bentley flagship EV, regardless of how elegant or rule-breaking that car finally ends up being. 

We are going to by no means see the likes of one other six-and-three-quarters V8, not to mention one other Mulsanne like this one. That is undoubtedly an indication of a greener, extra progressive and higher-performance future, however that does not imply that the automotive world hasn’t misplaced one thing very, very particular.

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