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2010 Bentley Mulsanne shows how luxury is done

Bentley shows off its latest luxury sedan, the 2010 Mulsanne, at the 2010 Detroit auto show.

2010 Bentley Mulsanne
Bentley's Mulsanne takes its place as the company's flagship luxury sedan. Sarah Tew/CNET

DETROIT--When Bentley parted ways with Rolls-Royce in 1998, it still had some co-developed models in its line-up. The last of those, the Arnage sedan, has finally been replaced with a new flagship sedan, the Mulsanne, representing Bentley's new beginning under Volkswagen ownership.

Designed for absolute luxury, the Mulsanne gets a cabin filled with detailed coachwork, a powerful and sophisticated power train, Volkswagen's latest navigation system, and an outstanding audio system from Naim.

We spent some time looking over the Muslanne's details at the 2010 Detroit auto show and found a cabin that is covered in impeccable materials. The few plastics used for buttons are wrapped in metal enclosures, while the shifter is a big, wooden spindle topped by metal brightwork. Its wood details have matching grains from side to side. At this level of luxury, customers can opt for a wide variety of cabin materials and colors, or go completely bespoke.

The twin turbo 6.75-liter engine produces 505 horsepower and 752 pound-feet of torque, that last number needed to get this heavy car moving forward gracefully. We wouldn't expect fuel economy to be anything good, but an eight-speed automatic transmission will keep the engine speed low at high speeds. In addition, Bentley fitted the Mulsanne with active cylinder management, shutting down half of its V-8 at cruising speeds.

We wouldn't call the Volkswagen navigation system in the dashboard best of breed, but it is hard drive-based, and the maps use some texturing. The real treat will be the Naim audio system, with 20 speakers and 2,200 watts of power.