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Bentley taps Apple for connected Mulsanne concept

At the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show, Bentley showed off its connected car concept, a Mulsanne sedan with an Apple-based network for the rear-seat passengers.


LOS ANGELES--Bentley looks to provide the modern customer with connected information and entertainment.

It says something about the typical Bentley customer that the company's connected car concept would focus on rear-seat passengers. With the cost of the large Mulsanne sedan being about $350,000, most buyers can leave the driving to a chauffeur.

And at this level of luxury, there is nothing wrong with sitting in the back seat. But where past Bentley customers may have been content to listen to opera over the stereo system, the modern owner will have the smartphone and tablet out, buying low and selling high.

To oblige this type of customer, Bentley created its connected concept, fitting a Mac Mini and 4G-connected router in the trunk, and iPads in the rear-seat tray tables. The various computers in this system are integrated, so the iPads can control and call up media and files from the Mac Mini.

During a demonstration here at the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show, I sat in the plush rear seat and was advised to tap a button, causing the rear tray table, folded away at the back of the front seat, to power down into place. All fine and good, here was a convenient place to set down a drink, snack, or laptop.

But then my Bentley minder told me to push another button on the side of the tray, which proceeded to open up, revealing a keyboard and docked iPad. On the screen was the typical iPad interface. With the keyboard, I could have worked on spreadsheets, presentations, or written this article.

While the iPad offers plenty of functionality, we had only begun to exploit the capabilities of this system. Launching a special app designed by Bentley, I suddenly had control over a variety of media sources, including the Mac Mini installed in the trunk and a docked iPod. With the app, I was able to dig up a movie from the Mac Mini's hard drive, and have it play on the 15.4-inch ceiling-mounted drop-down LCD in the cabin. I could also have accessed work files from the Mac Mini. The Bentley app even let me turn the overhead lights on and off in the cabin.

Bentley is calling this cabin network a concept, but two customers have already expressed interest. Of course, if you are buying a Bentley Mulsanne, you can probably afford to have about anything done to the cabin that you want.

See all CNET's coverage from the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show.