Ignore the sound of the big W-12 engine and the occasional bump from a pothole and you might forget you’re not in your high-tech office. But that’s the precisely the goal of the Bentley Mulsanne Connectivity Test Car.
A modified version of the British maker’s high-line flagship, the prototype is equipped with a wide array of the electronic gadgetry found at home, in the office and, appropriately, on the road. And response has been positive enough that a production version will be launched “next year,” according to Bentley CEO Wolfgang Durheimer.
“This is where craftsmanship meets connectivity,” said the former Porsche R&D chief, who became the new Bentley CEO earlier this year.
Bentley has long been known for the extensive craftsmanship that goes into its products – about a third of the more than 90 hours of direct labor in each Mulsanne is spent preparing the big sedan’s lavish wood and leather interior. But Durheimer contends that the new generation of buyers looking at Bentley products put equal stock in high technology.
The maker has been upgrading the electronics on its newest models, including the flagship Mulsanne, as well as the higher-volume Continental family. But what is also referred to as the Mulsanne Executive Interior Concept takes things a significant step further – with a mix of office and entertainment systems that can always keep an owner in touch.
Particularly targeted to buyers who will be chauffeured – at least occasionally – the prototype makes heavy use of the latest Apple technology, starting with the maker’s Mac Mini computer tucked into a special storage drawer that can be accessed through the trunk. Inside the car, there are two new iPad’s and Apple keyboards hidden inside the heavily lacquered wood picnic tables in front of each rear passenger.
There’s also a 15.6-inch high-def monitor that folds down from the Mulsanne’s rear headliner with the touch of a button on a special iPhone app. That unique Bentley app, in fact, can be used to operate all the various systems built into the car, including the standard A/V package available on a more conventional Mulsanne sedan.
Actually, calling the NAIM system “standard” is a mistake. Produced by one of the audio world’s most exclusive equipment manufacturers it boasts the sort of sound quality that even a well-equipped audiophile might want for home. And for 2012, NAIM has integrated a new software control system — dubbed DIRAC, originally developed for military applications – that lets the sound appear to surround each of the vehicle’s occupants.
The critical link comes in the form of an onboard GSM-based communications link that provides enough bandwidth for a single high-quality videophone conference or two simultaneous phone calls. To allow for the up- or download of even larger files the Executive Interior Concept adds a WiFi link that can be connected to any mobile hotspot.
The various Apple-based systems are powered by a separate battery so they can continue to operate even when the car is shut off. The vehicle’s generator recharges the system when the big W-12 engine is running.
Significantly, noted Durheimer, the Apple-based technology in the concept operates independently of the Mulsanne’s functional electronics – the various computer controllers that operate everything from engine to programmable shock absorbers. That’s a critical move as it makes it highly unlikely that a computer virus or Trojan would be able to impact the operation of the vehicle.
That is of no minor concern. Several security firms have recently demonstrated that it is possible, under some conditions, to hack into a car’s electronics, perhaps to unlock a vehicle’s doors or even fire up its engine remotely.
There are, of course, other concerns, notably the security of personal data. That was highlighted, over the last week during a flap over plans by GM’s OnStar telematics subsidiary to maintain a data link to vehicles where owners had unsubscribed from the service. After being threatened with a federal inquiry, OnStar abandoned the proposal – though it still maintains the right to monitor the driving behavior of current subscribers. (For the complete story, Click Here.)
As for the high-tech Mulsanne, “I think we can start selling (a version) next year,” said Durheimer. He wouldn’t reveal a price tag nor say precisely which of the devices in the Executive Interior Concept will actually make it into production.
Tags: auto news, bentley connectivity, bentley executive interior concept, bentley mulsanne, bentley naim, bentley news, car news, naim audio, naim bentley, onstar, onstar privacy, paul a. eisenstein, paul eisenstein, telematics, thedetroitbureau