Motoring expert Chris Walsh test drives the new model…
Words: Chris Walsh
Here I am, being wafted around England’s rolling countryside in the back of Bentley’s vision of ultra-luxury. I have to say; it’s not bad either, as I’m sipping chilled Champagne from a crystal glass while simultaneously receiving a Swedish back massage from the reclined leather seats. But apparently, there is more to this car.
It starts with me dragging myself away from all that crafted back-seat-loveliness to take a seat where the chauffer sits, as the Mulsanne Speed becomes the stand-out option for those who want more fun driving than being driven.
But let’s just pause for a moment. Because when Bentley call it the Mulsanne Speed they probably ought to call it the Mulsanne ‘Speedier’ as it still weighs over two and a half tonnes and has a similar girth to the oak trees I was gazing at earlier. So it isn’t going to hold any lap records just yet. But it is outrageously fast for such a large car and it’s had a whole host of improvements that make it more engaging to drive.
At the heart of the operation is the iconic 6¾-litre twin-turbo V8 engine, which has been re-engineered for the Mulsanne Speed to produce a record level of torque output: 1,100 Nm from 1,750 rpm. This is enough to get the Mulsanne Speed to a top speed of 190 mph and 0‑60 mph in just 4.8 seconds. A new ‘sport’ mode gives you more engine control by simply maintaining a higher rpm, so that the turbochargers are always primed, charged and ready to deliver that monstrous performance through the rear wheels.
To help, the revised engine has been paired with a recalibrated gearbox, which has been designed to enhance the driving experience of the Mulsanne Speed as much as possible. Gear lengths have been optimised, so that power and torque are distributed within the capacities of the chassis and the grip available. And it shows, because when you get the urge to feel the surge, the connection between the driver, the engine and the wheels is no more of a handful than your everyday car.
But all that power means nothing if there isn’t a decent chassis to go with it; which is where the more driver-focused ‘Sport’ suspension mode comes in. While the other suspension mode settings offer a comfort-focused and compliant chassis set-up, the sport mode stiffens the air suspension for improved body control and adjusts the steering dynamics for greater feedback and accuracy.
All that power and drivability is certainly welcomed on a car such as this, but it would be totally remiss of me to not mention the incredible levels of luxury that also come with it. Every inch of the Mulsanne Speed is swathed in perfection and the cabin still carried the contemporary reinterpretation of class you expect from the Bentley flagship.
Internally, the sporting feel even gets a small nod of appreciation in the form of a new ‘technical’ veneer option with Piano Black veneer panels that feature expertly handcrafted carbon fibre inlays. These new panels have been specially developed for the Mulsanne Speed and combine to promote both worlds. They are also a combination that is unavailable anywhere else.
But behind all the leather and wood lie a host of advanced acoustic and electronic technologies. A 10” touch screen, full Wi-Fi connectivity and a 60 GB hard drive allow occupants to control an extensive range of features from the comfort of their seat through either the 2,200 watt Naim premium sound system or via the Bluetooth connected headphones.
Externally, the Mulsanne Speed introduces Bentley’s first directional styled wheel, with a design that is handed for the right and the left side of the car. The 21″ wheels, available in painted, polished and dark tint are individually machined from solid forged blanks, before being perfected (naturally) by hand.
And let’s not forget the twin rifled exhaust tailpipes that lurk menacingly underneath the rear quarter. Nothing emphasises power quite like a sticky-out exhaust. A distinctive sharp front splitter, discreet side skirts and elegant rear diffuser yet further complete the drivable odyssey that is the new Bentley Mulsanne Speed.
At a Glance
Model: Bentley Mulsanne Speed
Priced From: £252,000
Powerplant: 6¾-litre twin-turb
ocharged V8 engine
Drivetrain: Rear-Wheel Drive
Transmission: 8-speed automatic with Quickshift
Power: 530 bhp
Torque: 1,100 Nm
Weight: 2,685 kg
0-60 mph: 4.8 Seconds
Top Speed: 190 mpg
Combined MPG: 19.3 mpg
CO2 emission: 342 g/km