The fast and hard new Mulsanne Speed is an indication of how Bentley’s customers have changed, even at this rarefied level. That’s because this car is built to appeal to a newly wealthy, younger gang of global tycoons, who would rather drive themselves than be chauffeured about.
This demanding clientele require a more involving driving experience, resulting in what seems a cursory hike in power from 505bhp to 530bhp for £23,000 more. Hardly earth-shattering for a car that will weigh nearly three tonnes with everyone on board; and it might seem a fruitless investment even for those with piles of cash to burn.
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But that only tells half the story – there is also now 1,100Nm of torque, which is up 80Nm or so from the ‘base’ model. That makes the Mulsanne Speed – after the Bugatti Veyron and the odd low-volume supercar – the world’s most muscular production car.
Bentley Mulsanne Speed - rear tracking
Remarkably, fuel efficiency has improved by 13 per cent compared to the standard Mulsanne, extending the theoretical range on a 96-litre tank of fuel by 50 miles to 408 miles. This has been achieved thanks to new combustion chambers, spark plugs, intake ports and injectors in the 6.75-litre twin-turbo V8 engine.
Meanwhile, variable drive settings can change the Speed’s mood from laid back to a harder character in ‘S’ mode, which brings snappier gear ratios, stiffer air-suspension and heavier steering. It also holds the engine speed above 2,000rpm at all times to keep the turbos spinning and ensure that the power is there whenever you need it.
New rifled exhausts suggest the Speed might be tuned to make a bombastic exhaust note, but as it happens, the understated driving character of the Mulsanne hasn’t been ditched in favour of showy fireworks. Plant your right foot and there’s a distant, soft rumble of thunder rather than a crackling roar.
Bentley Mulsanne Speed - cabin
Make no mistake, though, it is exceedingly quick. Feeling something the size of Downton Abbey race from 0-62mph in under five seconds is an unforgettable experience, and that huge seam of torque ensures the incessant, unstoppable accumulation of speed continues from 60mph to 120mph, or 120mph to 180mph. The official top speed is quoted as 190mph, but it will take courage to verify that claim.
The car is less dynamic in corners than on straight-line sprints. Despite being stiffened, the Speed needs to be precisely turned in with power applied gently. Any hooligan behaviour will not be tolerated, as the Bentley quickly becomes unsettled due to its sheer size and mass. Remember, despite its name, this is far from a sports car.
Of course, the Speed is sumptuously appointed with Mulliner-spec quilted seats, discreet badges on the wings and a dark tint finish for the grille and lights, while a number of sparkly new colours have been introduced. Massive, 21-inch alloy wheels are fitted as standard, yet the ride is no worse than the occasionally lumpy standard car.
Bentley Mulsanne Speed - rear seat trays
In keeping with its sporty character, the Speed is offered with carbon-fibre trim, which isn’t as evocative as milled aluminium or finely matched veneers. Bentley sells over 1,000 Mulsannes a year, and the Speed could up that to around 1,300 – and account for half of all Mulsanne sales – which is proof that if you offer the super-rich population a chance to spend more money, they will jump at the chance more often than not.
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