There are no emotional amplifiers to increase your sensation of speed, like uncomfortable bucket seats or an ear-splitting roar. It makes the business of acceleration in the Mulsanne curiously clinical and measured. But no less impressive.
From stationary, even this 530hp engine struggles against the lardy 2,700kg of luxurious sports limousine. But when the mass has begun to move, the rear axle finds traction, and the computers finally allow the full 811lb ft back to the huge 21-inch tyres, things start to improve rapidly.Yes, 811lb ft of torque. If that new figure isn’t already monstrous enough, Bentley have somehow moved it down to just 1,750rpm from a previous 752lb ft at 2,250rpm.
At motorway speeds, unencumbered by the lower speed torque limits, the effect is extraordinary. Push the pedal and the ZF 8-speed barely hesitates before selecting the best ratio and pushing you off that aforementioned cliff. The world turns backwards and the traffic around you goes backwards. Quickly.
Playing this way means the kerbweight of this luxurious leviathan is easily forgotten. The solid wall of torque pushes the whole ensemble past mere commoners with utter ease.
Increase the speed to derestricted autobahn velocity and it quickly becomes an amazing experience. That push in the back you feel accelerating from 50 to 70mph is almost the same at 150 to 170mph. The loudest thing in the car at that point might well be your own heartbeat.This combination of contemporary sports car speed with the best of 1950s styling is something that Bentley has always been good at. I can only fantasise about how impressive the sight of this bluff-fronted monster must be to the rapidly clearing traffic ahead.
Trappings of luxury
The greeting in Munich was as lavish as you might expect: invited star-struck into the capacious rear seats of the Mulsanne Speed, the car felt huge. Somewhere, way up ahead, a sharply-dressed driver tickled the V8 through traffic while the onboard 4G allowed photos of this Hollywood-style experience to reach family and friends near-instantaneously. This was a limo, and I felt like a rockstar.
But now I’m in the driver’s seat of this landship, and preconceptions are being eroded away by a ceaseless barrage of clever engineering. Yes, this is a huge Bentley with an ethos and an engine that can be traced back to 1959. But it’s genuinely fun to drive.
Munich is now a long way behind, and the autobahn dwindles to a major national road, then again down to a twisting little valley route. Either side the foothills of the Alps climb high above this orange monster and the road becomes ever twistier. The flying B ornament and the strong corners of the bonnet help your brain rapidly calibrate to the gigantic width of the Bentley (nearly two metres), and it never feels bigger than any other luxury barge you might aspire to drive. Think BMW M6/ Mercedes CLS AMG and you’re not far off how big the Bentley actually feels.Mode dependent
Like every car, there’s a variety of modes to mess with, though in the Mulsanne it’s not too difficult. By default you have ‘Comfort’, ‘Bentley’ and ‘Sport’. The Sport steering seemed to be utterly useless, even at higher speed. It was far too heavy and the damping on the air suspension was compromised too. Whereas Bentley (the middle setting) was mostly perfect and Comfort perfect only in town.
But roll the dial up one notch further and you can customise your ideal setting. Powertrain on sport, steering back to comfort for minimum effort and no masking of feedback, and the suspension to either normal or sport.
All that done, the Mulsanne becomes a very entertaining steer, despite (or perhaps because of) its mass. Though the first time you hit the brakes really hard, the illusion of the 2,685kg sports car is truly shattered. Failure to plan ahead combined with a heavy throttle usage will leave you with a slightly wilting brake pedal. If you’re one of those drivers, best tick that ceramic brake option box.
Anything else, sir?
Buying a Mulsanne Speed isn’t just about destroying large sections of autobahn with utter disdain. It’s not just about having more power or more torque than a ‘normal’ £25K cheaper Mulsanne, or having that extra 50 miles range out of the epic 96-litre tank.It’s about all of these things and more. Things like the hand fabricated, black stainless grill or the two-piece Speed badge, a cast badge poking through a carefully machined grille.
It’s about the champagne chiller, the iPad in the back seat AND the ability to chase a Porsche 911 down the autobahn at the same time. Curiously, whereas Mulsanne sells the best in China, the more exclusive £252,000 Mulsanne Speed is expected to sell better in Europe.
Mulsanne or Mulsanne Speed? I guess it depends on how whether you love your driver or love your driving.
BENTLEY MULSANNE SPEED
Engine: 6,752cc V8, twin-turbo
Transmission: 8-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 537@4,200rpm
Torque (lb ft): 811@1,750rpm
Top speed: 190mph
MPG: 19.3mpg (NEDC combined)
Price: £252,000 (£318,670 as tested)