Top Gear (UK) - - MULSANNE SPEED -

Ad­mit­tedly, the ’gator in ques­tion is only 10 inches long, and be­ing lightly chewed by a common Amer­i­can Al­li­ga­tor mis­sis­sip­pi­en­sis in the frst cou­ple of years of life is more un­com­fort­able than fa­tal, but still, it left a mark, and it makes for a bet­ter story than the fee­ble yet nu­mer­ous welts left by mos­qui­toes that cur­rently oc­cupy roughly a third of my ex­posed skin. The Ever­glades, it has to be said, are chock-full of bit­ing things. Things that crawl, slither, swim and fy through the swamp­land of south­ern Florida, all in­tent – ap­par­ently – upon feast­ing on im­ported Bri­tish fesh. The only place to es­cape from such car­niv­o­rous­ness is to jump into the car, in this case the new Mul­sanne Speed, Bent­ley’s über-limo, a gi­ant burnt-orange be­he­moth that rep­re­sents the Crewe frm’s new range-topper. It sits glint­ing in the soft south­ern light like a par­tic­u­larly un­self­con­scious ode to ex­cess: mas­sive, solid and patently, re­as­sur­ingly ex­pen­sive.

There’s a burly thump to the doors, a den­sity and meaty per­fume to the in­te­rior space that re­minds you what you’re pay­ing for, and a fve-foot al­li­ga­tor loung­ing on the cen­tre arm­rest. Oh. This one is slightly more am­bi­tious than the year­lings, what with teeth that crowd its jaw so fully that they es­cape the event hori­zon of its ac­tual mouth. We stare at each other for a bit, and if you’ve ever tried to out-stare the ver­ti­cal slit of an al­li­ga­tor’s pearl-yel­low eye, you’ll know who blinked frst. I’m… un­sure of what to do next. It’s true that Mulliner – Bent­ley’s per­sonal com­mis­sion­ing depart­ment – will trim your Mul­sanne pretty much any way you want it, but I thought that gen­er­ally in­volved skins rather than ac­ces­sories that eye your ex­posed parts with pa­tiently reptilian hunger. But this is what you get when you make friends with peo­ple who own an al­li­ga­tor farm, and de­cide to take pic­tures with a Bent­ley. And while our rep­tile-wran­glers Luke and Mario are busily ar­rang­ing al­li­ga­tor fesh for us, we also dis­cover an air­boat cap­tain called Quentin who has an ex­act replica of a Bent­ley em­blem tat­tooed the length of his left fore­arm. You just couldn’t make this stuf up. It’s quite over­whelm­ing. So the stow­away and me just sit in ami­able man-and-misplaced-di­nosaur si­lence un­til some­one comes to help. Then pho­tog­ra­pher Jamie and I fre up the Bent­ley, and head fur­ther into the Ever­glades. After all, it can’t get any weirder.

Ob­vi­ously, it can. Sev­eral hours later, while try­ing to fnd a cor­ner other than a 90° with a stop sign, and on a dirt road that slices be­tween mon­strous acreages of swamp, a dis­turbed and fu­ri­ously beat­ing heron drops a fsh on the Bent­ley. Lit­er­ally. An ar­moured lump that looks like a cross be­tween a horse­shoe crab and catfsh, strangely heavy and thor­oughly dead. We iden­tify it as a half-rot­ten Florid­ian ple­cos­to­mus and throw it into the wa­ter only for it to dart away, very much alive. Alive after hav­ing been at­tacked by a large preda­tory bird, dropped from 30 feet onto a Bri­tish li­mou­sine, kept from the wa­ter and then prod­ded by an in­quis­i­tive hu­man. They build them hard­core around here, stick­ing to the mi­to­chon­drial blue­prints of pre­his­tory. But it sure wasn’t pretty. Ev­ery­thing here seems a bit… prim­i­tive. Efec­tive, yes, sur­viv­abil­ity of the scale, but you get the feel­ing the fun­da­men­tal premise hasn’t changed in a very long time.

Al­li­ga­tor-skin ex­tras are sur­pris­ingly snappy

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