FEA­TURE CAR 2015 Bent­ley Mulsanne Speed

New Zealand Classic Car - - Feature Cars -

Ire­mem­ber at­tend­ing my very first Earl’s Court Mo­tor Show in 1968, a time when the Bri­tish mo­tor in­dus­try had only re­cently em­barked on a jour­ney that would ul­ti­mately end in disas­ter — the ma­jor merg­ing of Bri­tish Mo­tor Hold­ings and Ley­land Mo­tor Cor­po­ra­tion hav­ing only hap­pened six months prior to that show in Oc­to­ber 1968.

Of course, I didn’t know what would hap­pen over the fol­low­ing years as I wan­dered round the show pick­ing up brochures for the As­ton Martin DB6, Jensen In­ter­cep­tor FF, and Jaguar XJ6. And while I stared at all the glit­ter­ing cars, older vis­i­tors would be able to re­call ear­lier mo­tor shows at which Jowetts rubbed shoul­ders with Arm­strong Sid­de­leys, an Alvis Grey Lady could be spot­ted along­side a Sun­beamTal­bot, or a Hill­man Husky jos­tled up against a swoopy-look­ing Gil­bern GT.

Alas, the days when you needed many more than two hands to tally up all the ac­tive Bri­tish mar­ques is long gone, with count­less names hav­ing long since been con­signed to the dusty ar­chives of his­tory. How­ever, a few ex­alted mar­ques from the past are still with us and, al­though most of th­ese sur­vivors are now owned by for­eign cor­po­ra­tions, many of them are still Bri­tish-built. Per­haps more im­por­tantly, though, the spirit re­mains.

For many, it was the mid-’80s in­tro­duc­tion of the Mulsanne Turbo that reignited old mem­o­ries of the cars which Ettore Bu­gatti once de­scribed as “high­speed lor­ries”. Bent­ley was back.

Alas, Vick­ers was forced to re­lin­quish con­trol of the mar­que in 1997, with Volk­swa­gen even­tu­ally emerg­ing with the ex­clu­sive rights to pro­duce Bent­leys as from Jan­uary 1, 2003.

Since then, Bent­ley has re­vived its sport­ing her­itage by re­turn­ing to the scene of its early tri­umphs, once again claim­ing the vic­tor’s lau­rels at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race and pro­duc­ing a se­ries of well-re­ceived mod­els such as the Con­ti­nen­tal GT. As well, and hark­ing back to the ’80s, Bent­ley re­vived the fa­mous ‘Mulsanne’ name in 2010 — and now it’s gone one bet­ter with the new Mulsanne Speed, a more sport­ing ver­sion of its range­top­ping lux­ury car.

Fully loaded

Sev­eral new en­gines were in­tro­duced un­der Volk­swa­gen own­er­ship — in­clud­ing a twin-tur­bocharged 4.0-litre V8 and a 6.0-litre twin-tur­bocharged W12.

How­ever, for the Mulsanne and Mulsanne Speed, Bent­ley stepped back in time by uti­liz­ing the pushrod V8 that first ap­peared in the S2 way back in 1959 — the en­gine be­ing shared, of course, by the Rolls-royce Phan­tom V. In 1959, the V8 had a ca­pac­ity of 6230cc, and power was an es­ti­mated 149kw (200bhp). By length­en­ing its orig­i­nal stroke of 91.4mm to 99mm, ca­pac­ity was in­creased to 6750cc for post-1970 ver­sions of the Bent­ley T1 and T2, while the 1971-re­leased Rolls-royce / Bent­ley Cor­niche re­ceived the en­larged V8 right from the start of pro­duc­tion.

Al­though the Mulsanne Speed’s en­gine re­tains the V8’s tra­di­tional bore and stroke, many changes have been made to this ven­er­a­ble and long-serv­ing OHV en­gine in the years since it first ap­peared in 1959.

Smooth as silk

Out on the road, the Mulsanne Speed oc­cu­pies an im­pres­sive ex­panse of tar­mac — this is a big car. How­ever, de­spite its mas­sive size and weight, the lux­u­ri­ously ap­pointed Bent­ley is no slouch, the V8 pack­ing a size­able per­for­mance punch.

Pro­voke the Mulsanne Speed and all that prodi­gious torque comes into play, gift­ing the car with a turn of speed that wouldn’t be out of place in a rather-less-thanlux­u­ri­ous supercar, as it dis­dain­fully el­bows the planet’s at­mos­phere aside to power out to a top speed in ex­cess of 305kph — that’s 190mph for more im­pe­rial-minded read­ers.

And while you couldn’t de­scribe the Bent­ley as be­ing ‘nim­ble’, those mas­sive tyres pro­vide bags of grip un­der hard cor­ner­ing, while han­dling and steer­ing are ex­cel­lent. How­ever, the car’s sheer size means that it does be­come some­thing of a hand­ful on nar­row coun­try roads. Still, de­spite the ad­di­tion of a ‘sport’ mode for the steer­ing wheel–mounted pad­dle shifts, this is not a sports car. Rather, the Mulsanne Speed comes over as quite pos­si­bly the defini­tive busi­ness ty­coon’s ex­press.

In­deed, Bent­ley de­scribes it as “the fastest lux­ury car in the world”. When it comes to that su­perla­tive, some may ar­gue for a range-top­ping Mercedes-benz S-class, but for me the Bent­ley — with its su­perb sense of style and gor­geously trimmed and de­tailed cabin — would al­ways be prefer­able to Teu­tonic high-tech.

With that in mind, the Mulsanne Speed, be­ing a Bent­ley, can be spec­i­fied with be­spoke op­tions that in­clude vir­tu­ally any ex­te­rior colour you fancy, while in­te­rior ap­point­ments are lim­ited only by imag­i­na­tion and pocket depth. For those with a taste for deca­dent lux­ury, op­tions could in­clude an on­board cigar hu­mi­dor or a cham­pagne cooler matched, of course, by a set of ex­clu­sive cham­pagne flutes, an au­dio­phile 2200W 20-speaker Naim sound sys­tem, and even motorized pic­nic ta­bles that house ipads and Blue­tooth key­boards — thus al­low­ing the dis­cern­ing ex­ec­u­tive to run their busi­ness em­pire from the com­fort of the rear seats of their Bent­ley.

Of course, you could save a boot-full of money by choos­ing the ‘cheaper’ Mulsanne model — but if you’ve got the dol­lars, surely you’d want to own the best, and that means it would have to be the Mulsanne Speed.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.