The new Mulsanne Speed is a beautiful, monstrous machine as Paul Acres discovers
Welcome to the facelifted Bentley Mulsanne Speed. The update brings with it a new bumper, bonnet, radiator, front shell, grilles and lights as well as the addition of active engine mounts, revised suspension bushes and bespoke Dunlop tyres designed to reduce road noise. There’s also a new stability control system.
It sits on a steel monocoque chassis with lightweight superformed aluminium doors and front wings.
Cocooned within the driver’s seat, surrounded by fine leather, polished wood, finely crafted stainless steel fittings and sitting behind a large steering wheel, itself framed in the same lustrous veneer, there a sense of tasteful opulence.
Passengers in the rear are treated to eight-way adjustable seats as standard and, depending on how you adjust them, up to 1050mm of legroom and 940mm of headroom.
Last year’s facelift brought with it some significant equipment upgrades, with the addition of an 8in touchscreen infotainment system with sat nav, 60GB hard drive and Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink.
Beneath the bonnet is Bentley’s 6.75-litre twinturbocharged V8, outputting 505bhp and 725lbft of torque but now with variable phasing of the cylinder shaft, cylinder deactivation that shuts down half the V8 under light loads and lightweight pistons, conrods and crankshaft.
It is connected to the rear wheels via ZF’s latest eightspeed automatic.
Under most circumstances the silence that greets you when you crank the prodigious V8 into life might be something of a disappointment but these are not most circumstances and, should you require a brief, spine-tingling, reminder of the potential beneath the vast bonnet simply blip the throttle.
Select gear, press the accelerator hard and it launches itself forwards with a savagery that’s both brutal and restrained,.
What is, perhaps, most astonishing, is the way it can deliver its performance without ruffling feathers. Or hair. The Mulsanne Speed’s air suspension can be called upon to either provide either stately, cosseting limousine-like progress or, should you feel the desire for something a little more involving, the controlled, keen driving inclination of a sports saloon.
There are four modes to choose from using the car’s Drive Dynamics Control system: Comfort, Bentley, Sport and Custom.
The first of those options delivers the greatest refinement while cross-country jaunts are best enjoyed with the car in Bentley mode thanks to meatier steering and tauter suspension.
Should Bentley mode not be enough – and really, it should – Sport tightens everything up another notch but, in doing so, you can often find yourself sacrificing the composed elegance that separates the Mulsanne from its more wallet-friendly peers if you attempt to push it evercloser to its limits.
The Mulsanne Speed is not, perhaps, quite the car that you imagine it to be.
It’s impossible to fault the imperious build, the classy materials or the rare sense of occasion that greets you every time you climb aboard but, while its capabilities as a refined, ultra-luxurious limousine are beyond reproach, this is a car that is simply begging to be driven.