Gloucestershire Echo - - TEST DRIVE - By MIKE TORPEY

FOR the mid­dle-aged multi-mil­lion­aire busi­ness leader with a fear of fly­ing but with exclusive ac­cess to a fic­ti­tious 200-mile pri­vate mo­tor­way, there’s an ideal con­veyance. It’s called the Bent­ley Mul­sanne Speed and by the time its dis­cern­ing owner has added on a few non-stan­dard crea­ture com­forts, the price tag will have hit an eye-bog­gling £306,000.

This is a true limou­sine, an up­per class su­per sa­loon that epit­o­mises the essence of Bri­tish dis­tinc­tion and, lit­tle sur­prise per­haps, not too many of them are sold in the UK.

It’s dif­fi­cult to jus­tify ex­pen­di­ture like this, but not im­pos­si­ble. You see, this flag­ship of the Bent­ley brand of­fers some­thing un­usual from a ve­hi­cle in which its own­ers will nor­mally be found oc­cu­py­ing one of the rear seats.

It has been cre­ated for cus­tomers who pre­fer to take the wheel them­selves.

The Mul­sanne Speed may not be nim­ble round coun­try lanes, nor does it have the sharpest looks – more prop for­ward than fly-half. But it is a driver’s car, a car you find your­self want­ing to drive, again and again.

Ac­cord­ing to Bent­ley, it af­fords ef­fort­less com­fort and the world’s most re­fined ride, some­thing I re­ally couldn’t take is­sue with.

If you have a bad back or, worse still, sci­at­ica and can’t bear the thought of even be­ing car­ried as a pas­sen­ger in most cars, then fear not.

The Mul­sanne will see you com­plete even a long jour­ney es­sen­tially pain-free – it re­ally is that com­fort­able.

Be­neath the bon­net is a more pow­er­ful ver­sion of the com­pany’s 6.75-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol en­gine, com­plete with a vol­canic 530bhp of wal­lop and 1,100Nm – or 811lb/ft – of torque.

The up­shot is a 0-60mph ac­cel­er­a­tion time of a mere 4.9 sec­onds and top speed of 190mph. That’s un­ri­valled on the ul­tra-lux­ury scene, and also stun­ning for a car of this size and weight.

Se­lectable sports sus­pen­sion makes a big dif­fer­ence here – the tyres grip fiercely, there’s

suf­fi­cient feel from the steer­ing and the eight-speed au­to­matic gear­box is seam­less.

De­spite the relentless thrust, even in Sport mode, the cabin re­mains silent.

Silent that is un­til you switch on one of those op­tions that can crank up the Speed’s stan­dard price tag by more than £50,000.

In this case it’s the Naim by Bent­ley premium au­dio sys­tem which, along with some­thing called the Bent­ley The­atre, costs a princely £15,790 un­der the guise of En­ter­tain­ment Spec­i­fi­ca­tion.

The set-up fea­tures twin 10.4-inch touch­screen tablets that rise elec­tri­cally from within the backs of the front seats and pro­vide ac­cess to ev­ery­thing from ve­hi­cle data and games to mu­sic, DVDS, video calls and me­dia stream­ing.

The Mul­sanne is ac­tu­ally named after the Mul­sanne straight at the Le Mans rac­ing cir­cuit, the sec­tion along which cars can reach up to 205mph, so the Speed is aptly ti­tled.

And it car­ries some styling touches that mark it out as Bent­ley’s high-per­for­mance flag­ship, like a dark tint fin­ish to the car’s bright­work for a more men­ac­ing ap­peal.

There are also 21-inch hand-fin­ished al­loys, darker tinted front and rear lamps, ri­fled sports ex­hausts and Speed fender badges.

Of course, you don’t have to drive ev­ery­where. You could leave that to Parker or Hoke while you relax in a di­a­mond-quilted rear seat, cos­seted by a duck down-filled leather cush­ion, and sip a glass of Dom Perignon Vin­tage from the re­frig­er­ated bot­tle cooler.

That’s an ex­tra, of course, but what’s £8,310 to Mul­sanne man?

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