The Bentley Continental GT range has recently become more streamlined but also more nuanced and less obvious. You might not know what you're looking at.
That said, the easiest way to identify a flagship Mulliner car – the most expensive and lavish model in the line-up – remains via its wheels. Painted, polished and partially skeletonised, they would be unmistakable even at 15in in diameter, let alone at 22in, and are unique to the derivative that sits at the top of the Continental tree. There’s also the Double Diamond front grille, whose blindingly bright lattice overflows into the lower air intakes. Somehow it manages to be noticeably more noticeable than even the catch fencing of the standard car.
Your next task is to count the exhaust tips, to work out said Mulliner’s calibre. A quartet means the presence of Bentley’s Porsche-derived 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8. It makes 542bhp and is a tremendous unit for this application. Expensive, too. Even the more junior, V8-engined Mulliner costs £228,155, which is some £50,000 more than the regular Conti GT V8 S and almost an exact match for Aston Martin’s discontinued V12 DBS (don’t stress if you missed out on those, because the 759bhp DBS 770 Ultimate will live on for a bit).
However, only two outlets mean you have the 6.0-litre W12 on your hands, and now it gets interesting.
Up until this point, the 12-cylinder Mulliner came with Bentley’s twin-turbocharged W12 in its ‘ordinary’ 626bhp tune. The car also rode on the standard air-sprung chassis. Power, performance and driving satisfaction mattered, but they weren’t necessarily the main event; luxury was. The Mulliner was the most luxury-preoccupied, ornamental model in the range and was the Continental happy to be thrown into a contest with the ultra-dignified Rolls-Royce Wraith. Less so against the DBS.
But now the brief has been reconsidered. Today, the W12 Mulliner is supplied with the chassis and powertrain of the 650bhp W12 Speed – a machine with more dynamism at its core. The resulting 24bhp uplift is essentially irrelevant in the context of a car that weighs as much as an S3 Lotus Exige with another S3 Lotus Exige parked on its roof. However, the chassis upgrades aren’t irrelevant. Speed spec means the W12 Mulliner benefits from having a new torque-vectoring rear differential, retuned active anti-roll bars and an adaptation of the rear-steering set-up from the Flying Spur saloon. The Speed is as B-road-hungry as the current Continental gets, while the Mulliner is, as ever, the most lavish, so you can see what they’ve done here. The resulting uber-Conti costs £258,000.