What is it?
According to Bentley, the new Mulsanne ‘represents everything the British brand knows about building the world’s most powerful, most luxurious cars.’ That’s confidence for you, especially when the Rolls-Royce Phantom has arguably been the limo of choice for the last decade.
The Mulsanne is now a three-model range that includes the standard car, the Extended Wheelbase, and this, the most powerful and driver-orientated Speed. What’s new for 2016? Well, a restyle forward of the A-pillars delivers new wings, bonnet and a wider grille, which has wire mesh inserts overlaid with Pantheon-like vertical blades. The headlights are now adaptive LED units, while the rear lights and bumpers have also been tweaked.
There’s a much-needed upgrade to the infotainment system. It now features an 8.0in touchscreen, a 60GB hard drive, 4G wi-fi, and the option of Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink apps. Such modernity naturally cosies up next to the expected frippery. An eclectic array of exquisitely handcrafted leathers, veneers and metalwork are available for you to fashion your own unique automotive masterpiece.
What's it like?
How many times have you heard the word ‘venerable’ applied to the venerable old 6.75-litre Crewe-built V8? Well, at least once, and that’s just what it is. Do you recall back in 1998, Bentley's then owner Vickers tried to kill off this L-Series engine, saying ‘it won’t pass future emissions regulations’? Yet, after VW wrestled control at Crewe and hastily resurrected it, here we are about to review it once again, nigh on two decades later.
Praise Jehovah we are, for it’s a peachy thing. How many other engines can thunder out 530bhp at just 4000rpm, while rumbling off 811lb ft of twist at a leisurely 1750 revolutions of the crank? And this, don’t forget, is a single-cam pushrod engine, first built in 1959. It’s had a few upgrades since then of course, such as cylinder deactivation to boost efficiency, and two Mitsubishi turbos plumbed in to pep up performance.
What a performance it delivers. Fire it up and those eight big pistons pound a measured idle. When you snick ‘D’ for the eight-speed ZF auto and mash the beautiful cast-alloy throttle pedal, it causes the long bonnet to rise like the nose of a 747 rotating for take-off. As it does so, the Speed builds momentum at an unseemly rate, and the V8's thrum becomes vivid enough that you can almost count off each deliciously bassy combustion pulse.