From £264,5008
The fastest luxury saloon in the world is also one of the very best
18 November 2014

What is it?

There are many aspects that distinguish the new Bentley Mulsanne Speed above and beyond its lesser stablemate, the regular Mulsanne

According to Bentley itself, the key differentiator between the two models is this: the Mulsanne is a car most of its owners buy to be driven in; the Speed, on the other hand, will be bought by customers who want to do the driving themselves. 

Hence the reason it has been massaged in all sorts of different directions to be a good 15 per cent more responsive for whoever is lucky enough to climb behind the wheel.

Of the 1100 or so Mulsannes that Bentley will make and sell over the next 12 months, approximately 300 will be the more expensive, more sporting, £252,000 Speed model.

Interestingly, Bentley also expects the vast majority of Speed sales to occur in Europe and the USA, not in China. This is despite that fact that the Far East has been the biggest single market for the Mulsanne for the past few years.

So what do your get for your additional £25,000 beyond the price of the regular Mulsanne? The biggest changes occur beneath the bonnet, where the twin-turbocharged 6.75-litre V8 engine lies.

This leviathan of a motor has been thoroughly revised at the top end to produce and extra 25bhp, making 530bhp in total. Which doesn't sound all that significant until you realise what's happened to the torque peak, and to the way the torque is delivered.

Maximum pulling power has risen from 752lb ft to a vaguely terrifying 811lb ft – but of arguably more significance is the fact that this peak figure now registers at just 1750rpm, and it stays pretty much flat between there and 4200rpm. The previous engine's peak figure wasn't attained until 2250rpm, and in that case it really was a peak. 

In reality, then, the Speed should feel much torquier and, therefore, be much faster than the Mulsanne, hence the reason why Bentley now quotes some fairly hair-raising acceleration figures for the car. Zero to 60mph takes a mere 4.8sec, zero to 100mph 11.1sec, and the top speed is a deliciously irrelevant 190mph. This has enabled Bentley to claim that the Mulsanne Speed is 'The fastest luxury saloon in the world.'

Quite what owners of a Mercedes S63 AMG would make of such a claim isn't clear but, either way, the Speed is an indecently rapid machine considering it mauls the scales at a fulsome 2685kg.

Not only is the engine more potent but, as is the requirement nowadays from all cars, from all creeds, it's also cleaner and more efficient than before. Emissions and economy have both been improved by around 13 per cent. In the real world Bentley claims the Speed is 2-3mpg less thirsty than a regular Mulsanne.

Elsewhere, the air suspension has been recalibrated to deliver more sporting responses when Sport mode is selected within the new Drive program. The same goes for the steering, the eight-speed ZF gearbox and the throttle mapping: each of these can be set to whatever individual mode a driver might want by selecting the Custom function. 

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So you can have the dampers set to Comfort, the Steering set to Sport and the powertrain set to standard, or any other combination. Which is nice.

Then there's the most vital area of all in a Bentley; the cabin. For the Speed there are various new sporting touches that have been unleashed inside. The door caps now feature small amounts of tastefully applied carbonfibre trim. The seats feature colour-coded stitching in their leather and diamond quilted hide on their backrests. The door handles have been 'coin' finished and, whisper this, the foot pedals are now made from drilled aluminium alloy.

What's it like?

On the road the Speed is a pretty lovely thing to drive. You notice the extra torque and low down response from the engine from the moment the car starts to move. It feels like there is an infinite well of energy beneath your right foot. 

In Sport mode it now feels magnificently potent, surging forwards with a serene, refined but gigantic hit of energy that appears to get stronger, if anything, as you go up through the gears into third, fourth, fifth and beyond. This is because in the lower gears the torque flow is managed to avoid great gobs of unwanted traction control intervention, which wouldn't do at all in a Bentley.

What's also obvious immediately is the extra precision and response from the steering and suspension, again particularly when the Sport button is pressed. Yet in Comfort it is as soothing and luxuriant as ever.

The Speed never feels genuinely agile, and you are always aware of how much it weighs when changing direction quickly, no matter which mode you drive it in – but beside the standard Mulsanne it feels sharper and nimbler on its feet everywhere.

It's a shame the carbon-ceramic brake discs that are optional on the Mulsanne haven't found their way on to the standard equipment list for the Speed, because with the extra performance and agility comes a great need for braking power, but unfortunately it's not quite there. 

Use the brakes hard once from a highish speed and the pedal stays firm; use them twice or more in quick succession, however, and the pedal starts to go long and the tell tale pong of melting pads wafts through the otherwise majestic feeling cabin.

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Should I buy one?

The Mulsanne Speed may well be regarded as an anomaly among luxury cars, chiefly because it's a luxury car at heart that's trying to be something it isn't designed to be: sporting. But the amazing thing is, it pretty much pulls it off.

So the best seat in the house is not the one in the rear, as it is in the Mulsanne; instead it's the one up front, just as Bentley claims. And that makes the Mulsanne Speed unique in its appeal, and in its ability. Bottom line; there really is nothing quite like it. So if you can afford to, the answer is great big fat-cat yes.

Bentley Mulsanne Speed

Price £252,000; 0-62mph 4.8sec; Top speed 190mph; Economy 19.3mpg; CO2 342g/km; Kerb weight 2685kg; Engine V8, 6752cc, twin turbo, petrol; Power 530bhp at 4200rpm; Torque 811lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox Eight-speed auto

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Comments
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bowsersheepdog 18 November 2014

Big and imposing, but

Big and imposing, but nonetheless elegant and classy, the Mulsanne is a glorious chunk of aspirational luxury. And the addition of this Speed version with extra zip and responsiveness makes it all the more desirable. Unashamedly magnificent.
hardshoulder 23 November 2014

bowsersheepdog wrote:Big and

bowsersheepdog wrote:

Big and imposing, but nonetheless elegant and classy, the Mulsanne is a glorious chunk of aspirational luxury. And the addition of this Speed version with extra zip and responsiveness makes it all the more desirable. Unashamedly magnificent.

I agree even though I did make that comment on its weight I also still like it, even the way it looks. I hated the styling when I first saw a picture of it but it has grown on me, unfortunately I will never be able to afford to run one never mind buy one.

Oktoberfest 18 November 2014

I just can't

get past the Reg Varney face. I'm sure otherwise it's a fine car

@Peter Cavellini. 100% agree. As a middle class person living out of my home country it's something I notice about the UK that exists seemingly more so than in other European countries. It runs very deep and is displayed often with keys on bodywork or acidic comments on forums.

scotty5 18 November 2014

Who's fooling who?

autocar wrote:

It's a shame the carbon-ceramic brake discs that are optional on the Mulsanne haven't found their way on to the standard equipment list for the Speed, because with the extra performance and agility comes a great need for braking power

Great need for braking power? Talk about living in cloud cuckoo land. The likelihood is you could equip this car with drum brakes because not only will it'll be driven slower than most other cars on the road, it'll never leave the city centre/suburbs.

hardshoulder 18 November 2014

lower the weight

scotty5 wrote:
autocar wrote:

It's a shame the carbon-ceramic brake discs that are optional on the Mulsanne haven't found their way on to the standard equipment list for the Speed, because with the extra performance and agility comes a great need for braking power

Great need for braking power? Talk about living in cloud cuckoo land. The likelihood is you could equip this car with drum brakes because not only will it'll be driven slower than most other cars on the road, it'll never leave the city centre/suburbs.

Forget about the brakes, they could've done with using carbon composites in the chassis structure to reduce the sheer mass of the car, that would sort out the braking problem, maybe on the next gen model then.

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