What is it?
Despite being Bentley’s newest flagship motor, the Mulsanne Speed is probably closer to the original vision of WO Bentley than any of the last half-century. Think of vintage Bentleys and you think of his cars pounding around Le Mans, exhausts thundering, impossibly raffish drivers smiling wolfishly beneath flying hats and goggles.
But for his road cars, Bentley would never have sacrificed comfort or mechanical refinement for raw speed. It was the blend that mattered, and so it is today.
In typical Bentley form, extensive modifications have been made to the Mulsanne's vast V8 engine and ZF transmission for apparently rather modest gains: a 25bhp power hike that has to been seen in the context of a car weighing almost 2.7 tonnes, and an 8% increase in torque, leading to a 0.4sec reduction in the 0-62mph time and a 6mph rise in top speed. The standard car's adaptive damping and steering mapping now allow a much wide range of driver-selectable settings.
Visually, you can tell a Speed from a standard Mulsanne from the darker tinting of the grille and lights at both front and rear, while inside there is the diamond quilting on the seats Bentley has often set aside for its most sporting models.
Bentley logos are embossed on every seat and there's even aluminium alloy pedals, before you go crazy with the options and kit the car out with the carbonfibre door cappings that look as out on place here as would a walnut dash on a McLaren.