Still the gentleman’s choice, only this time capable of more torque than any four-door ever
No matter how the world spins on its axis, what whizz-bang technology is introduced or how many apps you can connect to at one time from a car, a 21st-century Bentley is still redolent of a gentleman’s club, with hides from the best male bulls, rare veneers that have been hand-sourced from South American swamplands, deep-pile Wilton carpets and cut-glass crystal tumblers that clink with ice in a world that is silent at 100mph.
The Mulsanne is Bentley’s flagship saloon, and what a standard-bearer this car remains for the crew from Crewe. The new Mulsanne comes in three flavours – ‘standard’, Extended Wheelbase and this, the Speed variant, which is for those who like to take the wheel rather than relax in the back.
And so the Mulsanne Speed is described as a dynamic Bentley, which might be an oxymoron for some when you consider this car is 5.5m long and weighs more than two and a half tonnes (though don’t forget the model name comes from the fastest straight at Le Mans, so this car has always been meant as a reflection of the brand’s Twenties and Thirties racing heritage).
Realign your parameters, however, and you’ll realise just what engineered luxury performance means. Bentley has created a twin-turbocharged, 6.75-litre V8 engine capable of developing 811lb ft of torque. That’s the most grunt generated by a four-door car, ever (eight per cent more than the standard Mulsanne), and the result, combined with 530bhp, is acceleration to high speeds that is swift and imperceptible, just how Bentley prefers its performance. No shouty growl from the elliptical twin exhausts; just a discrete waffle before the car vanishes into the distance.
The sublime air suspension has been toughened when in Sport mode for better body control and high-speed grip, and the steering is also quicker to respond to driver input.
All of this is slightly academic, however, because you’d have to be a braver driver than anyone at Robb (and some of us have race and bike licences, so we’re not total wallflowers) to push a car this heavy to its limit. Having said that, if you do find yourself running out of road, the £13,000 carbon-ceramic brakes are magnificent when running hot.
As ever in a Bentley, once you have apologised to Mr Police Officer for reaching indecent speeds without realising it, you can settle back and enjoy your surroundings. Although this is the model for those who love to drive, a spell in the rear seats is still highly recommended. There is a ridiculous amount of legroom – Heaven knows why anyone would order the Extended Wheelbase Mulsanne. Each rear seat reclines and you can control their ventilation as well as your air-con from a central control panel between the seats.
The backs of the front seats house iPad-style touchscreens which rise silently to give you TV, internet and music, with wireless headphones in smart black Bentley pouches so you don’t disturb each other. Which is a thoughtful detail in a world which doesn’t always have time to consider the customer’s every whim. The jury’s still out, however, on a car which, in order to deliver the dynamic drive it promises, is straining against the immovable laws of physics. In a straight line, the Mulsanne Speed’s performance is staggering, but you’d best hold on to those cut-glass tumblers though the corners. Price as tested: £307,890