The numbers might not be particularly special, but it oozes style
What kind of car must a Bentley flagship be? Should it be the fastest car of its kind in the world, or perhaps just the most luxurious? Maybe it needs to be the most rewarding car that amount of money can buy, or would it be better if it were simply the most comfortable?
If the answer is ‘yes’ to any of these questions, Bentley has failed considerably with this new Mulsanne Speed, for it is none of the above. Indeed if you really want to know by how much the Mulsanne misses these various marks, consider that within Crewe there lurks the Flying Spur saloon that is quicker, quieter, more comfortable and spacious. Oh, and it costs £100,000 less than Bentley is asking for the Mulsanne Speed, before you get your child’s favourite doodles sewn into the headrests.
But then the market for any car costing more than £150,000 is curious and that north of £200,000 more curious still. Here you are paying not simply for what a car is, but how it got that way. Here the number of horses the engine can generate is rivalled for importance by the number and quality of hides used to upholster the interior. In the Mulsanne’s case the skin of 14 bulls – all sourced from herds in Southern Germany and all scoured by teams of Bentley professionals for signs of scarring, graining, insect bite, boils and disease – goes into covering more than 350 leather components. And yes, they really do only use bulls because it reduces the chances of encountering stretch marks…
For the Speed version of the Mulsanne, Bentley has found a further 25bhp for the venerable 6.75-litre pushrod V8 and a small increase to its already preposterous torque output – its halfshafts must look like lengths of trans-Siberian pipeline. There are reprogrammed electronics for the steering, suspension and transmission, while visually the lights and grilles have darker tinting and inside there’s diamond-quilted hide, Bentley logos in each headrest (5103 stitches each) and even aluminium pedals.
Even though it rides nothing likes as well as a Rolls and lacks its rival’s refinement too, and while something as comparatively uncouth as an AMG S-class Mercedes would run rings around it in every dynamic area, the Bentley has a charm they lack. It has it in its thundering exhaust note, the low-down torque of a large and empty Boeing and probably the most special interior of any car in series production today.
And although it’s not particularly quick through corners and several streets away from feeling agile, it still seems thoroughbred in its poise, accuracy and feel. In other words, it feels as a Bentley should and, for the flagship, must.
I often wonder what W O Bentley would make of the cars that bear his name today. WO was not a man obsessed with power and speed at any cost, otherwise he’d have given his engines the twin overhead camshafts from the 1914 Grand Prix Peugeot he admired so much.
What he wanted was a car that was fast, but in the right way, one that blended speed with refinement, which was massively engineered and possessing real charm and character. So I think he’d like the Mulsanne Speed very much. Perhaps even more than me.
Engine: 6.75 litres, 8 cylinders
Power: [email protected]
Torque: 811lb [email protected]
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, real-wheel drive
Top speed: 190mph