There’s an old saying that Bentleys were made to be driven and Rolls-Royces were made to be driven in. That hasn’t really been the case since Bentley was taken over by Volkswagen Group and Rolls-Royce by BMW – you can now buy wafty Bentleys and sporting Rolls-Royces – but even so, you’d expect a Bentley Mulsanne carrying the ‘Speed’ badge to be a pretty impressive driver’s car.
If you’re not familiar with the Mulsanne, it’s a 5.5-metre luxury saloon with a huge 6.75-litre V8 and a pair of turbochargers under the bonnet. The flagship of Bentley’s range, it commands a price tag of around £230,000 before options. It’s the sort of car you’d expect to see celebrities and royalty being driven in.
The Mulsanne Speed adds an extra 25hp, increases the top speed to 190mph (up from 184mph) and shaves 0.4 seconds off the 0-62mph time (bringing it down to 4.9 seconds). All this for an extra £22,000 – which, let’s face it, is nothing if you’re spending that kind of money and want to be seen in the most ostentatious Bentley money can buy. Crucially, the Crewe manufacturer says, it’s a car that will have celebs tapping their chauffeur on their shoulder asking if they can do some of the driving.
First impressions? It’s huge. Massive. There are apartments in London smaller than this. As the engine purrs to life and you start rolling forward, you sense that it’s simply too big to be any fun. That’s certainly true around town, where you’d be better off letting your driver negotiate the traffic while you play with the 10.4-inch retractable touchscreens in the back (part of the Entertainment pack fitted to our test car – a £14,890 option that also includes wireless headphones and a Naim audio system).
It’s a car that will have celebs tapping their chauffeur on their shoulder asking if they can do some of the driving.
But when you get out of town, give Jeeves the heave-ho and find out exactly what the ‘Speed’ monicker is all about. Only, you can’t. Not really. Not on British roads. It’s just too wide to allow anywhere close to full throttle for more than half a second. If you do get the chance to exploit its ludicrous power (and even more ludicrous torque), you’ll find it only takes the briefest of opportunities to overtake long lines of traffic. It warps your view of how quick manoeuvres can be pulled off.
Keep too much speed from an overtake as you reach a corner (it’s easily done – the Mulsanne does such an incredible job of isolating you from your environment), and you might briefly be concerned that you and your quarter-of-a-million-pound Bentley are about to end up in the scenery. It’s not a driver’s car in the sense that it’ll tuck up its skirt and pound around rural roads all day.
The steering is light and takes a lot of turns to wind between locks, while the whole car wallows around as nearly three tonnes of it leans onto the Dunlop tyre walls. It all feels a bit unnatural – which, of course, it is. Not that most buyers will be bothered about the extremities of the Speed’s handling. They’ll care more about its incredible (but ancient) engine, and its luxurious (but almost equally ancient) interior.
In truth, no one needs a Bentley Mulsanne Speed. Most would be better off with the latest BMW 7 Series or, if you must, a regular Mulsanne. But nothing will get people talking like a flagship Bentley. And if you can justify it – not to mention its huge running costs – every single drive will make you feel superior to everyone else on the road. Just let your chauffeur take over when it comes to the multi-storey car park.