by Roger Biermann
Bentley’s are pretty exclusive on the whole – but within the Bentley family there are some models more exclusive than others. At the top of that pile, the Bentley Mulsanne offers bespoke hand-crafted luxury like no other. But for those who want a little more exclusivity, a little less chrome, and a little more power, the Bentley Mulsanne Speed is the most rapid, most exclusive 6,000 pound luxury tank available. Based on the standard wheelbase Mulsanne, the Speed gets an extra 25 horsepower and 60 lb-ft of torque; extra exterior styling cues, and the Mulliner Driving Specification interior – an exclusive model for exclusive clientele.
An interior of opulence is what greets occupants of the Mulsanne Speed. The layout is simple, traditional, but classy and with modern styling cues subtly injected where it counts to ensure the Mulsanne Speed remains a classic rather than outdated. The Mulsanne Speed gets an exclusive interior dual-tone color specification and embroidered Bentley emblems into the headrests. It also features the Mulliner Driving Specification as standard, which incorporates diamond quilted seats, a knurled gear lever, organ stop controls, and drilled alloy sport pedals. A choice of five available wood veneers adorns the majority of the dash and door panels, with the central feature of the dash being an 8-inch high resolution infotainment system touch screen – smaller than what competitors offer, but a system that works fluidly and with great precision. The Mulsanne Speed houses a 4+1 seating configuration, best occupied by four occupants in immense comfort.
Despite the Speed nameplate, velocity is something hardly felt although very easily achieved. There may be extra power and torque, but the air springs and adaptive dampers deliver only the cushiest of rides. But at 6,000 pounds, the Mulsanne Speed is a hefty monster of a sedan. Sport mode firms up the adaptive suspension and tweaks the hydraulic steering for additional weight – it’s a change that makes the Mulsanne Speed a sportier drive, but one that fails to compromise the ride quality. Hitting even large bumps and potholes feels like cruising over little more than a dimple – barely perceptible to all but the driver. However, it doesn’t matter how adaptive the suspension is, a 6,000-lb luxury sedan will always ride like a boat, with body lean aplenty and the winged B upon the hood rising and falling under braking and acceleration.
The engine of the Mulsanne Speed finds its roots in the 1950’s – a 6.75-liter V8 that has been subtly upgraded throughout the decades that now features two turbochargers and cylinder deactivation. The Speed denomination increases power over the standard model by 35 hp and 60 lb-ft to 530 hp and 811 lb-ft – enough to twist the tires separately from their wheels despite the low rev ceiling of just 4500 rpm. Power is sent to the rear wheels exclusively via an 8-speed automatic gearbox, with 0-60 mph taking 0.3 seconds less than a standard Mulsanne.
The standard Mulsanne is generously equipped, with the Speed largely mirroring the standard specification. Standard items include a Mulsanne audio system with 14 speakers and two subwoofers. Available options include front and outboard rear heated, ventilated and massaging seat function, Bentley Theater rear seats entertainment, and a rear refrigerated bottle cooler. Lambswool rugs atop the standard floor mats add a further touch of class. Available safety technologies include corner-view cameras, adaptive cruise control, and the standard raft of ABS with EBD, and a full suite of airbags. The Mulsanne has not been crash tested by American authorities.
While the tweaked styling adds a layer of sophisticated sportiness to the Mulsanne, the Speed specification’s additional power and torque are hardly felt. In a vehicle intended for a chauffeur-driven experience, the Speed offers little a standard model doesn’t. But, exclusivity is a persuasive tool – Bentley knows that.