The Goodwood Test: Bentley Mulsanne Speed

27th February 2017
erin_baker_headshot.jpg Erin Baker

Each week our team of experienced senior road testers pick out a new model from the world of innovative, premium and performance badges, and put it through its paces.



As visitors to the Le Mans 24 Hours know well, the Mulsanne Straight (named after the village at the end of it) is the stretch of the circuit where cars reach their highest speeds. Bentley claimed five victories there between 1924 and 1930, decades before chicanes were introduced to slow things down a tad. In 1980, Bentley took the name and put it on a saloon, which lasted until 1992. In 2010, they resurrected the badge for their flagship model, which sits above the Flying Spur, and last year updated it again. In “standard” form, this car, although heavy and luxurious, is no slouch, but two derivatives followed: the Extended Wheelbase, for those who like to sit in the back and be driven, and the Speed model, for a more dynamic drive, focused around those who like to take the wheel themselves. And why wouldn’t you? This car is a sumptuous experience, wherever you sit.



It makes a statement, alright. At 5.5 metres long, with a gorgeous rear overhang, long bonnet, Flying B badge and massive grille, it’s not a car for retiring wallflowers. All the 'brightware' (Bentley’s name for the polished chrome bits) is tinted for a meaner appearance. There are Speed wing vents, headlamps and “B”-shaped taillights. The word “Speed” is also engraved on the tread plates.

Inside, this is still one of the most extraordinary car interiors. That gigantic footprint means there is acres of legroom for rear passengers (goodness knows why you’d feel the need for the Extended Wheelbase version, unless you’re planning on holding actual conferences in the back instead of telephone ones). There’s a huge boot, and the footwells get the option of deep-pile Wilton carpets, into which one’s feet sink imperceptibly.

Our test car was a festival of red, in stark contrast to the sober grey (Meteor) exterior paintwork. Strident Fireglow quilted leather adorned the seats, dashboard, door linings and A-pillars, with a dark stained burr walnut veneer on the fascia. It might not be to everyone’s taste, but the result is nonetheless an extraordinary display of craftsmanship once again from Crewe.

While this is nominally a driver’s car, it’s still a wonderful place to sit in the back, where an optional chilled Champagne cabinet, complete with bespoke crystal tumblers, lies behind a frosted-glass screen between the two rear seats. IPad-style screens containing every function under the sun rise silently from the backs of the front seats, and seat function and climate control are independently operated via a central squab.



This, says Bentley, is what the Mulsanne Speed is all about. The suspension has been tightened, the powertrain tuned for sharper performance. The six-and-three-quarter litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine produces 530bhp and 811b ft of torque, which is welcome to get this heavy, 2.6-tonne beast shifting off the line.

The dimensions of this super-luxe saloon mean it was never going to twist and tuck its frame sharply round corners or react on a dime. The performance, therefore, is staggering on a different plane of physics. The acceleration from 0-60mph in 4.8 seconds is unnoticeable – we hit 100mph on a private track and it felt like 30mph, with a commensurate lack of wind or road noise. The engine simply revs sublimely through the each of the eight gears, and the cabin is near-silent at any speed you care to choose.

Given the weight of the Speed, we recommend the £13,000 carbon-ceramic brakes with black calipers. Unless all your driving is going to be at low speeds around town (in which case, shame), these react magnificently to pedal touch, with a bit of heat in them, bringing the Mulsanne to a halt progressively but sharply.



Design and technology might take their various forms as the decades pass, but a Bentley is, thankfully, very much still a Bentley. That core DNA from the Twenties, which has always combined motorsport pedigree with the ultimate luxury lifestyle qualities, still lies at the heart of every model that Crewe produces.

The Mulsanne Speed might be an unusually dynamic take on a heavy, large saloon, and will no doubt attract its share of derisive snorts from people who don’t feel a 2.6-tonne car can ever be described as sporting or having an involving drive, but this is a very fast, very powerful car that oozes engineering excellence from the pores of the leather seats. It gets our collective Goodwood heart racing, every time.

Price as tested: £307,890 (from £252,000)


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