BENTLEY’S LUXURY MULSANNE SPEED IS BUILT FOR COMFORT ... AND CHAUFFEURS
When it comes to Bentley’s quintessential large British luxury sedan, the Mulsanne Speed, the ethos behind the hand-built vehicle is “go big or go home”.
Though if you can afford around $635,000 for the Mulsanne Speed, then the home you’re going to is going to be big as well — and you’ll need a substantial garage to fit the sedan.
At 5575mm long and 2208mm wide, the car weighs 2684kg and that’s because this luxury vehicle is all wood and steel. No weigh-reducing carbon-fibre panels here, instead the Mulsanne Speed is made for long, luxurious drives — hopefully from the back, reclining seats with your feet on the custom-made footrests and the Bentley cushions tucked behind you as your chauffeur takes you home.
The Mulsanne Speed is Bentley’s flagship luxury sedan and the new version was launched in New Zealand recently, gaining a re-engineered power train, updated technology plus new styling.
It takes nearly nine weeks to build the ultra-luxurious sedan at the company’s UK factory in Crewe, and according to Bentley Auckland, most of that time is spent on the interior. And it shows.
The two-tone leather. The veneer. The hand-stitching. The embroidered Bentley emblems. The coined door finish.
While technically a five-seater, the rear of the cabin is designed for two passengers to relax in luxury. Pull down the centre back rest and you access controls to recline the seats or control the radio stations.
My test model — with the extras including the footrests, jewelled fuel cap, deep-pile wool carpet, adaptive cruise control and TV tuner — cost $741,325 and had already been sold, though luckily for me the new owner was waiting a few months to drive it home.
The car is named after the Mulsanne corner at the Le Mans racing circuit and has had six wins at the Le Mans 24-hour race. The addition of the word “Speed” in the name is apt as this model is 0.4 seconds faster than the standard Mulsanne at hitting 0-100km/h with a time of 4.9 seconds, while the Speed’s top speed is 305km/h over the Mulsanne’s 196km/h.
And the Mulsanne Speed’s top speed is unrivalled in the ultra-luxury sector where the likes of the Rolls-Royce Phantom sits.
This is thanks to the Speed’s new 6.75-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol engine that has 395kW of power and a record 1100Nm of torque.
The large sedan is paired with a recalibrated ZF 8-speed automatic gearbox plus the addition of a Sport mode to deliver a more responsive reaction when you put your foot down.
But as you’ll see by the photographs on these pages the weather didn’t co-operate on the day-long test of the Mulsanne Speed. Instead of my planned leisurely cruise north and energetic trip home on winding, quiet country roads I was stuck on Auckland’s motorways where traffic was often at a standstill.
Heading to a less populous open road, the V8 engine came to the fore. Engage Sport mode, plant your foot and the Mulsanne Speed responds instantly. This is Grand Tourer of the grandest kind — and, it’s made for long trips.
Moving the British sedan to the Waitakere Ranges, I tried Sport plus speed and quickly found that the length plus weight mixed with tight corners in pouring rain means a thundering lurch around the bend that had the insurance form I just signed flash before my eyes.
Instead I turned the Mulsanne Speed around and headed back to the straight open road where with just a touch of the gas you easily hit triple figures.
Maybe, I thought, I should forgo the chance of losing my driver’s licence due to speeding in this delightful monster and instead head to the back seat and be driven by a chauffeur?
If only. Though maybe the new owner could take me for a spin.