To the untrained eye the Bentley Mulsanne Speed appears very similar to the ‘regular’ Mulsanne. Yet delve a little deeper (under its vastly long bonnet is a good starting place) and it’s the narrative of its re-engineered, twin-turbocharged, 6.75-litre V8 engine which begins to tell the most compelling of stories.
For this hand-built paragon to those who appear to have picked out all the numbers in the lottery of life, plus the bonus ball, now seems at the vanguard of gluttony: is a standard 505bhp Mulsanne just not enough lavish sustenance? Then for about £23,000 more, why not tuck into a Speed version with 25bhp extra, some discreet badges on the flanks and a more oily-looking grille? On the surface, the exercise seems gratuitous.
But beneath the heavily buffed surface something more is stirring. Alongside that fairly insignificant power increase, an additional swell of torque has been hubbled and bubbled into existence, so the Speed delivers 811lb ft to the rear wheels. That’s like lashing three-and-a-bit Golf GTIs together; only the Veyron offers more shove.
This has been achieved with revised combustion chambers, intake ports, injectors and spark plugs, while in Sport mode snappier gear ratios, stiffer air suspension settings and heavier steering have been configured to help deal with the additional surge.
Bentley say the Speed, which will account for a third of all Mulsanne production, is for those who prefer to drive, rather than be driven. Aided by adaptive dampeners to ensure tighter body control and sharper cornering, this version is certainly more driver-focused than its lesser powered sibling, and it tries its damnedest to foil the law of physics, yet it’s still no track car.
In a straight line, however, a recorded 0-62mph time of 4.8 seconds is more than impressive. Add a top speed of 190mph (electronically muzzled) plus all those extra torques into the mix, and you’ve got yourself one of the most beguiling and sumptuously appointed grand tourers currently on the market.
As for cost (such a vulgar subject when talking about a Bentley), the base price starts at £252,000, nearer £300,000 once a few options have been included onto the order form. Not exactly budget motoring then. But before you start sucking through your teeth and questioning why any car should cost so much money, consider this; it takes 400 people 298 hours to build each Speed, and then it gets hand-polished with lamb’s wool, for 12 hours no less, and there’s a choice of 120 colours, some with gold flakes in them.
What’s more, each one is bespoke to order, so no two Speeds will ever be the same. I’ll grant you it’s still not the most persuasive of arguments the representatives of value for money could use, unless you have the odd quarter-of-a-million pounds going spare, and then it seems like an absolute steal.
BENTLEY MULSANNE SPEED
Top speed: 190mph
Kerb weight: 2685kg
Engine: V8, 6752cc, twin turbo, petrol
Power: 530bhp at 4200rpm
Torque: 811lb ft at 1750rpm
Gearbox: Eight-speed auto