Steve Moody reviews the new Bentley Mulsanne Speed.
When the Bentley team first got in touch about the Mulsanne Speed, they promised to give me a taste of the life that the average driver of its new flagship vehicle enjoys. Wonderful, I thought. A few days in a Georgian pile with splendid views and easy access to a grouse moor, a case of Château de Puligny-Montrachet and a high-yield investment portfolio.
But although the Mulsanne Speed exudes Palladian grandeur and boasts Crewe ancestry, this is, without a doubt, a car for the global tycoon which is how I came to find myself behind its wheel in Miami Beach, USA. The firm is doing rather well in America, with sales at record levels. In fact, it’s doing well everywhere, from China to the Middle East and even good old Blighty.
Generally, in the western world, car owners like to drive. Further east, they prefer to sit in the back. Given the geographical spread of its customer base, it makes sense that Bentley has decided to cater for both with the Mulsanne Speed.
For those who prefer steering, it has 28bhp more, taking it to a bonkers 530bhp and, at low revs, the 6.75-litre V8 twin-turbo engine dumps the equivalent torque of three Golf GTIs through the rear wheels. Only a Bugatti Veyron has more brawn.
Other Speeds in the Bentley range are blindingly fast and exceedingly loud, making the sort of sound Brian Blessed might if he got Tabasco up his nose, but the Mulsanne is more discreet (in relative terms: this is, after all, a car that nudges three tons with a metal grille you could barbecue on), with barely much more than a couple of little badges to set it apart and some carbon-fibre trim in the cabin where wood should really be.
We drove down for lunch in the Florida Keys, which is like Calshot Spit in the Solent, but with a bluer sea. And alligators. The most notable thing was that I did very little actual driving. The engine is a force of nature and ushers the Mulsanne along on barely more than a whispery woofle. Now and again, I simply waved a hand where I thought we might go and it headed there.
Next, we made for an empty airfield in the Everglades and tore around it at 175mph with Le Mans racing legend Derek Bell giving tips from the passenger seat. Brave man. Apparently, the Mulsanne Speed goes from 0mph to 60mph in less than five seconds, but such is the luxury in which you’re cocooned that I could hardly believe it to be true, despite being surrounded by blurry evidence.
An issue does arise when corners appear. Although the suspension has been beefed up a bit, in order to avoid bringing Mr Bell to an ignominious end in a swamp surrounded by hungry alligators, I took it very gingerly, as if I were on a wet slip road on the M1. The Speed is supercar-fast, but not supercar-agile.
On the way back to Miami from the airfield, I was forced to languish in the back and drink Champagne from the fridge while fiddling with an iPad on a table that dropped down from the seats. It’s all marvellously crafted, but it seems a pricey way to check your emails.
Still, as we swooped past super-yachts and impossibly slim, beautiful people, I could certainly see why this remarkable, faintly potty car appeals to people with remarkable, faintly potty lives.
On the road: Bentley Mulsanne Speed
Combined fuel consumption: 19.3mpg
0–60mph: 4.8 seconds
In town: Get the chauffeur in
In the country: Get up front and give it plenty of welly
In Miami: Proves that the British still do luxury best