2015 Bentley Mulsanne Speed
Traffic, like life, moves slowly in America”s retirement capital. Maybe it”s that retirees are free of commitments, or it”s a subconscious attempt to delay the inevitable, or maybe everyone just dawdles lest they show up for dinner before the restaurant opens. Whatever the cause, Florida”s slow-motion transit means that while you can buy a $342,000, 190-mph sedan, even the truly wealthy can”t buy time. These are the profound insights you ponder while making the single-file march through the Florida Keys at 10-mph below the limit in a car named Speed.
The 2015 Bentley Mulsanne Speed, with its 530 horsepower and 811 lb-ft of torque, would prefer to move much faster. That torque figure is second only to that of the Bugatti Veyron (until you start counting heavy-duty pickups and niche supercar builders like Koenigsegg), yet neither is the monotony entirely unrepresentative. A sedan like this will inevitably spend a significant portion of its life slogging through the sprawl as it connects the heliports to the marinas in the world”s wealthiest, most urbane cities.
Britain”s Own Eight-Cylinder Ancestor
The Mulsanne Speed owes its big output to an engine that”s energetic even if it is nearing retirement age. Like the enduring Chevrolet small-block, Bentley”s 6.8-liter V-8 has roots in the 1950s and to this day retains architectural ties, such as the bore spacing and the pushrod-actuated valvetrain, to the original engine. Over many decades of development, though, this eight-cylinder has also sprouted modern features like two turbochargers, a variable-valve-timing cam phaser, and the ability to run on four cylinders to save fuel. The 2015 Mulsanne Speed introduces new cylinder heads, improvements it shares with the standard Mulsanne. Tuning differences give the Speed its extra 25 horsepower and 59 lb-ft of torque.
Bentley engineers say that the Speed”s 811 lb-ft of twist is almost enough to slip the tires around the wheels they”re mounted on. That”s a problem we last heard about while driving the Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, a road-legal race car that wears tires molded from Krazy Glue. There is ample torque to smoke the Dunlops on the rear-drive Bentley, but the electronically massaged throttle tip-in and the gentle squeeze of the long-travel brake pedal would rather facilitate graceful transitions; heaven forbid someone in the back seat spills the champagne. Flatten the right pedal and the rear end squats on its 21-inch wheels, the nose rises like a speedboat”s prow, and the $3330 Flying B hood ornament becomes the rifle sight guiding your trajectory. At the low 4500-rpm redline, the eight-speed automatic slides into the next gear as trainlike momentum builds.
Bentley claims the Speed is 0.3-second quicker to 60 mph than the standard Mulsanne; we estimate that the Speed will do the deed in 4.7 seconds. Its standout attribute, though, is not so much how quickly it moves, but how unremarkable speed feels from behind the steering wheel. We saw 160 mph when a little-used airstrip presented 10,500 feet of traffic-free runway. The speedometer was the only indicator that we”d broken into triple-digit velocities.
This is the first Mulsanne to offer carbon-fiber trim to complement the sea of quilted, perforated, and hand-stitched leather that wraps the cabin. Yet at roughly 6000 pounds, nothing about the Mulsanne Speed is lightweight. In the Sport setting, the air springs and the adaptive dampers are slightly stiffer and the hydraulic steering a touch heavier than in the standard mode, although the Speed retains the isolation to make a pothole feel like a dimple. In fast corners, the Bentley leans on its tires and suspension with a solid, stable feel.
To Drive or To Be Driven? That Is the Question
Bentley tells us that the distinction between a Mulsanne owner and a Mulsanne Speed buyer is that the former is more likely to be a passenger while the latter is apt to drive his own car. That hasn”t stopped the Brits from lavishing luxuries on the rear-seat passengers. Our $407,235 test car came equipped with a $10,970 champagne cooler and a trio of crystal Bentley flutes, plus $28,760 worth of entertainment equipment, including a 20-speaker Naim sound system, video monitors in the backs of the front-seat headrests, and picnic tables that motor up and out to reveal an iPad and a Bluetooth keyboard.
The Mulsanne Speed”s identity is a dichotomy; it”s a purpose-built chauffeured ride on one hand and a decent driver”s car on the other. It”s definitely not a sports car nor even a sports sedan. The Mulsanne Speed is simply more: more power, more torque, more exclusivity, and more money. The only thing it can”t offer? More time.
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