The Sunday Times Driving Placeholder
Delivers a best-in-show performance
Unfathomable acceleration
Tastefully understated
You'll want to sit in the driver's seat
Not the most manoeuvrable beast
It's about a mile long
The Mercedes-AMG S 65 is faster

First Drive review: Bentley Mulsanne Speed (2015)

The bubbly’s flowing at light speed

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2015 Bentley Mulsanne Speed review

2015 Bentley Mulsanne Speed at a glance

  • Handling: ★★☆☆☆
  • Performance: ★★★★☆
  • Design: ★★★★★
  • Interior: ★★★★★
  • Practicality: ★★★☆☆
  • Costs: ★☆☆☆☆

Bentley Mulsanne Speed, £252,000

WE’RE out of dog food. I know because I just went to feed the dog. And this is an emergency of sorts because if his meal isn’t on the floor at the time he expects it, he becomes anxious. And shortly after that you’ll find him in the kitchen fixing something for himself, such as a table leg or the cat.

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Fortunately there is a late-opening branch of Pets at Home about 10 minutes from us, and it’s not due to close for . . . ooh, eight minutes at least. And even more fortunately, outside my house is a freshly delivered Bentley Mulsanne Speed, sitting there and clearly in need of something to do. So I grab the keys.

2015 Bentley Mulsanne Speed interior

Now you could argue that, by using a quarter of a million pounds’ worth of mile-long luxury limousine to nip out for dog food, I am not exactly duplicating the ownership experience of the typical Bentley Mulsanne buyer. Surely, you will be saying, if the typical Mulsanne owner needed to go to Pets at Home for dog food, he would instruct his chauffeur to drive him there.

But that’s the whole point about the Mulsanne Speed. The “bog-standard” Mulsanne is aimed at the old-school entrepreneur who wants to travel in the back with the seat massager, the iPad dock, the hand-tooled refrigerator and crystal champagne flutes and his secretary.

The Speed version, by contrast, is calling out to the modern, younger, more self-determining breed of entrepreneur, who loves all that other stuff, too, but who every now and again fancies turning the wheel himself, and getting excited about it.

2015 Bentley Mulsanne Speed rear seats

Accordingly, for a laughably negligible £23,000 surcharge, that new, young entrepreneur can have a Mulsanne whose twin-turbo 6.75-litre V8 engine is powered up by 25bhp to 530bhp, whose peak pulling power arrives sooner in the rev cycle — at 1750rpm rather than at 2250rpm — and whose springs and dampers have been toughened up to cope with the consequences.

The pedals are drilled-through aluminium sporty numbers, instead of the standard Bentley ones, which are made of a unique blend of ostrich feathers and caviar (if I’m remembering correctly)

The unlikely result is almost Ferrari-style acceleration in a car the size of Monmouthshire. The result is also, according to Bentley, the fastest luxury saloon in the world. (If we’re quibbling, the Mercedes-AMG S 65 is faster. But it’s less luxurious and contains exactly no crystal champagne flutes.)

Being a Bentley, the car makes only a modest outward show of its internal heat. None of your yobbish overbranding here: labels saying “Speed” are kept to a minimum — on the tread plates and behind the front wheels. The interior goes for carbon fibre over the company’s traditional, elf-polished veneers, and the pedals are drilled-through aluminium sporty numbers, instead of the standard Bentley ones, which are made of a unique blend of ostrich feathers and caviar (if I’m remembering correctly).

2015 Bentley Mulsanne Speed

Put it this way: if the Queen needed a getaway car, this would serve. Moreover, nobody would see her waving. The road gets sucked under the hood ornament with alarming fluidity, yet at the cost of seemingly no physical discomfort to anybody on board. The physics-defying miracle is in the way that, with a light tap of the toe on the accelerator, almost three tons of quilted leather and bespoke aluminium seems to rise up and float.

Corners are another matter, though. It’s not that the car can’t be made to burrow into them, hold a royally unfaltering line and come surging out the right way round. It’s just that it all feels wrong, like trying to take a jump in a ceremonial horse and carriage.

The dog? He dined that night, thank you for asking. And Parker: take the rest of the year off, would you?

2015 Bentley Mulsanne Speed specifications
  • Engine: 6752cc, V8, twin turbo, petrol
  • Power: 530bhp @ 4200pm
  • Torque: 811 lb ft @ 1750rpm
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
  • Performance: 0-62mph: 4.9sec
  • Top speed: 190mph
  • Fuel: 19.3mpg
  • CO2: 342g/km
  • Road tax band: M (£1,100 for first year; £505 thereafter)
  • Price: £252,000
  • Release date: On sale now


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Bentley Mulsanne Speed rivals

Mercedes-AMG S 65, £182,750

  • For Astonishingly powerful V12 engine; multitude of on-board gadgets and gizmos
  • Against Looks like any other S-class — which means you’ll look like a limo driver

Rolls-Royce Ghost Series II extended wheelbase, £247,152

  • For Supreme sophistication and comfort
  • Against High fuel costs; less sporty image