Driving the 2016 Bentley Mulsanne Speed, a British Luxury Twister
Pop quiz: If we asked you which gasoline-powered production car has the most torque, what would you say? The Bugatti Veyron? McLaren P1? LaFerrari? Maybe even a Detroit bruiser?
Wrong, wrong, and still wrong.
Before everyone sharpens their troll spikes, an explanation. First, we said production cars; The Veyron recently reached the end of its line in preparation for the new as-yet-to-be-announced model from Bugatti. And yes, limiting it to gasoline cars takes out the latest electric cars and diesel pickups.
That puts the new 2016 Bentley Mulsanne Speed at the top of the list. Bentley has tuned the 6.75-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 engine in the 2016 Mulsanne Speed to put out 811 lb.-ft. of torque, a boost of nearly 60 lb.-ft. over the base Mulsanne, along with an 25 additional hp, for a total of 530 hp. Bentley traces the origins of that 6.75-liter engine back to 1959, making it one of the oldest engines still getting bolted into vehicles — older than the first-generation Chevy small block and the original Lamborghini V-12 engine (which ended with the Murcielago). The 6.75-liter version of the engine went into production in 1968, and over that time Bentley has tripled the power and torque output it gets from the engine.
Which is what’s required for dealing with nearly 6,000 lbs. of hand-built British luxury sedan. Getting up to speed would seem like a Herculean feat, but the Mulsanne Speed quietly cruises up into the triple digits with nary a complaint. Even on the track.
In the hands of five-time Le Mans winner and Bentley brand ambassador Derek Bell, the Mulsanne Speed feels agile and quick over the undulating F1 Circuit of the Americas track just outside of Austin. Even though Bell admits that he hadn’t driven the track prior to our hot lap, the car feels controlled and stable—even at speeds exceeding 130 mph. It hustles from 0-60 mph in 4.8 seconds and 0-100 mph in just 11 seconds; the theoretical top speed is 190 mph.
On the road, the eight-speed transmission concealed its work like a head butler as we rocket along the edge of the Hill Country outside of Austin. People appear surprised—and amused—to see the big, attractive car barreling down the toll road. Toss it through a few sweeping turns, toggle the “Charisma” knob and switch to Sport and the steering weights up, adaptive air suspension and damping stiffens, and you and your occupants are treated to a joyously jaunty ride that’s fun for the driver but not vomit-inducing for passengers. Comfort mode is prime for long, fast toll road runs or when stuck in traffic in town, but we wouldn’t recommend it when trying to hurry the car along a curvy road. You can also customize the air suspension and steering feel individually, if you are so inclined. Just in case you were wondering, the Mulsanne Speed is rear wheel drive…and yes, you can (and we did) do a burnout in it.
In addition to the ride and raucous speed, the craftsmanship of a Bentley is something to be admired. It takes more than 150 man-hours to complete the interior of a single Mulsanne. (By comparison, that’s roughly how long it takes Toyota to bolt together five entire Corollas.) All the high touch points — vent plungers that look like beautiful antique cigarette lighters, the “Charisma” button that changes handling, even the weighted multimedia control knob that clicks pleasantly under touch — are made of real glass and metal. During the drive, Sam Graham, the Mulsanne line product director, notes that it takes 16 cowhides to envelope the interior. Here in Texas, that counts as half a herd.
From a quick glance, the Mulsanne Speed doesn’t look all that different from the run-of-the-mill CEO hauler (if you could call a Mulsanne run-of-the-mill) but it does have a few small visual clues that make it stand out from the standard Mulsanne. Directional wheels that are machined, amazingly, from a single billet of aluminum; a darker chrome grille; a cast “Speed” badge, and door sills marked with “Mulsanne Speed” are all subtle nods to the naughty power under the hood. The Speed is also the first Mulsanne to offer a carbon fiber interior option.
And of course all this high hustle and luxury bustle comes at a price. The base Mulsanne Speed starts at $335,000, or more than the median home price in Denver. The one we drove bore a few choice sets of the 90 variations of standard options that come in the Mulsanne Speed. Ours included the entertainment package that comes complete with iPad tables in the back seats and WiFi, as well as a package that includes massaging front seats, flip down rear mirrors and additional rear seat champagne cooler. The grand total of the Speed we tested rounded out to $407,000. According to Bentley, most Mulsanne Speeds are customized to around $385,000.
Bentley is only making 1,000 of these monsters this year, with a majority going to China and the Middle East, and only a few stateside. The Speed option will cost buyers an additional $30,000 over the base Mulsanne price, but at this level, that’s probably a wise move. If you’re going to buy this kind of hat, you should get all the cattle.
Disclosure: For this article, the writer’s transportation, meals and lodging costs were paid for by one or more subjects of the article. Yahoo does not promise to publish any stories or provide coverage to any individual or entity that paid for some or all of the costs of any of our writers to attend an event.