March 28, 2016 @ 03:12 PM

Review: Bentley Mulsanne Speed - the car to mull on life’s bigger questions

“Who am I?” Have you often asked that question? There are many ways to come to an answer… but is it the right one?


This new Mulsanne Speed is the current flagship for the luxury brand and it looks the part. What I like about it is the seamless blend of the old and new, having said that, not everyone will appreciate the fusion. Regardless of what an opinion bears, I can bet everyone will be able to see that it is something special at first glance. Such is the sheer presence of the Bentley.

But if you walk around the Mulsanne Speed, you will be able to appreciate its size… it is large. Larger than it looks, thanks to clever proportions and design cues. But it is sleek too. The side profile is a good place to start, with its swooping top line. Muscular shoulder horizontal lines building up to a wave at the rear haunches, which in turns creates a plateau on the boot that joins the C-pillar and the gentle drop of the rear boot cover… which then creates another element of the surface on the flat boot tail.

This, in turn, is framed by two chrome-garnished rear-lights, housing the three jewel-like flat oval rear light clusters. As your eyes flow down towards the bumper, you will undoubtedly notice the similar DNA oval design on the tailpipes. This is just a brief description of the rear… and I can go on and on…

Let’s skip over to the front. It carries the headlights from the Mulsanne… in fact; I saw and got a ride in the original Bentley from yesteryear which inspired the headlights. The grille is strong and nicely oblong, much like the silhouette of a loaf of bread… or a bread box. Yes, I have not had my breakfast yet.

The multiple contours starting from the clam-shell bonnet and chiselled down to the front fenders, offering another plane, culminating in the crescendo that is the genesis of the shoulder line.  
In essence, the Bentley is designed in a way that is unmistakably Bentley. The DNA has been carried from its forebears and now injected with sexy and avant-garde design language. And it works. It may be a little OTT and larger than life for the faint-hearted, but since when have captains of industries been the faint hearted sort?

Noooo… a Bentley is not created to make waves as much as it is created to ride at the crest of one. It is simply what it is, a ride that inspires, which is why I thought it would be a better option than hiding in a cave to mull over life… but more about my meditation on life later.

Step into the business part of the Mulsanne Speed, into luxury. Typically, if you have never been in one, you may think you have died and gone to heaven. It is doused with the smell of luxury. No, seriously, it smells of luxury.

You have hand-stitched leather everywhere, solid chrome fittings, plush carpets and (in this case) deep black piano finish on all the wood surfaces. It is glaringly… opulent and classy… in the way ONLY the Brits can get it right. This is brilliant… what?

The oddity in the speedometer and tachometer instrumentation is the needle starts at 1 o’clock and sweeps down and then back up to 11 o’clock… apparently, another cue from the original Bentley from way back when.

But the drive… spot on, ol’ bean. It was smashing and then some. Really… did you expect anything else from a 6 ¾ - litre V8 engine? The vocals when you start it up… good god… and the twin exhaust… good god too…

With a healthy 1,100 Nm of torque from 1,750rpm, you can imagine the push this one has. Mind-blowing performance and… we had to swing by the petrol station once… or twice… because I was testing the car thoroughly, you see? I had to verify the spec sheet that came along with the Mulsanne Speed. Let’s see…  Zero-to-hundred in 4.9 seconds – check. Top speed 305km/h – check (no, not really, my excuse is I ran out of roads). And 530bhp at 4,200rpm – check (Bentley’s don’t lie). And apparently, this one has an improved efficiency of 13 percent, elevating its range by 80kms… umm, interesting.

As one would expect, creature comforts are at an all-time high. Completely adjustable seats all-round, massage seat, ice-box, gun cabinet, Single Malt Whisky storage, and the kitchen sink, it is all there. Or at least, it can be. With a plump estimated starting price of RM2.7 million, it is up to the potential owner to customise it to his or her liking.

In reality, something like this requires a chauffeur, which is such a waste, because it is just so fun to drive. It is responsive both from the pedals and steering wheel perspective and in essence, designed for the driver. So let’s get this straight… you pay at least RM2.7 million for a Luxo-barge and pay someone else good money to enjoy it behind the wheel? Oh, the predicament… this is real first-world problems.

While I am sure it feels oh-so-great in the back seat, doing the boss thing, I really just want to drive the wheels off this thing. The (other) great thing about the Mulsanne Speed or a typical Bentley is the NVH value is so low that you feel like you are wrapped in a silky cocoon of calm. Good news for the boss seated at the rear, but not so good if you want a shot of speed (not the drug) in your arm.

The Bentley shoots off like mercury in a volcano, and you will only truly realise the speed if you look at the speedometer or visual clues like the blurred trees and roads – 4.9 seconds to the century is nothing to scoff at. And it is all on tap, at your right foot. The eagerness in which the Mulsanne Speed intends to please, is a thing of beauty, hence the one or two petrol fuel up during the test drive.

The ride has been improved too, so it is not just straight line speed being offered here. And, regardless of the improvements, there is that fine line when it will go all awry, a fine line I am glad to report I did not manage to cross. The handling is succinctly composed, with the suspensions doing a more than brilliant job at isolating the bumps from the passengers. However, at high speed, the… Speed shows more than a nervous tick when thrown around corners; this I must add is on borderline insane speeds.

This is one composed and classy ride, and instead of mulling on life, I just enjoyed myself the whole day. Immersed and lost in the glow of something special. If anything, what I have discovered is this would be the ideal grotto to get away from it all and come away with a clear mind.

DONALD CHEAH

Bentley Mulsanne Speed
Engine:

6.75-litre, twin-turbocharged, V8, 530bhp @ 4200rpm, 1100Nm @ 1750rpm
Transmission:
ZF 8-speed automatic with Quickshift, Block Shifting and wheel-mounted paddleshift, rear-wheel drive
Performance:
4.9s 0-100kph, 305kph, 14.6l/100km, 342g/km
Dimensions (l/w/h/wb):
5575mm / 2208mm / 1521mm / 3266mm
Weight:
2685kg

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