2015 Bentley Mulsanne Speed First Drive
The Art of More
Most of you wouldn’t look at the Bentley Mulsanne and think it needs more of anything. Most of you also cannot afford a Bentley Mulsanne. If you could, you might just want more. Because at this point, why not? Too much is never enough, right? Right.
Allow me, then, to introduce you to the 2015 Bentley Mulsanne Speed. Everything that differentiates it from a standard Mulsanne can be summed up as “more.” In proper Bentley fashion, though, “more” has been applied thoughtfully and artfully, with a delicate hand rather than a hammer.
The most prescient bit of “more” carried by the Speed is under the hood. Specifically, 25 more horsepower and 59 more lb-ft of torque for grand totals of 530 horsepower and 811 lb-ft. The latter figure is eclipsed only by diesel-powered, heavy-duty pickup trucks and the all-conquering and soon-exiting Bugatti Veyron. Achieving this required a redesigned combustion chamber, revised intake ports, new fuel injectors, upgraded spark plugs, a modified compression ratio, retuned variable valve timing, and more precise control of the turbochargers.
More torque and more horsepower, naturally, generate more speed. From the start, Bentley claims the new Speed will eclipse 60 mph in 4.8 seconds. That’s a claimed improvement of 0.3 second over a standard Mulsanne, though we predict the Speed will be even quicker than Bentley’s conservative estimate, given that we clocked a standard Mulsanne hitting 60 mph in 4.9 seconds. On the top end, Bentley claims a new top speed of 190 mph, an increase of 6 mph over the standard Mulsanne. Due to a headwind and a limited amount of runway, the highest observed speed we witnessed was an indicated 163 mph. Regardless, thanks in part to electronic limiters elsewhere, the Mulsanne is the fastest luxury sedan on the market.
Remarkably, all the “more” under the hood also extends to efficiency. Bentley declares it an internal imperative that more power be accompanied by greater efficiency, but I suspect the imperative is rooted in governmental regulations. Regardless, Bentley claims a 13-percent improvement in efficiency, resulting in an additional 50 miles of maximum range. At this time, EPA estimates have not been released, so we can only extrapolate from the current Mulsanne, which is rated at 11/18/13 mpg city/highway/combined. Applied across the board to all three figures (a best-case scenario and not likely the reality), it works out to 12/20/15 mpg city/highway/combined. It’s certainly no Prius, but no one enjoys seeing a big bill on the gas pump, so every little bit helps, and it’s a nice bonus when you’re really here for the power.
If you’re a keen observer of all things Bentley, you’ll recall the brand has previously tested the waters for a sportier Mulsanne. Released in 2012, it’s an option known as the Mulliner Driving Specification, and it added a Sport setting that altered suspension and steering stiffness, special wheels and tires, drilled aluminum pedals, knurled surfaces on metal interior controls, and diamond-quilted leather. More than a stepping-stone to the Mulsanne Speed, the Mulliner Driving Specification is an essential building block. Every feature included under the Mulliner banner carries over as standard on the Speed, to which Bentley has added more power and adjustments to throttle and transmission response.
The result, quite simply, is what you’d expect: It’s faster. The Mulsanne already lunged for the horizon like a tiger springing onto unsuspecting prey, and now it launches a bit harder. If, when starting from a stop, you drop the pedal all the way to the floor, you’ll notice the turbos come on when the nose of the car suddenly lifts even higher. Once that happens, the pull is as smooth as a bullet train. Provided you’re in Sport mode, the engine will never drop below 2,000 rpm again unless you come to a stop, so the turbos will always be at the ready. Should you ever reach autobahn speeds, you’ll find the car dead stable and at ease with the velocity.
More than simply making the Mulsanne faster, though, Bentley has taught it to go around a corner with a bit more control, as well. No, this is no nimble go-kart and wouldn’t feel at home on a one-lane mountain road, but for most circumstances it will encounter, it handles surprisingly well. At turn-in, the car rolls gracefully onto its outside tires and … that’s it. The tires grip shockingly well considering the weight on them, and the car takes a solid set. There are no extra motions or moments of uncertainty. It’ll even rotate if you trail brake it enough. Until you spend a lot of time in the car in high-speed maneuvers, you’re unlikely to find its limits, as your natural concern about getting a 6,000-pound vehicle out of sorts will restrain your inner race-car driver.
The rest is so subtle as to be nearly imperceptible to the average person. The grille and headlight surrounds are finished in a unique tinted stainless steel, there are small “Speed” badges behind the front wheels, the taillight lenses are tinted slightly, a “rifled” bit of trim is inserted into the tailpipe tips, and new five-spoke, 21-inch wheels are fitted. If you can spot a Speed from more than 25 feet away while it’s moving, you’ll be in rare company.
It’s a similar situation inside. The Speed is every bit as luxurious and decadent as the standard Mulsanne, and the updates are subtle. The knurled finish on the metal bits you feel more than see, and if you’re not a Bentley aficionado, you’ll be forgiven for not realizing the diamond-quilt leather isn’t standard across the board. You might notice the drilled pedals, or you might not, and similarly you might notice that the champagne flutes in the optional bottle chiller between the rear seats have been cut so that their base mimics the new five-spoke wheel design rather than the non-Speed wheel design. Should someone have the ill taste to fit it, you’ll definitely notice the carbon-fiber trim inserts on the upper door panels just below the windows. Carbon fiber has an important place in automobiles, but decorating the inside of a Mulsanne seems patently gauche. Let the wood shine through (and don’t paint the wood black).
Very little about the concept of “more” is subtle, likewise for the Mulsanne. And yet Bentley has artfully applied the concept of more to nearly every aspect of the Mulsanne without unintended consequences to its luxury mantra or delivery of its luxury experience. More, typically a tradeoff, is simply more for the Mulsanne Speed.
View more than 150 additional photos of the 2015 Bentley Mulsanne Speed on the second page of this review.