| First Drive | East Sussex, England | Bentley Mulsanne Mulliner Driving Specification |
Model tested: Bentley Mulsanne in Mulliner Driving Specification
Pricing: £225,900 (+ £13,410 for MDS)
Engine: 6.75-litre turbocharged petrol V8
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic
Body style: four-door saloon
Rivals: Rolls-Royce Phantom
CO2 emissions: 393g/km
Combined economy: 16.7mpg
Top speed: 184mph
0-62mph: 5.3 seconds
Power: 512hp at 4,200rpm
Torque: 1,018Nm at 1,750rpm
In the Metal:
The Mulsanne's looks have been divisive since it was introduced and while they're growing on us there's no denying it's still not as comfortable in its skin as its Arnage predecessor. Still, there's no doubting its presence, even if it's not quite as imposing as its Rolls-Royce rivals. As you might expect the detailing is exquisite, while the addition of the single thin fine line along the shoulder line - a £625 option - does wonders for its looks. The split-rim polished alloys of the MDS pack arguably do less so, though you could always choose not to have the polished finish.
The only other real exterior clue that this is an MDS car is the 'Flying B' vent emblem behind the front wheel on the lower portion of the wing. The changes are more obvious inside, where new perforated and diamond quilted leather is featured, as is a new headlining, along with knurled finishes to the gear leaver and organ stops. There are also drilled alloy sports pedals and a 'Commissioned by Mulliner' plaque.
Look at the MDS specification and it's clear that the driving element of the pack is secondary to the styling and finishing. The only real area alluding to improved performance is the mention of 'Sport tuned suspension and steering'. The changes are extremely subtle, to the point you'd really need to drive a non-MDS car back-to-back to really notice them. As with it the suspension and steering weight and response are altered via the drive selector, which offers Comfort, Bentley, Sport and Custom - the latter allowing you to have comfort steering mixed with sport suspension or vice-versa.
Choose the right settings and the Mulsanne MDS resists roll with a bit more conviction, but opt for the Sport setting with the suspension and the most notable result is more patter from the wheels on less than perfect surfaces. Likewise the steering; opt for it in anything other than Comfort and the weight increases, without any corresponding improvement in accuracy or speed. It's actually best left in Comfort, or that Bentley setting, which is considered the best all-round choice by Bentley's chassis engineers.
There's no increase in the performance from the turbocharged V8 engine either, and while it's difficult to argue against 512hp and its mighty 1,018Nm of torque, it's a shame the MDS doesn't bring with it quicker response - or a marginal boost in power. The eight-speed transmission still shifts with the same creamy smoothness too, which is no bad thing, as anything else would be uncouth.
What you get for your Money:
It's not often we'd suggest that a £13,410 option pack is good value, but in the rarefied world of Bentley the number of changes - trim-wise at least - do seem to add up. What's less convincing is the 'driver' element of the package, as although sports tuned suspension and steering does come with the MDS pack the changes are so subtle as to barely noticeable - on the road at least.
Even with the MDS specification added don't expect to stop there on the options list. You'd be mad not to option the Premier specification at £11,040, which brings those veneered rear picnic tables, a rear view camera, jewelled finishes to the grilles and vents, the flying B radiator mascot and iPod interface. Overall it's unlikely you'll see much change from £260,000 once you've finished ticking the options boxes and personalising your Mulsanne.
The Mulliner Driving Specification Bentley doesn't quite live up to its promise to deliver a significantly sharper driving package, but it does bundle up some desirable extras into an easy tick-box option. We'd have it on our Mulsanne for the revised interior finishes alone, but don't think it turns Bentley's biggest saloon into a back-road warrior. However, given the already impressive agility on offer from the standard car there's not much room, or arguably desire, to create a sharper drive without bringing with it sizeable compromises.