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Retro drive: Bentley Mulsanne Speed. Image by Richard Pardon.

Retro drive: Bentley Mulsanne Speed
Yep, we’re doing a Retro Drive. On a car less than 24 months old. DEAL WITH IT.


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2019 Bentley Mulsanne Speed

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Good points: saloon-car opulence on the grandest of scales, charismatic old 6.75 V8

Not so good: younger Flying Spur sibling outmanoeuvres it in pretty much every key regard - including its standards of luxury

What is it?

A Bentley Mulsanne, in its later 'Speed' guise and from the end of the model's ten-year production run. That means it has the uprated 6.75-litre V8 twin-turbo engine, delivering 537hp and a simply enormous 1,100Nm of torque, as well as various Speed-specific details inside and out. The Mulsanne, of course, has always represented the pinnacle of Bentley's luxury capabilities, which might seem odd when you consider all of the other three models - namely, the Continental GT, the Bentayga SUV and the Flying Spur saloon - are all pretty grandiose automotive treats. And double especially when you've climbed into the Mulsanne's vast interior and noted that... it just looks a bit dated in comparison to the marque's later stuff. It's stunning within, of course, and built to the most exacting standards, but the tiny infotainment screen, simplistic-looking steering wheel, analogue dials (with an 'inverted' rev counter, look) and button-busy centre stack all give the air of 'conservatively traditional', rather than 'adventurously luxurious'.

Why are you driving it?

As part of a large Bentley event in which we drove lots of other vehicles from the marque, both old and new, but in the case of this Mulsanne there's another pertinent reason to give it a whirl. Not just because it's a Mulsanne, and you should always take the chance to get behind the wheel of a Mulsanne if you are granted the opportunity, but also because it's the last deployment of the fabled 'six-and-three-quarter-litre' V8 which first appeared in 1959. This evocative unit, which has been synonymous with both Bentley and the Other Top-End British Luxury Marque Which No Longer Dare Speak Its Name In Bentley Circles for so long, has now finally gone out of production. So it's not just farewell to the Mulsanne in 2020, it's farewell to the 6.75 V8, too.

Is it any good these days?

It's a fabulous thing in many regards, the Mulsanne Speed, not least because that V8 is a really old-school unit in the truest sense of the phrase: unlike most modern V8s, which can rev to six- or seven-thousand revs per minute, the 6.75 does all its best work at sub-4,000rpm. It's a fantastically unstressed mill and the fact its torque output in Nm is comfortably double its horsepower in PS is telling. You don't thrash the bejesus out of the Mulsanne's drivetrain to get the most from it; rather, you waft around on its effortless low- and mid-range responses, revelling in the deep, baritone growl that V8 motor serves up.

However, the Mulsanne is one of those ultra-luxe limos in which the vehicle's affluent owner is more likely to be driven, rather than driving the car themselves. And as it will most likely be a chauffeur sitting up front, then Bentley has geared all the Mulsanne Speed's responses for smoothness. It might be called a Speed but the Mulsanne feels like exactly what it is: a gigantic, comfortable four-door that weighs 2.65 tonnes. The steering is light and a touch imprecise, the body attitude errs towards the loose rather than the controlled, the drivetrain is fuzzy in most of its responses and the handling at speed is - while admittedly fun in its own, outlandish way (as throwing such a large car about like a hooligan is always a giggle) - not what you'd call 'talented'.

So it's therefore a machine best enjoyed at a more relaxed pace, where you can revel in the sumptuous interior and the impeccable refinement of this big beast. Nevertheless, as much as we were impressed with the Mulsanne Speed, we kind of reckon the newer Flying Spur W12 has its measure in every conceivable aspect - and yes, that means not just the dynamic experience served up by the deeply talented Spur, but also the opulence of its interior. There's no two ways about it: the Flying Spur has the nicer, more dazzling cabin. And so it makes sense that the Mulsanne must make way for the 'new-era' saloon instead, no matter what romance there is about it being the ultimate Bentley with that cherished 6.75 under the bonnet.

Is it a genuine classic, or just some mildly interesting old biffer?

Surely, almost any used Bentley is automatically conferred 'classic' status, right? And we can hardly call this a 'mildly interesting old biffer', given it'll still relieve you of 50 grand if you buy one of the earliest cars from 2010 and the best part of its original quarter-of-a-million notes if you go for a three-figure-mileage 2019 Speed or EWB long-wheelbase version. But, given that this particular Speed was registered in March 2019, it also seems wholly wrong in some ways to be calling it a 'classic'.

Yet it is. Mainly for what it represents: the crystallisation of the end of the Bentley 'L Series' 6.75-litre V8. An end-of-the-line Mulsanne like this will always have that engine, it will always have that place in history and it will always represent a piece of tradition passing into folklore. That it's also named after a corner on the Circuit de la Sarthe only makes this machine all the more desirable, and its hand-built, hyper-grand status should ensure it proper 'classic' status from now until the end of time.

The numbers

Model tested: 2019 Bentley Mulsanne Speed
Price: when new in 2019, £262,200 standard, car as tested £289,325; used examples from £46,500-£234,850
Build period: 2010-2020 (all Mulsannes), 2014-2020 (Speed)
Build numbers: c.7,300 (all models)
Engine: 6.75-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, eight-speed ZF automatic
Body style: four-door hand-built luxury saloon
Combined economy: 18.8mpg
Top speed: 190mph
0-62mph: 4.9 seconds
Power: 537hp at 4,300rpm
Torque: 1,100Nm at 1,750-3,200rpm
Weight: 2,650kg

Matt Robinson - 20 Oct 2020    - Bentley road tests
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- Mulsanne images

2020 Toy Box Bentley Mulsanne Speed. Image by Richard Pardon.2020 Toy Box Bentley Mulsanne Speed. Image by Richard Pardon.2020 Toy Box Bentley Mulsanne Speed. Image by Richard Pardon.2020 Toy Box Bentley Mulsanne Speed. Image by Richard Pardon.2020 Toy Box Bentley Mulsanne Speed. Image by Richard Pardon.

2020 Toy Box Bentley Mulsanne Speed. Image by Richard Pardon.2020 Toy Box Bentley Mulsanne Speed. Image by Richard Pardon.2020 Toy Box Bentley Mulsanne Speed. Image by Richard Pardon.2020 Toy Box Bentley Mulsanne Speed. Image by Richard Pardon.2020 Toy Box Bentley Mulsanne Speed. Image by Richard Pardon.


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