The Wait of Speed
You’ll likely assume several things about someone driving a Bentley Mulsanne. You’ll assume they’re rich, and unless it’s a journalist driving, you’ll be right. You’ll probably assume they like to display their wealth, as there are plenty of less conspicuous cars available to a person of means should they wish to maintain anonymity. If the person in question has bought a new Mulsanne Speed, you’ll likely assume they want to get places faster than a standard Mulsanne owner. They probably thought the same thing, but it might not be the case.
It’s not an unreasonable expectation, however. The Speed, as its name indicates, carries more power under the pool table hood thanks to internal revisions to the undying 6.75-liter, twin-turbo V-8. Such revisions yield an additional 25 horsepower and 59 lb-ft of torque, which seems like healthy increases until you consider the Mulsanne already made 505 horsepower and 752 lb-ft of torque. Still, 530 horsepower and 811 lb-ft of torque is quite a lot.
In addition to making a bit more power, the 2015 Bentley Mulsanne Speed we tested also carried a bit more weight than the last Mulsanne in our possession — 57 pounds, to be exact. Given that the car crushed our scales at 6,041 pounds (but with excellent 49/51 percent weight balance!), this extra mass is inconsequential to performance, handling, and fuel economy. That’s unfortunate because it could otherwise explain our performance testing results.
You see, back in 2010, we tested the then-all-new 2011 Mulsanne, and it was surprisingly capable. It hit 60 mph from naught in 4.8 seconds and ran a 13.3-second quarter mile at 104.4 mph. It stopped from 60 mph in an astonishing 108 feet despite weighing 5,984 pounds. It even pulled 0.83g average on our skidpad and managed a 26.8-second lap around our figure eight test at 0.69g average.
I bring up all these numbers to illustrate our conundrum. This more powerful Mulsanne Speed did not exceed the humble Mulsanne in overall performance as expected. Rather, the Speed needed 5.0 seconds to see 60 mph and 13.6 seconds to run a quarter mile at 103.3 mph. On the plus side, the Speed accelerated from 45-65 mph one-tenth of a second quicker than the standard Mulsanne, all the better to pass the proletariat. The extra 2 feet required to stop from 60 mph (110 feet total) are mostly insignificant, except in the rare occasion 2 feet is the difference between all’s well and rear-ending. The Speed and its recalibrated shock absorbers and steering rack and upgraded tires showed more promise in handling, posting 0.84g average on the skidpad and a 26.6-second figure-eight lap at 0.71g average. And hey, per Bentley, the Speed even pulls down an extra mpg across the board at 12/19/14 mpg city/highway/combined, or slightly less than the 13 percent improvement Bentley predicted. Let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth too long, then.
So in the empirical sense, the Mulsanne Speed is underwhelming. We didn’t expect massive improvement from the tuned-up motor, but at very least we expected it to perform the same, not slower. But are we asking the right question? Does the buyer of this car purchase it because it’s supposed to be faster or because it’s the highest-end Mulsanne one can purchase (unless the super-limited production Grand Convertible actually happens)? If Bentley buyers are anything like Mercedes-Benz AMG buyers, they’ll buy it because it’s one more than a regular Mulsanne.
If they’re not the type to worry about quarter-mile times for massive luxury sedans, they won’t likely be too disappointed. You’ll note above the Speed outperforms the standard Mulsanne by a notable margin in our handling tests, and the numbers in this case do translate to the real world. Yes, the Speed is a big car and it picks up speed very quickly, but it’s more than manageable. Those retuned shocks and that retuned steering rack aren’t just window dressing but do indeed better control the car’s mass than would a standard Mulsanne. Fling the big sedan down a mountain road, and it holds the road far better than the initial weight transfer would suggest. Once you learn to love the lean, you’ll find you can push the car surprisingly hard without getting yourself in trouble. Give it a little too much, and the front end will plow gently, giving you ample opportunity to back off and bring it back in line.
And let’s be honest: Most people can’t tell a 0.2-second difference in acceleration time. For some, all that will matter is that it’s slower, and it’s a damning point. For the ones who don’t, they’ll find the ballroom-sized hood leaps for the sky with enough vigor to suggest you’re driving something immensely powerful and deserving of your respect.
To put it another way, the Bentley Mulsanne Speed is not short on character, nor is it short on real-world capability. For some, that will more than make up for its shortcomings on our test track. The rest can spend their money on the Mulliner Driving Specification for a standard Mulsanne instead and get the same handling without the pressure of those little “Speed” badges behind the front wheels.
|2015 Bentley Mulsane Speed|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$411,123|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD, 4-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||6.8L/530-hp/811-lb-ft twin-turbo OHV 16-valve V-8|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||6,041 lb (49/51%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||219.5 x 75.8 x 59.9 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.0 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||13.6 sec @ 103.3 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||110 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.84 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.6 sec @ 0.71 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||12/19/14 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||281/177 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.35 lb/mile|