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Bentley Mulsanne Speed 2015 review

EXPERT RATING
8
Chris Riley road tests and reviews the 2015 Bentley Mulsanne Speed at its international launch.

It's described as the world's fastest ultra-luxury driving experience. Like all Bentleys the flagship Mulsanne comes in a myriad of colors, leathers and wood inlays, with an opportunity to customise the car in just about any conceivable way - if you've got the money they've got the knowhow.

In the United Arab Emirates where we drove the latest addition to the Bentley stable this week - the Mulsanne Speed - they've certainly got the money, plenty of Bentleys too from the look of it (although these days you mightn't be surprised to learn China is the company's biggest market).

The Speed as its name suggests cranks it up another notch, coaxing even more power and better performance out of what is in essence a big, sporty land yacht.  A direct competitor for the Rolls-Royce Ghost and Phantom models, it will be priced from $733K when it arrives in Australia later next month.

Context

Yes. There's no getting away from it. Bentleys are incredibly expensive. But believe it or not the UK based company sold more than 10,000 cars worldwide last year, 135 of them right here in Australia - 87 coupes and 48 of the larger sedans. 

That's not many you might think but given the cheapest Bentley is $380K and the most expensive one until now more than $662K, that's a turnover of at least $60 million - the nett profit must be gi-normous. As for the Mulsanne, Bentley has sold 23 in Australia since its launch in 2010.

History

The Bentley brand has a long and colourful history, with plenty of ups and downs and its fair share of success on the race track, notably in the 1920s and 30s when it won four back to back Le Mans 24 hour races.

Born out of the mists of 1919, the company was bailed out by Rolls-Royce after the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the company continued to produce both marques for many years.  But by the 1980s Rolls itself was in trouble and Bentley sales had dwindled to a trickle. Then in 1998 after a brief bidding war Volkswagen became the new owners of Bentley while the Rolls-Royce brand was acquired by BMW.

Since then VW has reportedly pumped millions into the rebirth of the Bentley brand and although both British icons continue to be "hand-built" in the UK, they are largely assembled from parts shipped in from Germany.

The figures

The new Speed is everything the Mulsanne is and more. More power and more torque, with faster acceleration and a higher top speed.

The 7.0-litre twin turbo V8 (they refer to it as 6 ¾ litres) produces 395kW of power and a massive 1100Nm of torque, the latter from just 1750 revs. Power is delivered to the rear wheels through an 8-speed ZF automatic.

It's sufficient to catapult the 5.6 metre, 2.7 tonne sedan from 0-100km/h in a mere 4.9 seconds and on to a top speed of 305km/h where the law permits. The extra oomph is achieved through new internals, a remapped transmission and recalibrated engine management system - a combo that yields other benefits too. 

For example the cylinder deactivation system that shuts down half the engine when it is not under load to save fuel is smoother and the transition less apparent. While fuel consumption has been trimmed 13 per cent to 14.6 litres/100km, giving the car a range of 80 extra kilometres - but if you can afford one of these you're hardly going to worry about the freight.

Customisation

The starting point is a long standard equipment list. There's 100 colours to choose from, 24 different kinds of leather hide and 10 different types of wood inlay - or perhaps you'd prefer a modern carbon-fibre look. Maybe you'd like to install a frosted glass bottle holder complete with crystal champagne flutes that can be secreted behind the fold down rear armrest.

Tech-wise a dedicated router provides instant wi-fi access while a 60GB hard drive is provided for storing movies and music, which can played over a standard 14 speaker audio system or the optional 2200 watt, 20-speaker Naim system - said to provide the best in-car audio experience in the world (we were impressed).

On the road

Fast cars require long roads and big brakes, but like most countries in the Emirates you need to keep an eye out for cops and cameras - not to mention the huge speed humps that can be lethal.

Slipping behind the wheel for the first time the Mulsanne Speed presents as something of a sleeping giant

The speed humps we're referring to are those on the backs of camels which have a habit of wandering on to the roads where there are no fences, often with unpredictable results - don't laugh we seen it happen. Imagine running into one of these ugly buggers at warp speed - imagine the bloody mess?

Slipping behind the wheel for the first time the Mulsanne Speed presents as something of a sleeping giant. It's a large car and it feels big and slightly bouncy at times, even with the air suspension screwed down tight in sport mode.

Put the boot it however and the Speed moves quickly from liquid smooth limmo into powerhouse barnstormer. The big V8 roars to life, picks up the car and literally flings it down the road - but remember this thing weighs upwards of three tonnes so it takes a few moments to get going.

In sports mode the engine is designed to stay above 2000 revs which keeps the twin parallel turbos in play full time, so maximum torque is available pretty much straight away - ALL 1100 NEWTON METRES OF IT!

But, with a maximum speed limit in the Emirates of just 120km/h (140 safely without being booked), the Speed's claimed top speed of 305km/h seems an awfully long way away. Oh for a German autobahn...

The whole question of safety is interesting too. Although it comes with six airbags, all crash testing is conducted in-house - there's no independent safety ratings available (maybe because of the horrendous cost of pounding a $700,000 car into a wall).

In summary it's an impressive vehicle and it would want to be for the money

Good for avoiding wandering camels, forward collision alert with auto braking is standard. But we were surprised to find a rear view camera is not, nor blind spot alert or lane departure warning - the latter in a country where they seem to change lanes at will (we're told they're coming soon).

In summary it's an impressive vehicle and it would want to be for the money, but if we were shelling out this kind of dough we'd expect it to come with everything - not just most things.

Verdict

The big decision would be choosing between a Bentley or a Rolls. Or maybe not because if you can afford one of these thoroughbreds, then you could probably afford one of each - it's a hard life.

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
(base) 6.8L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO No recent listings 2015 Bentley Mulsanne 2015 (base) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
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