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It’s hard not to think that the Bentley Mulsanne Speed is for a person a bit like Augustus Gloop, Roald Dahl’s greedy nincompoop.
For this hand-built paragon to lives filled with Golden Tickets now seems at the vanguard of gluttony: a standard 505bhp Mulsanne just not enough lavish sustenance? Then for about £23,000 more, why not tuck into a Speed version with 25bhp extra, some discreet badges on the flanks and a more oily-looking grille? On the surface, the exercise seems gratuitous.
What do you get on the Bentley Mulsanne Speed (2015)?
Like Gloop, each Speed is mollied and coddled to a degree beyond nth: 400 people take 298 hours to build it, the car is hand-polished with lamb’s wool for 12 hours before leaving the factory, there are 120 colour options to choose from (some with gold in them).
But beneath the heavily buffed surface something more is stirring. Alongside that fairly insignificant power increase, an additional swell of torque has been hubbled and bubbled into existence, so the Speed delivers 811lb ft to the rear wheels. That’s like lashing three-and-a-bit Golf GTIs together; only the Veyron offers more shove. This has been achieved with revised combustion chambers, intake ports, injectors and spark plugs, while in Sport mode snappier gear ratios, stiffer air suspension settings and heavier steering have been configured to help deal with the additional surge.
On the road: CAR magazine's Mulsanne speed review
When switching the Speed on, it just rolls away, heading in the direction you have prescribed for it as though on a river of molten chocolate. There can be few cars for which motion is inherent – often they come to a stop when you stop – but the Speed, with its twin-turbo motor plodding along, seems to create its own gravity.
This is ideal for a chauffeur spiriting occupants about without fuss but it has been created to be driven harder too. Bentley’s customers are now younger and more demanding of drama, and for those who are captain of their own ship the firm reckons this is the fastest luxury saloon on the planet and a more focused driver’s car.
Fast, too, I guess?
Certainly pieces of the planet became very small, very quickly, including a two-mile runway, which was swallowed in the blink of an eye with unbridled 170mph avarice. That said, the three-tonne Speed and its girded loins has to doff its cap to Earth’s forces in corners, though it’s capable and swift if you adopt an old-fashioned slow-in, fast-out approach.
Thing is, such is the stately comportment in the cabin that the Speed doesn’t feel especially speedy. Even the force pushing you into the seat is more akin to a Labrador sitting on you in your favourite armchair, and while there is some distant retort from the new rifled exhausts, the 14 cows that died to cocoon the interior did not expire in vain – it’s a hide cacoon of the very highest calibre.
So by any common criteria the Speed struggles to make a case. Yet it sits in the pantheon of the sublime and the ridiculous. As Willy Wonka said of the man who got everything he wanted: he lived happily ever after. And he probably drives a Bentley Mulsanne Speed.