By Steve Berry
IN a world where people are increasingly cynical and difficult to impress it is reassuring to know there are still some sure-fire ways to astonish and delight.
Take the Bentley Mulsanne Speed. Something with a value of more than £250,000 would have folk chomping at the bit to take a closer look.
But I never expected to see a motor car instil such great joy. Maybe I fell into the trap of believing the Bentley Mulsanne Speed is just another luxury motor whose extravagance would divide opinion among the “haves” and the “have-nots”.
Perhaps I imagined it was simply an over-the-top exercise in trying to please life’s perfectionists.
However, it turns out there is nothing simple about the Bentley Mulsanne Speed at all.
Whether this justifies the eye-watering price, I don’t know. But the world would be somehow “lesser” without it.
It is both magnificent and profound in its ability to please people from all walks of life – including those who have no interest in cars at all.
A 6.75-litre, V8 twin-turbo engine produces 530 bhp and a huge 811 lb-ft of torque at just 1,750rpm.
The Mulsanne Speed will rocket to 60mph in just 4.8 seconds, despite having a kerb weight of over 2.5 tonnes. Top speed is 190mph.
Not-so-pleasing figures are a combined economy of 17.4mpg and a CO2 figure of 365 g/km. It’s not bad considering the silky-smooth 6.75-litre lump has been around since 1959 – with some updates, obviously.
The luxurious, quilted leather interior is a given, as are the superb seats that can heat, cool and massage.
There are many reasons why the Bentley will bring a smile to your face. The most memorable for me was its overall calming quietness that, along with the car’s sense of occasion, lifted the simplest of journeys to new heights for both driver and passengers.
That calmness is in no small part down to the specially developed Dunlop tyres engineered to be whisper-quiet even at motorway speeds. The Mulsanne Speed is by far the quietest car I’ve ever driven.
You could even the clink of glasses in the back though the refrigerated bottle cooler with frosted glass and three-bespoke crystal champagne flutes come as a £8,310 option.
So, can you really improve on perfection? Bentley obviously think you can as my car came with over £62,000 worth of gilding on the lily – raising the list price to a staggering £317,820.
The two ‘biggies’ were the dual-tone paintwork (£12,120) and the Entertainment Specification (£15,790) which included a 2200 watt Naim for Bentley Audio System with Bentley Theatre sound.
The Mulsanne Speed is over 5.5 metres long (over 18ft) so finding a parking space is a little awkward at the local supermarket.
Of course, it will attract attention and it would appear everyone loves a Bentley.
The people that gathered at Chatsworth to ask about the car kept me busy for a good 40 minutes and they were all suitably impressed – sometimes staggered – by the quality and ambiance of the Bentley.
But it was their reaction when I invited them to sit in the car that was the most telling. You’d think I’d offered to pay off their mortgage.
On the open road you soon forget the vastness of the car but you’re aware of its bulk. it doesn’t feel unwieldly though just solid and steady.
Bentley are adamant the Mulsanne Speed is a driver’s car and not just a car to be chauffeured around in.
The steering has enough feedback to let you know what the front wheels are doing while the grip levels around sharper bends leaves you pleasantly surprised.
It’s at home on a wide, open road but I had to take a detour over a four-mile stretch of twisty, undulating B-road that I was a little worried about. I needn’t have been though as the Mulsanne Speed felt immediately lithe around a particularly tight chicane and it ate up the rest of the road easily.
The eight-speed auto gearbox had to work a little harder on the steep uphills but there is so much torque you can imagine the car coping well with just half the number of gears.
Yes, I know it’s just a car and I’m paid to test all aspects of it – but it was enough to be in her company for just a few days and witness people’s reactions and the way she lights up a car park.
It’s not just a motor car, it’s a piece of engineering genius that has the inherent ability to say “Come in, let me lift your spirits – and we’ll see where it takes us.” Utterly brilliant.