What's it like?
Objectively, a Flying Spur is probably more accomplished in every area of endeavour and costs almost exactly £100,000 less, so it is perhaps just as well that raw ability counts for little in the rarefied air of the quarter-million-pound ultra-luxury saloon. Or I might also have to point out that the Mulsanne Speed's stablemate, the Volkswagen Golf R, costs £220,000 less, has just as many seats and a far better power-to-weight ratio and, on any track other than a speed bowl, would rapidly drive out of sight.
More relevantly yet awkwardly for Bentley, an extended-wheelbase Rolls-Royce Ghost is not only quieter and more comfortable but also more powerful, lighter and therefore even faster. To these eyes at least, it’s far better looking, too. And it’s cheaper.
And yet nothing, not even Rolls-Royce’s twin-turbo V12, can approach the majesty of Bentley’s grand old pushrod V8. The torque it develops – and the revs at which it is developed – still provides a driving experience like no other.
The Speed has eight gears, but there are times when you wonder if it really needs more than one. It’s a trait those fortunate enough to travel in big old Bentleys like the Speed Six and Eight Litre will understand very well.
And while there would be few things worse for a Rolls to be than overtly sporting, a Bentley committed only to the interests of ride and refinement would be equally unfortunate. Despite its size and weight, the Mulsanne Speed offers superb body control, unlikely feel and thoroughbred manners throughout.
It is, in short, and in its own, unique way a genuine driver’s car, something I hope never to be able to say about any Rolls-Royce.
Should I buy one?
You could kid yourself that the interior alone was worth the purchase price. For sheer quality and that sense of something created not by computer design but an army of artisans wielding chisels, needles, sand paper and skills handed down the generations, the Mulsanne may even edge out the Rolls-Royce.
With the Speed enhancements, it is truly rewarding to drive. Is it technically a supremely capable car? Not really. Is it nevertheless a superb Bentley in the finest traditions of the marque? Without question.
Bentley Mulsanne Speed
Location Wye Valley; On sale Now; Price £252,000; Engine V8, 6750cc, turbo, petrol; Power 530bhp at 4200rpm; Torque 811lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Kerb weight 2685kg; Top speed 190mph; 0 62mph 4.9sec; Economy 19.2mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 342g/km, 37%