Ultimate luxury with refined performance: 2017 Bentley Mulsanne first drive review Page 2


On the road, the Mulsanne Speed proved to be controlled luxury. This is a 5,900-pound car, but it handles like it weighs about a thousand pounds less (which would still be heavy). While it's weight wants to turn every corner into a straight line, its air suspension and adjustable shocks strain against the laws of physics to put the car where you point it. There is some lean in corners, but it's limited and the car responds with surprising agility.

The engine is wholly unique. It's a twin-turbocharged, low-revving, long stroking V-8 that wafts the car forward with waves of grunt. Power starts mildly but builds quickly like a crashing wave. The redline is a mere 4,500 rpm, but it delivers so much power down so early that you will think you are over-revving at 3,500 rpm, and you will certainly be going extra-legal speeds when you get there. In fact, the V-8 pushes only about 2,200 rpm at 90 mph. This is an effortless engine that vaults the Mulsanne Speed to 60 mph in just 4.8 seconds and pushes it all the way to a 190 mph top speed. I managed 150 mph on the Austrian autobahn and the car remained rock solid stable.

2017 Bentley Mulsanne Speed

2017 Bentley Mulsanne Speed

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2017 Bentley Mulsanne Speed

2017 Bentley Mulsanne Speed

Enlarge Photo
2017 Bentley Mulsanne Speed

2017 Bentley Mulsanne Speed

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The Speed's Comfort delivers the same suspension settings as in other two models, and the result is a pillow-soft ride. Even in the Sport mode and even with 21-inch tires, the Mulsanne Speed still manages to soak up bumps like a well heeled investor cornering the pork belly market.

In the other two models, the Signature and the Extended Wheelbase, the ride is always glass smooth, but the handling is less controlled. It took just one corner in the Signature to show that it is subject to a lot of body lean. A few bumps and dips revealed some float as well, and I found I'd rather slow the pace than dice it up through Austrian mountain roads. Based on vehicle dynamics alone, were I in this market, I'd take the extra $30,000 out of my trust fund to move up to the Speed.

2017 Bentley Mulsanne

2017 Bentley Mulsanne

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The interior is the place to be

The Extended Wheelbase's extra 9.8 inches of rear legroom makes it another strong candidate as the Mulsanne to choose. Bentley developed several rear seat options to pamper rear occupants, and made several other improvements to the interior, as well. Most notably, the seats were redesigned and the infotainment system was completely revamped.

This all pays off in a cabin that inspires a sense of occasion. The interior is whisper quiet, interrupted by the winsome roar of the V-8 only when it is pushed. Bentley says material integrity is paramount, and that is quite evident when you get inside and touch the surfaces. Every material in the Mulsanne is authentic. If it looks like wood, it's wood covered with more wood. If it looks like leather, it's the finest hand-cut leather. If it looks like metal, it's polished and knurled stainless steel. If it's clear switchgear, it's glass. And if it's electronics, it's Audi.

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Those electronics include a new infotainment system with an 8-inch touchscreen, a 60-gigabyte hard-drive for media storage, 4G LTE and Wi-Fi hotspot connectivity, Apple CarPlay compatibility, and some great rear infotainment features that we will get to soon.

Bentley calls the seats sumptuous armchairs and we agree with that assessment. The seats are wide enough for fatcat backsides, but comfortable and supportive to the point of cosseting. The Speed's diamond-pattern quilting is especially attractive. The driver's seat is a rather special place to be, but the backseat might even be better, especially in the Extended Wheelbase model.


 
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