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Let’s Torque About Specs

Bentley’s new supercharged flagship is a glorious study in contradiction

Mulsanne has long reigned atop the British automaker’s family of models. But one shouldn’t be fooled by the car’s past as a chauffeured, upstairs-downstairs scenario on wheels. Given the new Mulsanne Speed’s 6 ¾-litre, twin-turbo V8 engine—the 7,000-pound, blue-blooded beast roars from zero to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds, topping out at just over 190 mph—it was designed with those sitting directly behind the wheel very much in mind.

More pointedly, the vehicle was created with the driver’s senses in mind. All of its surfaces—from coin-finished door handles to knurling on the “organ-stop” ventilation controls—are in place to engage a distinct tactile experience. Its bounty of premium materials likewise fills the cabin with a seductive aroma, heightened by views of the bespoke interior: Buyers can select from 10 different veneers, including the new piano-black panels with carbon-fiber inlays, and 24 hide colors. Aurally, the large engine is built to develop its power in torque at a very low rev range, resulting in an irresistible, throbbing croon. And if the Mulsanne Speed’s own siren song isn’t enough, there’s a 14-speaker, 2,200-watt Naim sound system onboard.

All this even before stepping suede-loafered foot on the drilled-alloy sport pedals. Once engaged, an advanced “S” driving mode offers profound control and keeps the engine speed above 2,000 rpm, ensuring the turbochargers are ready to deliver maximum performance instantly. But the reengineered power train was also made with an eye toward reducing fuel consumption by 13 percent.

The car’s greatest drawback, aside from potential sticker shock (the base price is $335,600), is arguably that it’s a terrible match for modest drivers. The lacquer-shiny, often two-tone, 18-foot-long rolling donjon incites a reaction from looky-loos on par with that of a LaFerrari. But keep in mind that an admirer’s predominant view will be of the twin rifled tailpipes and floating-ellipse taillights after it zips by.

“The one thing I’ve found with the car is that it’s like an onion,” says Sam Graham, the Mulsanne’s product-line director. “The more you dig into it, the more layers of engineering, thought and detail you find.”