The Bentley Mulsanne Speed delivers super luxury with massive torque
High Speed luxury The Speed is tailored for the enthusiast driver without compromising the comfort positioning of the car. PHOTO: BENTLEY

CAN something 5.6 metres long and weighing close to 2.7 tonnes be described as subtle? The answer is yes, if it has a flying B mascot on the bonnet and is called the Mulsanne. And if there is a discreet little badge on the front wing vent that says "Speed", you can be sure that it will be extra swift.

The Bentley Mulsanne Speed is the latest variant of the ultra-luxury saloon which was first introduced five years ago. The Mulsanne may be as big as a terrace house but its styling is exquisite, with superformed front fenders, muscular rear haunches and a handcrafted interior.

On the Speed, the sculpted curves are unchanged but there are some mild tweaks in the form of dark tint for the headlamps and tail lights, as well as the front and lower bumper grilles.

Open one of the lightweight aluminium doors and the "Mulsanne" and "Speed" kickplates greet you. Overall, the car gets more metal trim in the form of stainless steel - which is less bling than chrome - and makes whatever you see and touch, like the round air vents and organ stop controls, even more delightfully tactile.

But Bentley engineers have also consciously cut weight from the 2,685 kg Mulsanne Speed where its owners do not see it, only to put it back where they can. An example is the extra eight kg of carpet because customers want to step on something thicker.

The extremely spacious interior with its expansive 3,266 mm long wheelbase comes with a pair of electrically operated rear seats, which for the first time, can be ordered in two-tone leather. As for the cabin trim, there is the decidedly sporty choice of carbon fibre for the waistrails in addition to the traditional wood veneer.

In the back of the Mulsanne Speed, one can work, play or simply sip bubbly. Picnic tables with built-in Pads electrically deploy and complement the headrest-mounted monitors, while between the seats is a cooler with a frosted glass door that opens to reveal three champagne flutes and space for two bottles.

But outside Asia - especially China - 95 per cent of Mulsanne drivers take the wheel themselves. With the Speed being the most powerful Mulsanne, this means sybaritic comfort with truck-like torque.

The launch of the Mulsanne Speed in Dubai recently revealed this unique proposition of high speed super luxury. On the long desert roads, the Speed is tailored for the enthusiast driver without compromising the comfort positioning of the car.

There are the usual four driving modes - Comfort, Bentley, Sport and Custom - with Bentley being the manufacturer's recommended setting for the ideal steering and suspension combination. Only Sport mode was modified for the Speed, with the air suspension recalibrated for more extreme body control.

Under the long bonnet, the power and torque of the Speed's 6.75-litre twin turbo V8 were hiked to 537 hp (an additional 25 hp) and a massive 1,100 Nm (up 80 Nm). Only the Bugatti Veyron has more torque, while the Speed's closest superluxury rival can only muster 830 Nm.

Driving the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission, the massive V8 cuts acceleration from zero to 100 kmh by 0.4 of a second to 5.3 seconds, while the top speed rise nine kmh to 305 kmh. But the torque delivery is so refined you can't tell you're blasting off into hyperspace. The well-insulated cabin is calm and above 120 kmh, the suspension is lowered by 10 mm as the rear end is monitored for lift and the angle of attack altered to keep the Speed stable.

It may be fast but the big Bentley is not just a performance package. It is an ultra-comfortable sedan with an attractively unique mix of luxury and dynamism.