Dearborn, Michigan – Bentley drivers here in America have been clamoring for a Mulsanne that offers a bit more punch. The 2016 Bentley Mulsanne Speed delivers on this promise, but don’t be fooled into thinking it has lost its distinctly ultra-luxurious appeal in doing so. No matter what the context, this most Bentley of Bentleys is most surely a car in which you’ll want to spend loads of time.
The temptation to linger inside the Mulsanne Speed is powerful indeed. So much so that when I found myself torn between spending a Friday night with my girlfriend or this Bentley, my personal internal wheels started turning and I devised a plan in which I would maximize my time with both. The answer, of course, is the drive-in movie.
Dinner ran late, and to be sure of securing a prime spot at the drive-in theater, I start to pick up speed on the freeway. I flip the Mulsanne Speed out of Comfort mode and into Sport and begin to roll onto the throttle, eager to arrive even before those first-date hopefuls planning a preshow make-out session.
The thrust from the Speed’s revised twin-turbo V-8 is simply monumental all to way to the redline at 4,500 rpm, but even with 530 hp (25 hp more than the Mulsanne) and 811 lb-ft of torque (59 lb-ft more), the Mulsanne Speed is never startling or disconcerting. In fact, the British barge is so quiet and refined that it barely even feels as if it’s touching the road.
The Bentley Mulsanne is no sports car, but the firmer air suspension, heavier steering, and more animated eight-speed transmission in Sport mode are convincingly invigorating as long as you’ve got plenty of room in front of you on the freeway. Even with this suspension dialed in, the Mulsanne soaks up road imperfections on decrepit Dearborn roads with utter nonchalance. With a soaring “B” leading the charge at the end of the massive hood, I’m smitten.
I pull into the gravel-covered parking lot and begin to approach the toll booth to enter the drive-in. The surprisingly fat rim of the steering wheel feels soft in my hands as I guide the car between the rusted-out guardrails of the entrance road. I yield to my fear of scraping a fender and creep forward at a walking pace. You can’t see much over the long hood, so I tap the dashboard button for the bumper cameras and monitor the car’s dimensions using the center infotainment screen. Not a scratch on her.
Finally parked, I tune the radio to the FM station for screen No. 2, and we settle in for the first movie. It’s “San Andreas,” starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Not that any of the dialogue or plot development of this typical disaster-theme summer blockbuster actually matters, but the Bentley’s 20-speaker Naim sound system isn’t much use when the source signal is so fuzzy. I improvise, reaching out of the driver’s side window for the personal speaker hanging on the post next to me, and pull it into the Mulsanne’s cabin.
My date and I then relocate to the back seat, which is in effect like watching from a hand-crafted leather sofa. As my date adjusts the massage function of the rear seat with its diamond-stitched leather upholstery, she says, “The drive-in isn’t exactly someplace nice, but I guess I can’t say you’ve never taken me anywhere in something nice.”
We can see a few other cars around us in which the passengers are, well, growing bored with the movie. This strikes me as a fine idea, and I activate the window shades for the side and rear glass for some extra privacy. It’s the little things about a Bentley that you grow to love.
It’s nothing but more action as “Mad Max: Fury Road” lights up the screen for the second feature, and we’re feeling mentally wiped as we exit the drive-in and make for home. I switch the Mulsanne into Comfort mode, tune the satellite radio to some light jazz, and just enjoy the bliss of the open highway at 2 a.m.
Though I could treat this car like a toy and blast to my destination with ferocious speed, I’d rather not right now. Not tonight. I want to let the moment last, savoring the smoothness, the silence. I’ve had a spectacular evening in the 2016 Bentley Mulsanne Speed, and I’m not about to cut it short for anything in the world.
2016 Bentley Mulsanne Speed Specifications
- On Sale: Now
- Price: $341,325/$397,732 (base/as tested)
- Engine: 6.75-liter twin-turbo OHV 16-valve V-8/530 hp @ 4,200 rpm, 811 lb-ft @ 1,750 rpm
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Layout: 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, RWD sedan
- EPA Mileage: 11/18 mpg (city/hwy)
- Suspension F/R: Control arms, air springs/multilink, air springs
- Brakes F/R: Vented discs
- Tires F/R: 265/30R-21 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT
- L x W x H: 219.5 x 75.8 x 59.9 in
- Wheelbase: 128.6 in
- Headroom: 40.1/38.1 in
- Legroom F/R: 41.9/42.9
- Shoulder Room F/R: 52.7/52.7 in
- Cargo Room: 15.6 cu ft
- Weight: 6,041 lb
- Weight Dist. F/R: 49/51%
- 5.0 sec
- 1/4-Mile: 13.6 sec @ 103.3 mph
- Top Speed: 190 mph