If you're truly looking for the best when it comes to automobiles, there's not too many options if I am honest. Then again, it also depends on how you define those two words.

To me, a vehicle is truly at the top of its class when it stands on its own, offers something that cannot be found elsewhere and has a certain appeal to it that cannot be replicated. You see, this is a qualitative problem, not quantitative. If you define a vehicle's greatness by numbers, and geek out over tenths of a second and millimeters of a difference, then you're missing the point. Then everyone would have a Bugatti Veyron.

Bentley Mulsanne Speed

But if you're looking for exclusivity, timeless design, the ultimate in luxury with a dash of sportiness, there's really only one marque that will quench your thirst. That, my friends, would be Bentley.

Having driven plenty of the company's "starter" vehicles, like the Continental GT and Flying Spur, I had not come across one of the flagship models. That is until recently. Dubbed the Mulsanne — after the straight at the world famous Le Mans racetrack — you will not find these littering every corner of Manhattan. If you snap up a Mulsanne you're telling the world that you're a discerning buyer.

Bentley Mulsanne Speed

Our subject for this test is actually the Mulsanne Speed though. This is the more sporting variant that's a bit more pumped up. Equipped with a 21-inch wheel and tire package, darkened front grilles, an adjustable suspension and a revised interior, it's as sporty as nearly 6,000 pounds gets. My test car was painted an intriguing shade called Spectre. Depending on the lighting conditions it can look black, brown or gold. A proper, classy color for this automobile.

Observing its exterior there's no questioning what this vehicle is when it rolls down your local avenue. It's massive, adorned with a sizable grille on the front, has a set of bejeweled-looking headlights, and in my case, equipped with a flying "B" on its mast. To say it commands presence is an understatement.

Slipping inside the cockpit is like entering another world. The seats are a bit cushy and, unlike a lot of other luxury vehicles, feature minimal adjustments. If you were looking for 30-way seats, you won't find them here but to be straightforward you don't need them. That's because they're comfortable as is. My particular test car had a two-tone beige and charcoal specification with a diamond-patterned stitch on the seating surfaces. Very easy on the eyes, indeed. Trimming on the inside was a mixture of piano black, shiny metal and bits of carbon fiber. There's no way this is for weight savings but rather to set the mood for the Speed variant.

Also unlike many of today's more modern rides, the center stack and console is riddled with buttons to control various functions within the vehicle. If you were hoping for a fully integrated infotainment system, you will find that Bentley leverages Audi's MMI system. This provides you with all of the typical functions one would expect in a luxury vehicle — navigation, radio, media, various vehicle settings, etc. It's not the easiest system to get accustomed to, and it is a tad confusing, but after two to three weeks, I reckon you'll get the hang of it.

Although Bentleys tend to be built for drivers, in the Mulsanne you'll likely want to be giving orders from the back. That's because it's Comfortable with a capital "C." It also doesn't hurt that the tester I was provided with came equipped with a very trick entertainment system. This nearly $30,000 investment provides back seat passengers with not one, but two integrated iPads that are positioned in the front seatbacks as picnic tables. You hit one button and you're presented with a picnic table. You hit the second button and voila(!) you have the sexiest Apple product integration probably ever. The keyboard is a nice touch because, really, only plebeians use the screen to type.

Just hazarding a guess here, but something tells me that the famed Apple Chief Design Officer, Jony Ive, may have had something to do with this. After all, he's chosen to be chauffeured in a Mulsanne.

Bentley Mulsanne Speed

This speaks to the special quality of the Mulsanne Speed. While all of the other Bentley products I've driven have made me want to drive them, the Mulsanne is best enjoyed as a passenger. Like other Bentleys, it's an especially heavy vehicle, but unlike the other Bentleys, the Mulsanne has a vastly different ride. It is very isolated, very quiet and shockingly smooth. Hit a bump? You likely won't know it unless you heard it. To me the Mulsanne has the same ride quality as the Rolls-Royce Phantom, which provides the best suspension tuning of anything I've ever driven.

Cliché, but true, it feels like you're riding on a floating carpet.

But if you insist on piloting the Mulsanne Speed, let me divulge what you should expect. As previously mentioned, it is an extremely heavy vehicle. This is reinforced through the Speed's steering rack as it can be quite tough to deal with in certain environments. A narrow-aisled parking lot is not your friend. While it features nicely weighted steering, it isn't particularly direct and its turning radius is on par with a boat. Put it into Sport mode and the steering feel gets heavier. This is OK for highway travel to provide better on-center feel and confidence at speed, but not best enjoyed around town.

Power is more than adequate. Equipped with a 6.75-liter twin-turbo V8 mill, the Mulsanne Speed produces 530 horsepower and 811 lb.-ft. of torque. Although it may weigh nearly three tons, this car has some giddy up. Zero to 60 happens in 4.7 seconds. That's fast when you're hurtling past other cars in what is essentially a living room with four wheels.

Helping get this power to the ground is a seven-speed automatic transmission. You actually won't know that because its shifts are pretty much unnoticeable unless you're driving and are a dictator that needs to control the gear changes via the paddles. Speaking of the paddles, the fact they're metal is a nice touch; however, in my test car they annoyingly rattled and made a metallic clink unless I rested my hands on them to shush them.
After spending some time with the Mulsanne Speed, I have to admit, it's a rather interesting product. There's nothing built quite like it, it's not ashamed of its heft and it will move with haste should you want it to. Is it sporty? Well, no. If you put the Mulsanne Speed through some twisty roads it will get the job done but it won't be pretty. There's a lot of body roll.

For me, the Speed is the ultra luxury sedan to have if you value exclusivity, want some attitude in the vehicle's design and desire ride quality that can only be rivaled by the Rolls-Royce Phantom. Here's the catch though: While the Roller also does a great job of keeping its passengers comfortable, it is not the most confidence-inspiring when you're traveling at speed. The Bentley, on the other hand, can do both without any issues.

And that's why if I had to make a one percenter’s decision, I'd be putting a flying "B" in my mutli-car garage.

The Good:

- Passing power is not a problem when you have 811 lb.-ft. of torque motivating you forward like a locomotive
- I just love the detail and quality of the cabin — nothing is built quite like it and with the exception of rattle-y paddles it was perfect
- Comfortable ride that's just as good as the Rolls-Royce Phantom but the Bentley feels MUCH more controlled at speed

The Bad:

- At this price point, I should not hear rattles from metal paddles, tighten it up folks
- It's a Bentley, so it's exceedingly heavy — driving at low speed and maneuvering this vehicle in parking lots becomes very annoying very quickly
- I wish its backseat had a bit more legroom for the dollars invested, but we've recently seen all-new spy shots of a SUPER long-wheelbase Mulsanne on the horizon for the product refresh

The Lowdown:

A lot of people seemingly can't wrap their head around a vehicle priced over $250,000. My answer for them is that they simply haven't been in something that expensive then. The level of detail is off the charts and, simply put, nothing ride likes it. A Rolls-Royce Phantom comes close because it feels as comfortable around town cruising, but it's not nearly as confident when you're traveling at highway speed. The Mulsanne Speed is not really sporty but it's a fantastic grand tourer. Emphasis on GRAND. As you'd expect it's not a particularly fuel efficient vehicle given its power and heft. I eeked out 14 mpg around town and 18 mpg during my highway travels — better than I expected. The Mulsanne Speed is the perfect vehicle if you're looking for something that commands attention, rides as comfortable as a Rolls but can do high-speed travel that's akin to a locomotive.

Bentley Mulsanne Speed

REVIEW: How Sporty Can 6,000 Pounds Get? 00R Drives The Bentley Mulsanne Speed To Find Out...

About the Author