Photos Credit: Michael Crenshaw

Photos Credit: Michael Crenshaw

Everything from the outside world is shut out—implying the sense of space and tranquility—inside the new, handcrafted Bentley Mulsanne Speed as my wife and I gracefully float onwards toward the bucolic scenery of Northwest Connecticut. The Mayflower Grace would serve as our destination for the drive; a place we would come to find that matches the Bentley’s sense of old-world luxury, modern amenities, and delivery of a top-notch experience.

The Mulsanne Speed is a magic carpet on steroids. Actually, it’s better than a magic carpet. Even though the beautifully manicured roads offer respite from New York City’s mess of cobbled infrastructure, this Bentley soaks up absolutely everything, yet still maintains a feeling of connectedness to the tarmac below; particularly in the Speed variant.

Upon full-throttle the Speed lists like a boat, shooting the Bentley hood ornament into the sky as if cresting over a wave: Its physical size, and the way speed actually increases give you the impression of cruising on a yacht. However, you’re doing 100 mph before you know it and the sensation of speed won’t falter until you’re reaching its top speed of 190. Take note: adaptive cruise control is your friend on the highway and saving grace for fewer encounters with "The Law."

Connecticut is dotted with farms, covered bridges, and quaint towns, boutique stores, high-end farm-to-table restaurants, and coffee shops. With the Mayflower Grace’s classic New England charm, which has hosted dignitaries, presidents, and royals, it is the seclusion of the property, intertwined in this blossoming area of the country that befits the feeling of luxury, and the perfect place to escape normality. The Bentley assimilates perfectly as the surreal envelopment of nature surrounds you: birds sing across the property, wind rustles the trees, and calmness sets the mood.

Isolation in the Mulsanne Speed delivers a vacuum of space around you with double-pane glass, thick deep pile Wilton wool carpet eliminating sounds from the road below, specialized tires that reduce the decibel level on the inside, and an impactful $28,760 optional ‘Entertainment’ specification that encapsulates you in a world of your own. This optional package includes a Naim for Bentley audio system that transforms the Mulsanne into a full-blown concert venue that could give the Hollywood Bowl a run for its money. With over 400 man-hours of tuning, 20 speakers, and 2,200-watts of power, the Naim system was so lucid that my mind buzzed afterwards.

While the new Speed does have an increase of 25 horsepower over the standard Mulsanne up to 530 now, this is merely a sneeze in the world of Bentley power. It’s the torque, all 811 lb.-ft of it (a 59 lb.-ft increase) in the Speed, which accelerates the car, hustling it forward like an elephant during a stampede. In order to soften the mass of this land mammal, the new Speed incorporates an air suspension system with Continuous Damping Control (CDC) which is speed dependent to deliver a soft, compliant ride when at lower speeds, and a lower, more streamlined profile at highway speeds.

Four modes on the console mounted Drive Dynamics Control system—operated by a rotary dial—include ‘Bentley’, ‘Comfort’, ‘Sport’, and ‘Custom’ to adjust the CDC on command. We found the ‘Bentley’ setting kept the Speed ready for the back roads, with the ‘Comfort’ setting perfect for getting around locally. The ‘Speed’ setting adjusted the steering aggressively for our tastes, and was a bit too artificial when it came to feedback. Having driven exotic cars with paint colors that could rival the sun for brightness, those cars didn't manage to evoke the same response as what the Bentley Mulsanne Speed does to people. At less than 1,000 units built a year (roughly four per day), it's a rarified leviathan that even the most uneducated car person can fantasize and relate to.

The beauty of the Mulsanne Speed is in the way it’s built and the character it provides. Everything has a tactile feel; it makes you want to touch the cabin over and over, if only to find new trinkets of hidden artisan touches like the knurled textures everywhere, which are obsessively pleasurable to the touch. While, it does have minor faults—not a single USB port in the cabin (ahem, it is 2016)—none of that matters. The new Mulsanne goes to show the magic in the world of hand-made luxury, which matches the unspoiled nature, highly creative culinary delights, and person-to-person interaction of the local community in this particular part of the country.

Source:     Photos: Michael Crenshaw