Bentley Mulsanne Turbo & SBentley Mulsanne Turbo & S Published: 20th Apr 2017 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!
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Why you should want a Bentley Mulsanne Turbo or Turbo R. It’s obvious really…
Cue the Elgar, because this is something rather special. The Bentley Mulsanne, and its turbocharged derivatives, may not be adventurously styled, small, cheap (not good ones anyway) or economical to run, but they represent something very British, and very, very cool. Ettore Bugatti once described the famed forced induction Bentleys of the 1920s as “the fastest lorries in the world”, and the same description could easily be applied to these. 298bhp is enough to make even a car the size of the Mulsanne into something really rather special, and to transform it from an old-money equivalent of a Rolls-Royce into something with some serious heft.
Yes, they’ve had their phase of being driven by the wrong people – the casting of a Turbo R for Archie Daley in Channel 5’s Minder remake was no accident; ten years ago it was the perfect car for an aspiring and slightly nefarious entrepreneur. But they’ve come through that, and are starting to be recognised as the car that made Bentleys cool as well as sporting again. The Mulsanne family has much to offer at a pittance.
On the move
You step up into this Bentley, just as you do with its predecessor the T-series. Once inside, not much has changed from the Shadow 2 era cars – the dash is similar, on early versions while the seats are made for sliding around, though later models got rather fetching and comfortable figure hugging sports seats. While there are plastics evident, a sad sign of the times, the majority of surfaces are covered in rich walnut and supple leather, from the door cappings to the headlining. There is a smell in an old Bentley – it’s almost unique, and it says you are part of something really rather special. Which you are.
It’s oddly of its era, despite the fact that cars really stopped being trimmed like this in about 1965. Cars stopped getting column changes in about 1965 too, which is why it feels oddly right that one of the fastest saloon cars to have come out of Britain still uses such a gear selector. Slot it into D and release the parking brake, and you feel like John Steed in an 1980’s reboot of The Avengers.
Autocar criticised the most unlike Rolls ride when new – and perhaps still being Shadow-derived it’s not at the top of its game. But then, with this level of power to handle some compromises have to be made; the Bentley is not an uncomfortable car by any means. Don’t expect Rolls level refinement from any Mulsanne, especially the terrific Turbo terrors.
That’s a good thing in some ways though because no 1980’s Rolls-Royce would crack sixty in under seven seconds, and while early Bentley Turbos were limited to 135mph later ones will easily nudge 150. And the gear ratios are well chosen, you cruise in comfort and relative quiet on the motorway, and the mammoth shove of the 6.75-litre V8 means that you’re never left wanting for power. Yet somehow to drive it hard misses the point.
Unlike almost every other performance saloon you don’t want to drive it hard all the time. It calms you down, makes you take it easy, relaxes you when in a cruising mood. Just like a Rolls-Royce, the destination seems incidental to the journey. But unlike a Rolls, if you’re an hour behind schedule in the Bentley you’ll still arrive on time.
Round the corners
We’re testing a Turbo R: the model on which Bentley acknowledged that Silver Spirit suspension might be a little too ride-focused to make a big car handle well. And their stiffer anti roll bars do an impressive job of keeping the Turbo R in shape when cornering quickly – “The Bentley that handles” as the late great Fast Lane put on its Oct ’85 cover. Anyone who’s driven an old Rolls-Royce like the Shadow we tested last month will know that a lot of wheel flailing needs to happen as you go into a bend at speed, followed by a lot of tyre squeal and body lean.
Not so the Bentley Turbo R: chuck it into a corner and while it still feels soft, the sharper steering means you feel more in control. And you brace yourself for the lean which never comes – it’s not as upright as smaller sportscars, but Crewe’s engineers did an excellent job of keeping such a huge lump in check. Autocar noted a quirk with the Turbo R prompted by its lack of a sense of speed: enter a corner too hard while still breaking and the rear trailing arms can prompt the back to step out of line – but sedate drivers won’t notice this, and it’s easy enough to correct.
But just because you can hustle one like a giant GTi it doesn’t mean you should. Bentleys have a presence, but it’s because of their implied ability. It can be driven quickly down B roads and pushed pretty hard into corners, and yet it all feels wrong in something so civilised. It needn’t prove itself. It’s good enough to know better.
Go or no go
If you want one to handle nicely, buy a Turbo R or a later Brooklands. Mulsanne Turbos, Mulsannes and Eights are best, but the majority retain Royce-type suspension – so you decide!. The turbos ones are the ones to buy; not only will values rise, but they’ll make you smile every time you drive yours.
PERFORMANCE Buy a good Turbo and it will blow you away. Non blown cars not sluggish either and easier to run
CRUISING Back soon, I’m going to Monaco in supreme comfort and style
HANDLING Pick your model, and it will handle better than a Silver Spirit
BRAKES Well up to two tons of Pomp and Circumstance
EASE OF USE If you buy well rather than cheaply they’re as easy as a Jag to own
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