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Bentley Mulsanne MDS driven
Driven February 2013
Calling a special edition the Driving Specification would, for most cars, seem tautological in the extreme. What does that make the standard model? The Non-Driving Specification?
But the Bentley Mulsanne is not most cars. Forget driving: the owner of a Mulsanne will more likely be found lounging in its throne-like rear.
So the Mulliner Driving Specification, then, is that rarest of Mulsannes: one for the millionaire who likes to feel a steering wheel within his grip rather than bellow orders while popping peeled grapes into his mouth. Accordingly, the MDS, as Bentley would hate it to be known, gets new sport-tuned air suspension and steering. No change to the venerable V8, but, really, if you need more than 505bhp from your enormo-limo, we fear you shouldn't be in the market for an enormo-limo.
For a car measuring more than five-and-a-half metres in length and tipping the scales at 2,585kg, the Mulliner doesn't half go down a road. Engaging Sport mode from the rotary knob beside the gearshift firms up the suspension and does an impressive job at keeping the Mul's considerable mass heading in the correct direction. And with 1020Nm of imperial, empire-building torque, it heads in the right direction mighty quickly: 0-100kph takes a jot over five seconds and a small swimming pool of super unleaded. You won't be surprised to hear it doesn't corner like an Exige, but - provided you never lose sight of the fact you're driving something that costs and weighs considerably more than the average British house - the Mulliner goes through bends with impressive composure and fearsome grip.
However. Let's be realistic. Even Woolf Barnato might stop short of whanging a Mulsanne through the twisties, and not just because he died in 1948. Driving Specification this may be, but the Mulsanne's centrepiece remains its staggering cabin. Around new knurled doorhandles (or criss-crossy, to the rest of us) and drilled-aluminium pedals is wrapped several acres of especially glitzy quilted leather, which apparently uses a new perforation process to achieve perfectly uniform, er, holiness and allows the seats to be ventilated. And believe us: when you're tanking along in a multi-crore, two-and-a-half-tonne mega-barge, you'll be glad for some cool air ventilating your nether regions...
6752cc, V8, RWD, 505bhp, 1020Nm, 5.9kpl, 393g/km CO2, 0-100kph in 5.1secs, 296kph, 2585kg
The Mulsanne for hardcore drivers. A bit like being a sporty cruise ship. Still astonishing, though.