To understand the imperious Bentley Continental R we must first go back to 1985 and the Turbo R. Crewe’s new steed took its predecessor, the Mulsanne’s, 6750cc Rolls-Royce V8 and mated it to a thoroughly re-jigged suspension set-up; in came stiffer anti-roll bars, improved damping and a rear sub-frame anchoring Panhard rod, as well as wider tyres and alloy wheels. The R of course, stood for ‘Roadholding’ and the new car did just that.
Whether Lord, Lady or gentleman made good, those of means would always be drawn to the Bentley marque (surely less ostentatious than a contemporary Rolls-Royce), thanks to its more sporting pedigree – even if in reality its output had been little different to its siblings for a generation or two.
The brutally stylish, John Heffernan/Ken Greenley-penned, Continental R followed it, and this was the first Crewe-based product not to share a body with a Rolls-Royce since the Continental S3 back 1965! This bold step meant that once again, Bentley had become its own master.
At £178,000, it became the most expensive production car in the world. By this point, buyers who’d once in the Seventies and Eighties flocked to Rolls-Royce for the ultimate automobiles now turned to Bentley – the king was dead, long live the new king.
The very same 6.75-litre Garret turbocharged V8 from the Turbo R sat under its impressive bonnet, allied to a new four-speed GM 4L80-E transmission, here tweaked for 325bhp and a whopping 610Nm of torque.
The best bit though was that this elegant beast, endowed with self-levelling suspension and adaptive ride, could handle. Hit the Sport button and things got progressively more hard-hitting thanks to more aggressive gearbox mapping and stiffened suspension settings. By now Bentley had firmly reawakened with its sporting ethos once more to the fore.
Come 1994 and the asking price hit a lofty £180,000. For that buyers received another 40bhp and a dollop more torque. Today though, you’ll pay significantly less… meaning one helluva lot of car, for a comparatively small fiscal outlay.