Finally, in 1991, Rolls-Royce Motors got around to creating a Bentley that owed nothing to a Rolls-Royce sibling, apart from the engine. The Continental R cashed in on popularity the resurgent Bentley marque had been enjoying since the early 1980s, and also plugged the gap left in the corporate range by the demise of the Rolls-Royce Camargue back in 1986.
This sleek two-door car with its raked windscreen was styled with more than a passing nod to aerodynamic efficiency, but was also a very handsome beast — spontaneous applause broke out when it was dramatically unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show The interior finish and seating plan were similar to that of the well-proven Bentley Turbo R, though there were minor changes to the instruments and control panels, with a centre console that extended into the rear compartment.
The electric gear-selector was mounted on the console — the first time it had featured anywhere but on the steering column for an automatic Bentley — and controlled a new four-speed automatic transmission that delivered effortless cruising and improved fuel consumption (though that old cliché ‘if you have to ask how many miles it does to the gallon you can’t afford to run it’ definitely applies). Another new feature of the Continental R was ETBC (Electronic Transient Boost Control). This could override the turbo when extra grunt was needed — for example during a hairy overtaking manoeuvre — by providing a further temporary boost when the turbo was already operating at maximum power.
In 2004 the new Continental GT superseded previous Continental models but the Continental R remains a grand tourer par excellence —and the beauty of these quality cars is that they retain their class and style long after they have sunk into the almost-affordable price bracket.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1991 (until 2003)
6,750 cc V8 Turbo
Top speed of 145 mph (233 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 6.9 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The high-performance Continental R Mulliner model was introduced in 1999 and ran until 2003 — boasting a top speed of 170 mph (274 km/h). A limited number of Continental R Le Mans cars were produced in 2001.