The cars we loved.
Bentleys have entered the popular vernacular due to their exposure as a favorite car for film celebrities or hip hop stars. There was a time when the Bentley name was associated purely with performance, then big lazy luxury by the 70’s to finally reaching the point of falling off the radar of all but the most wealthy oil barons. The concept of large high performance sedans was nothing new for England’s Bentley Motors Ltd. Having built hand crafted cars in Crewe since 1919, it was bought by rival Rolls-Royce in 1931. Although not thought of as performance cars per-se, Bentleys tended to be more on the sportier side compared to Rolls-Royces which looked identical in some cases. Like Rolls-Royce, Bentley cars had become the ride of choice for the super rich by the 70’s (mostly via chauffeur).
In an attempt to modernize its performance image and recapture the old glory that had been squandered away over the years, Bentley set out to replace its dated Muslsanne Turbo luxury sports sedan. The Muslsanne was a ground breaking car for Bentley in that it was their first turbo charged production car since the Mk VI of 1951-69. The new model called the Turbo R would use modernized Muslsanne styling along with a revised version of its turbocharged 6.7 litre V8 with electronic fuel injection. The big engine had to be powerful to move the huge blocky sedan that tipped the scales at over 5,000 lb.
Bentley seldom quoted horsepower numbers, but most estimates put it at around 315 to 350 through the years of the Turbo Rs production run. The Turbo R also featured beefed up suspension upgrades that made it a formidable road car that managed to keep its smooth ride despite its size and performance aspirations. 0 to 60 could be reached in 7 seconds and the top speed was reported to reach 130 mph. The R managed to combine the old world look of previous Bentleys with some high-tech like variable rate computer controlled shock absorbers and the first ever use of aluminum wheels on a Bentley.
Inside, there were even more concessions to modernism with deluxe CD sound systems and climate controls. Soft leather and wood were everywhere, reminding you that you were in a hand-built $150k+ automobile. Despite the sporting pretensions, all Turbo R’s came with a smooth shifting GM 3 speed automatic. The Turbo R was well received in the press but was criticized by some for its blocky and dated styling. Later in the production run, some versions got body colored trim and black window molding, but no amount of dress up or kit would change the fact that the Turbo R would be overshadowed by the Continental R coupe, a car that would later be recognized by hip hop fans (if not by model name) as the big dollar coupe of choice. The Mulsanne is back as Bentley’s flagship car, continuing its role as the first modern performance Bentley. Can a new Turbo R be far off?