Bentley Continental R

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For other models sharing this name, see Bentley Continental.
Bentley Continental R
Continental R.JPG
Manufacturer Bentley
Also called Continental S
Continental T
Production 1991–2003
Body and chassis
Class Ultra luxury coupé (S)
Related Bentley Mulsanne
Bentley Azure
Bentley Turbo R
Engine 6.75 L turbo Bentley V8
Transmission 4-sp 4L80-E automatic
Wheelbase 120.5 in (3,061 mm)
116.5 in (2,959 mm) T
Length 210.3 in (5,342 mm)
Width 80.5 in (2,045 mm)
Height 57.6 in (1,463 mm)
Kerb weight 5,340 lb (2,420 kg)
Predecessor None
First Bentley not re-badged Rolls Royce since Bentley S3 Continental
Successor Bentley Brooklands Coupé

The Bentley Continental R is a large, ultra exclusive, luxury coupé made by Bentley from 1991 to 2003. It was the first Bentley to feature a body not shared with a Rolls-Royce model since the S3 of 1965, the first to use the GM 4L80-E transmission, and the fastest, most expensive, and most powerful Bentley of its day. It was also the most expensive production car in the world at launch. A convertible derivative, the Bentley Azure, was launched in 1995.


The concept which later became the Continental R was displayed at the 1984 Geneva Motor Show in Rolls-Royce's "Project 90" concept car, a mock-up of a future Bentley coupé. An enthusiastic reception led the company to develop the vehicle for production as the Continental R. Based on the Bentley Turbo R platform, an aerodynamically shaped coupé body had been styled. The Continental R was launched at the 1991 Geneva Motor Show and was greeted by the onlooking crowd with spontaneous applause. Sultan of Brunei purchased the show car on-site.

The "Continental" designation recalls the Bentley Continental of the post-war period. The "R" was meant to recall the R Type Bentleys from the 1950s as well as the Turbo R of the 1980s and 90's where the "R" refers to "roadholding".

The car's exterior was styled by John Heffernan and Ken Greenley who had run the Automotive Design School at the Royal College of Art and who headed up their own consultancy, International Automotive Design, based in Worthing, Southern England. Greenley and Heffernan liaised constantly throughout the process with Graham Hull, chief stylist at Rolls Royce and Bentley who gave very significant input. The interior was entirely Graham Hull's work. The shape of the car was very different from the somewhat slab sided four door SZ Rolls-Royce and Bentley vehicles of the time. While its 0.465 coefficient of drag was not impressive in itself, it was a large improvement over previous Bentleys. The Continental R also featured roof-cut door frames, a necessity to allow easier access into the car which had a lower roof line than its 4 door contemporaries. A subtle spoiler effect was also a feature of the rear. The finished car is widely acknowledged as a very cleverly styled vehicle, disguising its huge dimensions (The Continental R is around 4" longer than a 2013 long wheelbase Mercedes S Class) and a very well proportioned extremely attractive car.

Continental R[edit]

The car at launch. The 6.75 L Garrett-turbocharged engine from the Bentley Turbo R was chosen for use in the Continental R. Power output of 325 hp (242 kW) and torque of 450 lb·ft (610 N·m) was estimated, as, at that time, Rolls-Royce still had a policy of not supplying official figures, preferring to describe simply as "adequate" or "sufficient".

The car used the new 4-speed GM 4L80-E automatic transmission and featured self-levelling hydraulic suspension (adaptive ride/Automatic Ride Control), ventilated disc brakes at the front, with twin calipers. Engine management via the MK-Motronic digital fuel injection with fully mapped ignition control system. At launch, top speed was 145 mph (233 km/h), and a 0-60 mph (97 km/h) time of 6.6 seconds. The Continental R was priced at US$271,780 in 1992. £178,000 in the UK at launch.

The 1994 model year saw a number of revisions to the engine, including revisions to the cylinder heads courtesy of Cosworth (another company within the Vickers group, alongside Rolls Royce and Bentley). The alloy wheels were also increased in diameter to 17" and were of a completely new 7 spoke design.

The Continental S was a limited-edition performance model made in 1994 and 1995 with a liquid cooled chargecooler added. Only thirty seven were produced and offered to established Bentley customers. The late Alan Clark MP was one such owner. This engine had an estimated 375 horsepower, up 60 from the non-intercooled version, and 0-60 times improved to 6.1 seconds.

1996 Bentley Continental R interior in magnolia & wildberry

The 1996 model year (chassis numbers between 53001 and 53514) saw some of the most significant changes since the launch of the car, notably the inclusion of the liquid cooled chargecooler as standard, along with improved engine management, Zytek EMS3, which meant improvement in throttle response, improvement in fuel efficiency and digitally controlled turbo over-boost. It also meant an increase in power output, and a change in policy by Rolls Royce: this was the first time performance figures were officially released by the manufacturer, departing from a long tradition of describing performance as "adequate" or "sufficient". Probably the reason for this is because the figures were very impressive: 385 bhp (287Kw/390Ps) and torque of 550lbft (745Nm), peaking at only 2000rpm and available up to 4000rpm (UK brochure). No other production car in the world at the time delivered such levels of torque, leading Autocar to suggest, when road testing the 1996 model year car in August 1995, that the makers could have almost deleted the gearbox altogether, such were the enormous levels of low down torque available. 0-60 mph was now officially quoted by Rolls Royce as "sub 6 seconds" and a top speed of 155 mph (UK brochure). The 1996 model year also saw revised 17" alloy wheels and steering wheel tilt adjustment for the first time. This was electrically adjustable and so could now be set as part of the seat and wing mirror memory positions. Electronic Traction Assistance System began to appear on the later 1996 model year cars (around late 1996 up to the introduction of the 1998 model year car in August 1997)

The 1998 model year (chassis numbers between 63001 and 63564) included the electronic traction assistance system and some cosmetic changes. Power and torque remained the same as 1996, but 0-60 mph now quoted as "6 seconds", top speed 155 mph (UK brochure). The cosmetic revisions included fitting the same front seats as fitted to the Bentley Azure, which were lifted from the BMW 8 series (trimmed by Rolls Royce), featuring an integrated seat belt. Other revisions included small mesh vents below the headlights, laser-cut mesh radiator grill as standard, revised alloy wheels and minor changes to front and rear bumpers.

2001 Continental R Mulliner

The Continental R California Edition was a limited edition of 6 wide body coupés produced in 1998 only. Other than the California Editions one other wide body was made in 1998. Number six only was fitted with the full-spec Continental T engine that just became available in 1998 with some 420 hp (313 kW) and a maximum torque of 650 lb·ft (881 N·m). This car was the first Continental R fitted with the 420 engine, and the only one under English ownership. The larger dual-caliper brakes were also fitted to number six as well as numerous other features that later were incorporated into the 2000-2003 Continental R420 including push button start, eight gauges, and other unique features. Perhaps number six was the inspiration for the later R420, both of which performed similarly to the Continental R Mulliner.

Rear of 2001 Continental R420 Mulliner, the first one built

The Continental R Mulliner model range, offered from March 1999, was introduced at the Geneva Motor Show. The Bentley Continental R Mulliner was equipped with the most powerful engine after the Continental T. This engine had a power output of 420 hp (313 kW) and a maximum torque of 650 lb·ft (881 N·m). The car could be pushed to a top speed of some 170 mph (274 km/h). 0-60 mph (97 km/h) times dropped to 5.6 seconds with the computer nannies left on, and if an owner was willing to shred their tires for 50 or more yards, capable of 5.1 second times with the traction control off and abusive driving practices.

Under German ownership (1999–2003), several other special editions were made with at least some of them fitted with the 420 engine including the Le Mans and Continental R420 and Millenium. A total of 194 Continental R motor cars had the 420 engine—some of which were also wide body cars. The 420 engine was achieved with the replacement of the air-to-air charge cooler with an air-to-water unit, as well as software changes to take advantage of the greater cooling to allow more boost for a longer period.

Continental T[edit]

The high-performance Bentley Continental T brought sportier handling and higher power to the Continental range.

Bentley Continental T

The Bentley Continental T had 590 lb·ft (800 N·m) and from 1997 650 lb·ft (881 N·m) positioned this car at the top. The Continental T was a 2+2 coupé developed from the Bentley Continental R with a more athletic outward appearance due to a 4-inch (10 cm) shorter wheelbase and extended front and rear wheel arches. The interior featured an engine-turned dash with chrome-finished instruments (as opposed to the wood finish in the Continental R). The Continental T's engine responded to a separate push-button starter. Performance, due to 200 lb (91 kg) less weight, was slightly better than the Continental R cars with the same 420 engine.

The Bentley Continental T Mulliner was introduced in 1999. Modified shock absorbers in combination with stiffer torsion bars (front +40%, rear +20%) increased the Continental's handling ability.

Continental SC Sedanca[edit]

Bentley Continental SC.jpg

The Continental SC Sedanca was a short production version of the Continental T of 73 units, with a lift-out glass sun roof over the front two seats. Produced in 1999, owners for this model included boxer Mike Tyson.[1] There were also six Mulliner SC's built.


  • Continental R/S: 1504
    • Continental R (1991–2002): 1236
    • Continental S (1994–1995): 37
    • Continental R California Edition (1998): 6
    • Continental R (2000) Millenium Edition: 10
    • Continental R Mulliner (1999–2003): 131
    • Continental R 420 (2000–2003): 38
    • Continental R Le Mans (2001): 46
  • Continental T: 350
    • Continental T (1996 — 2002): 322
    • Continental T Mulliner (1999): 23
    • Continental T Le Mans (2001): 5
    • Continental SC (1999): 73
    • Continental SC Mulliner (1999): 6


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