What makes the Bentley Continental so special?

Back in the 1950s the Bentley Continental represented the very best of British car manufacture. With a top speed of 120 miles an hour it was the fastest car in the world with four real seats (rather than the 2+2 format); and the quality, elegance and sheer cosseted luxury were unsurpassed.

By the 1970s however the Bentley badge was overshadowed by it's parent company, Rolls-Royce. Apart from fairly minor modifications most Bentleys were still basically re-badged Rolls-Royce cars. Everything changed in 1991, when a completely new Bentley was brought out. This was the Continental R (the 'R' was short for 'roadholding'; a major asset of this exciting new machine).

Did it handle well?

It would be unreasonable to expect all that weight to take kindly to being thrown around twisted bends at high speed. It steered more like a train than a go-kart. However it was surefooted with excellent roadholding.

Was it powerful?

Yes indeed. The turbocharged V8 6.75 litre engine produced 385 brake horsepower, giving a maximum speed of 155 mph and a nought to 60 acceleration time of 6.1 seconds. And this was in a car which weighed 2.5 tonnes; but it could still blow off a Porsche!

Was it attractive?

Absolutely. This was a real traditional Bentley, with the big imposing grill and the stately presence that marked the driver or passenger out as a very important person indeed. Rolls-Royce claimed it was the world's best sporting coupe and they may well have been right.

Was it comfortable?

Sumptuously. The driver and passengers were treated to the utmost luxury and a peaceful, stately environment. Plush seating, leather and real wooden trim gave the interior the atmosphere of a country house on wheels.

Was it expensive?

Don't ask. This was the most expensive British car ever built at the time, and one for the very rich only.

Were there variations?

Firstly the model S came along. This had an engine upgraded to 400 brake horsepower. Next in line was the Azure convertible with an electric folding roof created by Pininfarina; perfect for taking the family away for a weekend in the South of France. Finally came the Continental T. This had a short wheelbase meaning less weight, extra torque up to 590 ft lb, and fatter wheels under flared arches, making it into possibly the world's first luxurious dragster.

Was it successful?

With over 1500 sold it was almost certainly one of Bentley's more profitable ventures, as well as relaunching the marque as the epitome of sporting luxury motoring.