Body styled from a non-Rolls-Royce model, the Bentley Continental R model fully changed the perception of the Gran Turismo cars of the 1990s with its expressive design and a powerful turbocharged engine.
Source: Charles Crail
The luxurious Continental R coupe was the crowning achievement of the British manufacturer from 1991 to 2003 and the first to use the GM 4L80-E gearbox. The Continental R was the fastest, most expensive, and most powerful Bentley of its time. At the time of its introduction, Continental R was the most expensive production vehicle in the world.
In the 80s, the brand lived through its hard times. Over the past 15 years, the brand had not been able to achieve proper recognition, let alone have successful sales outside the UK, in important markets such as the US. However, the managing director of Rolls Royce Motor Cars in the early 80s, David Plastow, still saw the potential of the brand. So, it was decided to give it a chance to shine, and the first step in reshaping the brand was the introduction of the standard 4-door turbocharged sedan, the Mulsanne Turbo model.
Source: Classic and Sports car
However, the company did not stop there: so it was decided to further strengthen the sporty character of the brand and move away from the image of Rolls Royce. For this, John Heffernan and Ken Greenlee were appointed designers for the new concept. In 1985, a fiberglass mock-up of a new concept car was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show as the Rolls-Royce “Project 90” concept of the future Bentley. The concept was greeted with enthusiasm, but it was shelved as the company began working on a replacement for the Rolls-Royce Corniche. During this process, Rolls Royce chief designer Graham Hull suggested to the board of directors to use Corniche designs for the new coupe. From that moment it was decided to direct all efforts to the creation of a new Bentley. In 1986, Graham Hull presented a design rendering of the new coupe that became the Continental R. The model’s grand launch was held at the 1991 Geneva Motor Show and had tremendous success. It was Bentley’s first non-Rolls-Royce design presented to the public in Geneva.
For the first generation Continental R, the 6.75L Garrett was chosen – powered by a turbocharged V8 from the Turbo R. In 1993 models, power was 325 hp. (242 kW; 330 hp). 4,000 rpm and 610 N⋅m (450 lb-ft) maximum torque at 2,000 rpm were available, although this was always estimated as Rolls-Royce still had a policy at the time not to provide official data, preferring to describe output power simply as “enough”. The model used a new 4-speed GM 4L80-E automatic transmission which had been extensively tested by Rolls Royce over 1,609,344 km (1,000,000 miles) and modified by them to a very high level of excellence. The machine featured self-leveling hydraulic suspension (with adaptive steering/automatic ride control) and ventilated disc brakes at the front with two calipers. The engine was controlled by MK-Motronic digital fuel injection with a fully tuned ignition control system. At launch, the claimed top speed was 233 km/h (145 mph) and the 0-97 km/h (60 mph) acceleration time was 6.6 seconds. The 1993 Continental R cost around £180,000 in the UK at launch.
Source: Classic and Sports Car
All vehicles featured an electronic transmission selector mounted on the center console (the first time Rolls Royce had made a machine without an automatic transmission selector on the steering column), as well as a Sport button to simultaneously adjust the transmission layout and stiffen the suspension for more aggressive driving. Road testers and journalists have repeatedly noted that the Continental R, for such a large and heavy car, demonstrates excellent handling characteristics at high speeds.
The completed pre-production Continental R (designed under the codename “Nepal”) was secretly flown to Switzerland for the model’s grand launch at the 1991 Geneva Motor Show. The musical accompaniment for the launch of the model was also not chosen by chance: Zadok the Priest – an anthem written by Handel on the occasion of the coronation of the English King George II created a solemn and grandiose image for the car. The show shocked the Sultan of Brunei so much that he bought the show car at the event for over £2 million. The highlight of the Mercedes-Benz W140, also on display at the show, was completely overshadowed by the bright red, new Bentley Coupé due to a largely positive public reception.
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