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Bentley Continental

Bentley Continental Published: 12th Nov 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Bentley Continental
Bentley Continental
Bentley Continental
Bentley Continental
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Why not own a...? Bentley Continental

Sitting in between the ungainly looking, self indulgent Camargue of the 1970s and the brash VW-based WAG GT favourite of the New Millennium, the 1990’s Bentley Continental strikes the right balance. A Mulsanne Turbo R in party clothes on the surface, but this bullish Bentley has its own character and is more an Aston Martin alternative but at considerably less cost. What’s more, if you buy right, shouldn’t cost much more than a normal Silver Spirit or Brooklands to run. What’s not to like?

Model choice

Styled by John Heffernan and Ken Greenley, who had previously penned the Aston Martin Virage, the pair made a more stylish job with the Continental R which has all the presence of a car coming from Crewe – the body being provided by Mulliner Park Ward – but is far easier on the eye than that drab, slab sided Pininfarina crafted Camargue coupé of two decades earlier.

All Continentals are based upon the platform of the Turbo R saloon, which some will rue if they want the style of the Continental but not speed and nor the complexity that comes with it. The initial and most plentiful model is the R including the muscular 6.75-litre 360bhp turbocharged V8. All that power ran through a new General Motorssourced four-speed gearbox with central floor mounted gear shift – another first for a Bentley.

Three years after launch the engine ante was upped to 385bhp but more importantly a new four-speed auto featuring shift management was introduced along with adaptive ride control, twin airbags and redesigned seats. For 1995 other improvements included a more efficient ZYTEK engine management system, which, along with better turbo cooling, liberated a touch more power and economy. Traction control – which ran through a viscous limited slip differential – as well as larger 17inch wheels were also made standard.

Not enough? Then look to the Continental T. With a four inch shorter wheelbase, flared arches, uprated suspension and massive 285/45 series rubber this remains a Crewe’s missile and a genuine iron fist, velvet glove supercar. Originally, less than 50 were going to be built but almost 200 left the factory gates.

So long as rear seat space isn’t important, it’s the one to have – more so than the SC (Sedanca Coupé) which used the same body albeit with novel twin-panel glass sunroof, special sports seats and a melodic 30watt ICE system.

A sophisticated sun seeker this Continental earned the nickname of ‘soggy carpets’ due to roof leaks.

The car is an alternative to the fully fledged Azure convertible launched three years earlier in 1995. The Azure is super stylish but despite Pininfarina’s best efforts, does suffer from a lack of rigidity and this puts off some buyers. The few special editions are worth going for when they surface. Just 10 examples of the Jack Barclay Special were made in 1996; five years later 50 copies of the Le Mans Continental R were sold to mark Bentley’s return to La Sarthe. These limited run models are very collectible but they very rarely crop up.

Behind the wheel

Although based on the mightiest Mulsanne, the Continental enjoys its own character and identity. Performance isn’t an issue with any model and the old Rolls-Royce comment over its power figures being ”adequate” is a gross understatement. But of more importance is lorry load of torque – necessary as the V8 is redlined at under 5000rpm. So while the Continental can match the Aston Martin Virage for outright pace, it does it in a more dignified manner thanks to imperceptible shifts between ratios and the car’s ability to corner pretty much like a smaller sports car.

Understandably, it’s hardly nimble, but the Bentley is as adept as any Aston Martin V8 or Virage, particularly the shorter wheelbase T and SC plus it’s a whole lot more restful when simply quietly cruising. That said, there’s a comparative lack of refinement when compared to the standard Mulsanne saloon so be prepared to expect a few creaks and groans – especially in the more raucous Continental T – and a ride that’s not the most soothing around, either. Even with Crewe’s finest, you can’t have it both ways…

The Continental is fairly spacious for a sports 2+2 and rear passengers aren’t likely to complain, the exception being the shorter wheelbase versions. Fuel economy is far from the Continental’s strong point – expect around 19mpg from careful driving and a lot less with an over-zealous right foot where the temptation to unleash the beast is all too great…

The car’s timeline

1991

Continental R coupé introduced, owing much to the 1985 Project 90 design, based upon the familiar running gear from the Mulsanne Turbo R, albeit with central floor mounted gear shift – a first for a Bentley.

1993

Slight power hike care of Cosworth cylinder heads. Also a new four-speed auto ’box with shift management, adaptive ride control, twin airbags and redesigned seats feature.

1995

Open-topped Azure is launched, the most powerful four-seater convertible in the world at the time. Across the range was a more efficient ZYTEK engine management system, better turbo cooling, a viscous limited slip differential – as well as larger 17inch wheels.

1996

Continental T is almost a completely new Bentley sporting a four inch shorter wheelbase, flared arches, uprated suspension and massive 285/45 series tyres to harness a quoted 400bhp.

1998

SC (Sedanca Coupé), is offered with a novel twinpanel glass sunroof, special sports seats.

Here’s six of the best reasons to buy one

  • Stately looks and presence
  • Muscular Mulsanne Turbo power
  • As easy to own as a Mulsanne Eight
  • Good value for money
  • Strong specialist support
  • Classy Azure convertible


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