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Bentley Continental

Bentley Continental Published: 11th Jul 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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Aston alternative ● Supercar performance ● As easy to own as a turbo R ● Can be good value

What’s their attraction?

The first all new stand-alone Bentley for decades, Continentals of the early 1990s are a unique blend of old-fashioned Bentley values twinned with modern craftsmanship and technology. Essentially a rebodied Mulsanne Turbo they look and feel great, perform exceptionally well and are not particularly expensive to maintain against a normal saloon plus are a good future investment and a much better bet than a Rolls Camargue, in our minds.

Driving

Continentals feel much like the regular Mulsanne Turbo to drive meaning Aston like prowess and character although their firmer suspensions can give rise to more coarseness and less refinement than the luxury saloon, especially in the more rapid and raw Continental T model and to a lesser extent the high style Sedanca Coupé badged SC. Compensation comes in the form of surprisingly adept and alert handling for such a big, heavy coupé that’s right up there with the Aston’s V8 and Virage but with even more quality and comfort. The post 1995 cars, with their superior engine management system and other improvements are the better buys, with the Conti S perhaps the best all rounder sporting added performance but still retaining the civility and space of the regular R saloon.

Prices to pay

Prices have marched north of late and around £50,000 is needed for the keys of a good but not exceptional Continental, of which the majority are say specialists and why the best Bentleys can make seven figures. The more powerful S model commands £10,000 over a normal R version which is about the value of most T variants. The cream-of-the-crop SC and Azures now sell for high six figure sums and the rarity of the Mulliner and Le Mans limited runs are difficult to accurately pin down but given that concours Contis sell for up to £100,000, just under this seems about right.

Top buying tips

Condition

 

It’s vital to sample more than one Continental as they can vary and far too hard used or neglected ones will feel floppy. Some form of service history is essential with this class of car yet many have been run on a shoestring.

Body

 

Rust shouldn’t be a major issue but don’t dismiss careless ownership; a new bonnet can cost up to £3000 for example. Vet the sills as it costs some £3500 per side to properly replace. On the SC, check for dampness and floor rot – a known problem which gave rise to the SC standing for ‘Soggy Carpets’ in the trade. Underneath, inspect the subframe, mounts, floors, inner wings, bulkheads and the boot floor. At the rear, examine the suspension spring pans.

Engine

 

Iron cylinder liners can contract and squeeze the pistons resulting in a knocking sound meaning an engine strip. Smoky start ups could mean that the turbo is on the way out, at a cost of £2500 for the component alone. It’s important that the anti-freeze is kept up to spec and replaced regularly. The exhaust manifolds have a reputation to crack with age.

Running gear

 

Citroën-based hydraulic system controls the brakes and self-levelling suspension and requires overhauling every 90,000 miles and fluid every four years – costing a pretty penny.

Trim

With some cars over 25 years old expect deterioration which is extremely costly to properly remedy.

Dates to remember

1991 New Continental coupé uses familiar running gear from the Turbo R Mulsanne but interior is unique.

1993 Slight power hike, a new four-speed auto, twin airbags and redesigned seats.

1995 New ZYTEK engine management system. Traction control becomes standard along with 17inch wheels.

1997 Continental T, introduced sporting a four-inch shorter wheelbase, flared arches and uprated suspension and tyres to cope with a gutsy 420bhp.

1999 SC (Sedanca Coupé), has a novel twinpanel glass sunroof and special sports seats. This model was later replaced with a full blown convertible not dissimilar to the old Corniche but now called Azure.



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