The Geneva Auto Show of 1991 marked a crucial turning point in Bentley’s history. It was at this show where they reintroduced the world to the Continental marque. In the recent years preceding Bentley was, more or less, considered a derivative of Rolls Royce and the brand was losing its identity. Not much attention was paid to the brand until the idea came to turbocharge the Mulsanne. This gave way to the idea of creating a coupe version and thus, the Continental R was born. The name was a nod to two formidable Bentleys of the past (the post-war Continental and the 50’s R Type) and the car set Bentley on a path that not only saved the company of who’s shadow they stood under but laid the groundwork for the famous buyout and subsequent division of Rolls Royce and Bentley.
The pursuit of superiority continued and in 1996 Bentley launched the Continental T. This was a shorter wheelbase version of the R that offered an increase in power, torque and handling response. While production on the T was incredibly low (just 350 examples were ever made) a common issue from customers was that there was just simply not enough legroom in the back due to the shortening of the wheelbase. Bentley sought to resolve that issue with the car you see before you. We here at John Scotti Classics are very proud to present to you the 2002 Bentley Continental R Mulliner. From 1999-2003 Bentley equipped the long wheelbase of the R with the engine from the T and really hit a sweet spot in Continental production. Only 131 R Mulliners were ever produced making this one of the most exemplary modern Bentleys on the market today.
At the time of its release, the Continental R boasted the highest price tag on any production vehicle in the world and the R Mulliner is pedigree to that standard. It seems as though an entire herd of cows died to make this interior as every nook and cranny from the detailed door panels to the quilted headliner are finished in a luxuriously grainy black leather. In the absence of leather, a stunningly well-preserved walnut wood shines with remarkable professionalism. Upon entering the vehicle you are presented with what some might describe as a magnificent dashboard. Clusters of chrome-accented gauges tell you everything from outside air temperature to boost to oil temperature. Everything is inlaid in the glorious aforementioned walnut. The centre console is home to the beautifully simplistic temperature controls, the leather finished gear lever and electronic seating controls. Looking past the steering wheel one will notice some numbers that are an interesting reflection of this vehicle's performance. The speedometer maxes out at 170mph (a pace this large coupe is capable of doing) while the tachometer has a curiously low redline of 4500 rpm.
The reason for the interesting juxtaposition in the gauge cluster is due to a particularly torquey engine, 650 lb/ft to be exact. The 6.75L Garrett V8 was used throughout the Continentals production run, receiving a few in house tweaks along the way and even some contribution from the masters at Cosworth. By the time it was to be used in the R Mulliner it had been fine-tuned to produce 420 hp, a top speed of 170mph (274kph) and a 0-60mph (0-100kph) time of 5.6 seconds. Impressively speedy for a car weighing 2450kgs. All that power and all that torque are available at just 2200 RPMs giving this car a driving sensation like no other. Power builds almost effortlessly as the large turbocharger begins to work away. Couple this with the remarkable sound deadening Bentley is famous for and you quickly begin to understand why they call it cruising. Before you realize it, you're doing speeds that are impolite to discuss in refined conversation.
With the added appeal of the wide-body wheel arches and a bumper to bumper length similar to that of a modern-day Range Rover this grand coupe makes an unmistakable entrance. The laser cut and chrome finished radiator grille has gone on to become a Bentley trademark. This car is classically finished in a perfectly preserved Silver Pearl, a colour that does a fantastic job complementing the shapes and subtleties of the Continental R in all lighting conditions. There isn’t much to say about this classic widebody coupe that it doesn't already proclaim with authority. In the ’90s and early ’00s the Continental was the definitive big body grand tourer and the condition of this particular British masterpiece must really be seen in person to be appreciated. Presenting like new and showing just 21,781mi (35,053km) on the odometer this R Mulliner also boasts a meticulous maintenance record, an important factor for any of today's discerning Continental buyers.
With a heritage that defines the winged B it wears, locomotive like performance and a presentation that is as dominant as it is elegant, the Bentley Continental R carved out a place for itself in the automotive history books as no-nonsense luxury transporter that, as the name suggests, really gives you the feeling like you could drive from one continent to the next. The Continental R Mulliner takes that feeling one step further by providing all of the best aspects from Bentley at the time and combining them into the perfect package. What more could you ask for?