Bentley hit upon a heady mix of performance and opulence with their definitive luxury saloon. But today a Turbo R can make a very tasty classic bargain too...
Boasting an enormous price tag when new – comfortably in excess of £100,000 by 1990 – the Bentley Turbo R is perhaps the luxury bargain of the modern age. The best thing is that they make absolute sense as a driving machine. A generous prod on the accelerator elicits a rush of energy that launches you past lesser road users. If you’re in a post-1990 model with clever active suspension, you’ll enjoy total composure in the corners, too. Tempted?
Power (bhp@rpm) 330bhp@4000rpm
Torque (lb ft@rpm) 480lb ft@2250rpm
Top speed 140mph
Gearbox 3-speed auto
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
BODYWORK & CHASSIS
The first Rs are now a quarter of a century old. So despite excellent build quality when new, they will rust if neglected. Rear wheelarches are particularly prone to rot if the car hasn’t been looked after. Make sure you examine up inside the arch, as well as down at either end of the sill. Water gets in at both ends, but especially the front. The rear valance can also corrode, and it is well hidden behind the rear bumper, so be thorough in your examination.
Under the car, the front outriggers can rot on higher mileage cars, while the rear spring pans should also be checked closely for corrosion. You should also ensure that the extensive exterior chrome isn’t pitted, while those hefty, impact-absorbing bumpers should be straight and free from scratches.
Carburettor-fed examples (pre-1987) are less popular because the complex Solex four-choke unit has a poor reputation for reliability. They can also suffer from hot-starting issues, which is unheard of on fuel-injected models. Either should cruise beyond 200,000 miles without requiring major attention, provided proper service intervals have been respected.
Poor starting, pinking, uneven idling or lack of responsiveness could be caused by anything from a leaking inlet manifold to an engine management fault (on post-1994 cars). Take a test drive and keep a close eye on the temperature gauge – steer clear of anything that overheats. Coolant leaks can quickly become serious, so check carefully for drips or weeping hoses anywhere in the system. Minor oil leaks are par for the course on a 50-year-old engine design, but liberal coatings of oil on the underside should have you walking away. Leaking turbo oil feed pipes are another bad sign – a loss of oil feed will cause the turbo to fail, with potentially catastrophic results – so be on your guard.
Two sturdy GM automatic gearboxes were used throughout the production span of the Turbo R. The three-speeder used until 1992 is simpler, but the later four-speeder gives better flexibility, acceleration and economy. Both should find all their gears without hesitation. Transmission fluid should always look pink and clean. You might hear a whine from the differential on high-mileage cars, suggesting a hard life. They will go on like this for a while, but clunks or rumbles are a definite no-no.
Suspension-wise, both standard (pre-1990) and active suspension should provide excellent ride quality. A well looked-after car shouldn’t feel loose or sloppy, even over a poor surface. When they need replacing, the active dampers are very expensive, so haggle accordingly if this is required. Power steering is standard on all models, and leaks can occur from the pump, the rack and the connecting hoses.
It is unlikely you will find a car whose cabin has been mistreated, but look out for dirty leather, worn carpets and pedal rubbers, and untidy boot linings. All of these point to a car that hasn’t been treated with sufficient respect. Veneer door cappings and dash sections can fade due to sunlight, so walk away from cracked or peeling varnish.
The Turbo R is a complex machine, so seek expert advice both before and after you buy. Buying one privately can be worth the saving over a specialist dealer’s price but, that said, you will be glad of a reputable trader’s guarantee should things start to go wrong. Be careful, though, as once you’ve got a taste for the high life, you may find it hard to settle for anything less in the future.
Check out this video of a Bentley Turbo R in Jay Leno's garage: