With the Turbo R Bentley got back to its roots. But it didn’t make the fastest lorry in the world, as Ettore Bugatti had once unkindly said about the esteemed British challenger to his race cars. The R stood for roadholding, to set it apart from its predecessor, the Mulsanne Turbo, which although successful, had left some sporting drivers demanding a tighter chassis.
The turbocharged L-Series V8 engine from the Mulsanne Turbo was retained, but now made even more power, and the car also sported a retuned and updated suspension system, with wider tyres on, heaven forfend, alloy wheels – a first for a Bentley.
From the 1987 model year the Turbo R's V8 engine lost its venerable carburettor based fuel system and switched to electronic fuel injection, which improved torque, drivability and fuel efficiency in one fell swoop. Motor Trend magazine in the USA called the Turbo R "the first Bentley in decades deserving of the famous name" in their review of the car on its introduction to the United States in 1989.
With 450lb-ft of torque available between 2000 and 4000rpm, the car could accelerate to 60mph in just 6.6 seconds, despite weighing in at a hefty 2420kg, and would happily chase S Class Mercs all the way up to 145mph on the autobahn. All this for just £150,000 at launch.
In 1996 the Turbo R got a long list of revisions, the most notable of which was a new standard fitment of a charge cooler. At the same time a Zytek engine management system took over from the previous Bosch unit, which gave the car improved throttle response and even managed another slight increase in fuel efficiency.
Power – for the first time officially quoted by Bentley – rose to 385bhp and torque to 550lb-ft, another first for the Turbo R as this was more than any other production car at the time. We’re guessing this is why the policy of performance non-disclosure came to an end.
The sprint to 60mph was now achieved in fewer than six seconds, and top speed exceeded that of German machinery by five miles an hour, which was limited to 150mph.
Bentley offered various special models, which usually went to their most valued customers, and the rarest of all these is the Turbo RT Olympian, of which only four were ever made.