Caught in the classifieds: 1993 Bentley Turbo R
In last week’s “Caught in the classifieds”, we featured a lightweight Lotus Elise S. This week we’re doing a full 180 and featuring something at the other end of the spectrum: a 1993 Bentley Turbo R, one of the most luxurious cars of its time. When the Turbo R came out, it was more expensive than both the Bentley Mulsanne S and the Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit. It was only trumped in price by the heftier Rolls-Royce Silver Spur, but for reasons we’ll get to in a minute, the Bentley was much sportier than the Roller.
Back in the early 1990s, a brand-new Turbo R cost upwards of £130,000. The ‘R’ stands for ‘Roadholding’, Bentley’s way of calling it a sporty model. Although it’s a far cry from something like a Lotus Elise S, for a massive 2,5-ton barge it was remarkably sharp back in the day. In many ways, the Turbo R paved the way for Bentley’s current crop of sporty models, including the now-iconic Mulsanne and the new Flying Spur.
This example listed on our site has a rather conservative 65,000 miles on the clock and has an asking price of under £15,000. That’s a tenth of what it would have cost you to purchase brand-new back in the day. In fact, with the modern Flying Spur starting at £185,000 and the new Mulsanne costing upwards of £240,000, a good-condition Turbo R is the best way to get into Bentley ownership.
The Turbo R is a creation of the late 80s, so it has a typical boxy shape with not a lot of ‘modern’ design cues. You could call it retro or old-school, but in reality, it’s just a representation of a foregone era. Unlike most 80s and 90s cars though, the Turbo R seems to have aged quite well. For starters, it’s still instantly recognizable as a Bentley, even to non-petrolheads. It looks and feels expensive, even if you can purchase one right now for less than the cost of a brand-new Ford Focus.
The Turbo R is not ostentatious or brash though. If you drive a new Mulsanne or Flying Spur people will look at you funny, but if you’re minding your business in a Turbo R, no one bats an eye. Whereas people might see someone driving a new Bentley and think he’s showing off, anyone driving a Turbo R is instantly seen as classy and sophisticated.
The Turbo R itself looks massive in pictures but is much ‘smaller’ in person. In reality, cars have gotten so massive that an older Bentley seems normal in comparison. The Turbo R is roughly the same size as a brand-new BMW 7-Series and is nowhere near as large as a new Mulsanne. It’s still a hefty-sized car, but it’s manageable and usable as an everyday car even in urban environments.
If you’re looking for the last word in technology and infotainment systems, the Turbo R is not for you. It lacks any sort of modern technological amenities you’ll find even in cheaper cars like a Ford Focus or a Ford Fiesta, but it lacks on the technological front it more than makes up for when it comes to luxury. From the moment you first step inside you can instantly feel just how exquisite everything is.
It’s hard to put into words how tactile the Turbo R’s cabin is. Everything you touch, see or smell is premium in feel. The leather seats are astonishing, even though they’re 20 years old. They have plenty of lateral support but are immensely comfortable. For cruising and covering a vast amount of miles without wearing you down, they’re probably better than most modern car seats. The wood-finished dash and centre console still look brand-new, and with the white leather combo, it looks ace. Even the metallic vents feel lovely to the touch, they’re not too dissimilar to what you’d find on a new Bentley.
Obviously, things like the steering wheel and the centre console buttons feel dated because they are, but in terms of build quality and fit and finish, this 20-year old Bentley is right up there with the best of them. As I said, the cabin has an ample amount of room for five adults, and the boot is easily big enough to swallow several large suitcases.
Engine and Performance
The Turbo R has a massive 6.75-litre turbocharged V8 under the bonnet, but because it was built in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Bentley never disclosed how much power their cars made at the time. Motor Trend’s testing estimated the power output at 300 bhp and 490 lb-ft of torque, giving it a theoretical top speed somewhere in the ballpark of 150 mph and a sprint time to 60 mph in less than 7 seconds. That’s decently quick by today’s standards let alone back then.
Being the Turbo R, Bentley introduced a lot of changes over the Mulsanne to make it much sportier. They upped the front anti-roll bar rates by 100% and the rears by 60%, in addition to increasing the damping rate. They also installed a Panhard rod to anchor the rear subframe and reduce lateral movement throughout corners. Power was sent to the rear wheels through a three-speed Turbo Hydramatic 400 automatic gearbox at first, but in 1992 they switched over to a much more sophisticated four-speed GM-built auto.
Model: Bentley Turbo R
Why buy one
I won’t say owning an old Bentley is cheap because we all know it isn’t. It’ll devour petrol four times as much as a Focus and it’ll be a lot costlier to maintain and repair. Despite that though, if you’re looking to buy a large luxury car and you don’t want to spend upwards of £20,000 looking at old German limos, why not have a Turbo R and stand out? The Turbo R is largely reliable if you regularly maintain it, and it’s a lot more special than a 7-Series or an Audi A8. Shell out a few thousand pounds a year to run and maintain and you’ll have no troubles with it for a long, long time. Plus, they might go up in value in a few years, so who knows? You might even make a few pounds in the long run.
DesperateSeller.co.uk rating: 8 out of 10
View the car here: 1993 Bentley Turbo R - £14,500