PH HEROES: BENTLEY TURBO R
The Bentley Turbo R redefines the concept of a performance car, writes Ollie Stallwood
This is a car that not so much delicately weaves down a twisty back road, instead just steam-rollering it flat. I’d heard a lot about the Turbo R, how it is filled with surprises that belie its huge bulk and land barge proportions. Big sporting saloons with mega-torque are everywhere these days but the Turbo R first appeared in March, 1985, and for those days the figures must have been even more impressive.
Bentley went to work on the chassis and transformed it. The engineers increased anti-roll bar rates by 60% on the front and 80% on the back and uprated the dampers. A Panhard rod was also introduced which reduced side-to-side movement in the corners. The car even got alloy wheels – a first for Bentley. With prices for Turbo Rs now dropping below £10K the cars are becoming very affordable and have always had something of a cult following. I wanted to try one to find out just how sporting a huge chunk of metal and walnut veneer could be.
www.drivingspirit.co.uk) in Basingstoke knowing they have a mint example on their fleet. When I arrive at the premises the Turbo R is waiting outside. It’s certainly imposing, or should I say absolutely huge. Not huge compared to say a modern day Phantom but big all the same. There is something reassuring about the shape, it harks back to a time when the makers of these cars really could say they were the best in the world, a classic shape that seemed to be around for ever.
Driving Spirit owner Steve Marshall assures me that despite its size the Turbo R can be surprisingly swift and can be hussled down even fairly narrow back roads. I’m looking forward to finding out and once I have settled into the beautifully made interior, which has predictably a rather high driving position, I turn the key. Of course it is an auto, but there is a ‘sport’ mode, which I engage immediately.
Pulling out onto the streets of Basingstoke the Turbo R wafts, leaving you to admire the opulent surroundings and almost become a little detached from the real world. But to find out a Bentley is comfortable and soothing is like discovering Simon Cowell’s trousers are too high – we all knew that already. I pull onto the A33 and once the traffic disappears push down the accelerator. The almost silent V8 emits a muffled muscle car roar and pulls the Turbo R down the road at an alarming rate. In fact it takes a moment to realise you are no longer floating around in a moving boardroom and in fact you are picking up some serious speed. The car redlines somewhere around 4,500rpm but so huge is the wave of torque that this is all it needs. The Turbo R really is very quick for what it is. The steering is lighter than it could be and the brakes are not exactly progressive but it is good fun crushing miles in this thing.