Cars & Bids Bargain of the Week: 1990 Bentley Turbo R
Normally, Bentley cars are priced like the hand-built, ultra-luxury machines they are. At least, that’s the case when they’re brand new. True, an iconic classic Bentley like, say, a pre-war Mulliner, is an expensive vehicle. But not every classic or used Bentley is a priceless artifact, even if it’s no less luxurious. And if you need proof, take a look at this week’s Cars & Bids bargain car: a 1990 Bentley Turbo R.
The Bentley Turbo R is a classic high-speed luxury train of a super sedan
|Spec||1988-1997 Bentley Turbo R|
|Engine||6.75-liter turbocharged V8|
|Power||297 hp (MotorTrend)|
|Torque||487 lb-ft (MotorTrend)|
|Transmission||Three-speed automatic (pre-1992)|
Four-speed automatic (1992-1997)
|Curb weight||5270 lbs|
|0-60 mph time||6.7 seconds (MotorTrend)|
Although Bentley’s history is full of high-performance, high-quality cars like the original Blower Bentley, it went through a rough patch after the 1950s. And while Rolls-Royce swooped in to help, the brands’ cars became too similar. So, while quality didn’t suffer, brand identity did.
However, by the mid-1980s, both companies’ fortunes started improving as they chased different visions. Bentley still used Rolls-Royce chassis, but its cars were free to pursue greater sportiness. The first model produced with this fresh mindset was the 1982 Mulsanne Turbo, Bentley’s first forced-induction car since the Blower. And in 1985 (US sales started in 1988), the British luxury brand introduced its sequel: the Bentley Turbo R.
Officially, Bentley never reported the Turbo R’s output, describing it only as “’adequate,’” Hagerty says. However, the figures listed in the above table are what sources generally report. 297 hp doesn’t seem like much today considering the modern Flying Spur makes more than twice as much. But it’s enough to give the Turbo R “near supercar acceleration for the time,” MT notes. And 487 lb-ft of torque is still impressive.
Plus, the Bentley Turbo R could put its power down well. Compared to the earlier Mulsanne Turbo, the R has stiffer dampers and bigger anti-roll bars. Bentley also re-engineered the rear self-leveling suspension, upgraded the brakes, and fitted sportier seats. The result was a high-speed luxury sedan that could handle and stop as well as it went.
And the Bentley Turbo R is indeed luxurious. The interior is trimmed in rich leather and polished wood, which, combined with the hydraulic suspension, makes for an all-day-comfortable experience. Plus, later cars offered things like electronic ride-height adjustment and heated seats. In short, the Turbo R was the first Bentley in decades that “felt like a real Bentley,” MT says.
There’s a 1990 example currently listed on Cars & Bids
By the time the Bentley Turbo R arrived in the US, it had round headlights, fuel injection, ABS, and sport seats. The 1990 example currently listed on Cars & Bids is too old to have the electronic height adjustment or four-speed automatic, though. However, it’s still a well-equipped classic luxury car.
Besides the leather upholstery and wood trim, this Bentley Turbo R has power-adjustable heated front seats, power-adjustable mirrors, a leather headliner, and fold-down wooden rear ‘picnic tables.’ Its rear center armrest has Tiffany & Co. champagne flutes and the rear passengers also have individual light-up vanity mirrors in the C-pillars. Plus, this classic Bentley has a power sunroof, remote-locking trunk, dual-tone horn, fog lights, dual-temperature A/C, and an integrated (inoperable) Motorola cell phone.
It also has some aftermarket mods, such as yellow inboard headlight lenses, tinted windows, and a Bentley Azure steering wheel. This Bentley Turbo R also has an aftermarket audio system with a trunk-mounted subwoofer and a Pioneer touchscreen head unit. Also, it has custom sheepskin floor mats.
Although this classic Bentley has a service history gap, it’s in remarkably good condition. Apart from a few stone chips, bumper dings, and old tires, its exterior is solid. And the only interior flaws are some seat creases and a few mounting holes drilled into the passenger’s side front headrest and center console. Plus, it has less than 39,200 miles on the clock. Also, its recent service includes a suspension alignment, engine oil and filter replacement, and new rear gas springs. The seller also notes that the hydraulic system was repaired in 2020, which is also when the A/C condenser was replaced.
A used classic Bentley Turbo R is shockingly affordable, but will it be reliable?
As of this writing, this 1990 Bentley Turbo R is listed for $9400 with three days left in the auction. Keep in mind, in 1990 this sedan cost almost $111,500; that’s the equivalent of $234,00 in today’s money. And a good-to-excellent condition Turbo R is usually at least 50% more, Hagerty says.
Admittedly, bidding on a used Bentley, especially a classic one, might be worrying from a reliability standpoint. And to be fair, if not treated properly, Turbo Rs can be expensive to maintain. However, the good news is that this car doesn’t have electronic ride-height control, so suspension parts are cheaper, Hagerty notes.
Plus, while flushing the hydraulic system—which is necessary every five years—isn’t cheap, it’s not necessarily ruinously pricey, either. Given that this car’s system was recently repaired, it shouldn’t be an issue. And the transmission is robust if its filter is regularly changed.
As always, a pre-purchase inspection is recommended. But a classic Bentley like this 1990 Turbo R could be an easy entry point into high-speed luxury.
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