Awaiting a major change in corporate structure during the 2003 model year, Bentley has dropped the standard Continental R coupe and its Azure convertible companion. Final Series special editions of the two-door Continental R Mulliner and Azure Mulliner have been introduced instead, and they will serve as the last examples of the companys original presence. The Sport Touring package highlights Bentleys performance heritage, while the Luxury Touring edition spotlights the companys craftsmanship heritage. The Azure Mulliner sells for $369,990.
On Jan. 1, 2003, Volkswagen will take control of Bentley Motor Cars. At the same time, BMW will take the helm of Rolls-Royce. For many decades, Bentley has been the companion brand to Rolls-Royce. Bentleys cars sell for slightly lower prices than those by Rolls-Royce. Both marques have ranked among the most costly and coveted motorcars in the world. Until the Volkswagen/BMW takeovers, the current organization continues to produce, sell and service both ultra-luxury makes.
Under Volkswagens stewardship, a new and smaller Bentley is expected to emerge and be priced significantly lower than todays models. Many existing styling features, such as large round headlights and a mesh grille, are likely to remain on the new model. It could reach the United States as early as 2003.
Like Rolls-Royce, Bentley has long been known for producing sumptuous sedans, in which the owner rides in back while a chauffeur does the driving. But the top-end British company also builds cars that are intended to be driven by those who are more sport-minded.
Both the coupe and convertible are 210.8 inches long overall and share the same design as the Rolls-Royce Corniche convertible. Each is a few inches longer than the Cadillac DeVille and 5 inches shorter than the Lincoln Town Car.
The stately, stainless-steel Bentley grille sits up front on both models. Mulliner versions feature 18-inch wheels, wheel-arch flares, front air dams and a wire-mesh grille. Convertible versions have a power top that stows beneath a flush-fitting hard cover behind the seats. Each car weighs more than 5,400 pounds.
Two-door Bentley models seat four occupants in a truly posh environment. Body-hugging sport seats are upholstered in two-tone leather. Buyers can choose from several types of interior wood trim. The power front seats move forward automatically when the backrest is tilted, which allows easier entry and exit to and from the rear seats. The seats have four memory positions.
Under the Hood
A 420-horsepower, turbocharged 6.75-liter Bentley V-8 engine powers each two-door Mulliner, and it teams with a four-speed-automatic transmission.
All two-door Bentleys have antilock brakes, traction control and automatic ride control. The front seat belts include pretensioners.