100 years of Bentley: Here are the most important Bentley models of the past century

British carmaker Bentley is celebrating their 100th year anniversary on October 10, 2019. We pondered for a bit on how to celebrate this momentous occasion. Fortunately, our resident Editor-at-large Chris Davies came up with the answer. “Might be worth doing something on the most important Bentley models of the past 100 years,” he said.

And bloody hell, he’s right! So we went to work and proceeded writing about the most iconic Bentley cars to ever make it into production. With a sprightly Brit on our side, we’re confident we can pull this off.

1. Bentley Mark VI (1946-1952)

Bentley Mark VI

In truth, we wanted to start with the first-ever Bentley car to roll off the factory floor. We’re talking about the 1921 Bentley EXP 2, the first production Bentley during the Cricklewood years. It’s the first three-liter production car and was first delivered in September 1921. It won the historic Le Mans 24 hour race that same year. It holds the record for the biggest winning margin of 212 miles, which it achieved in 1927.

However, the Bentley Mark VI is the first post-war luxury car from Bentley. Produced between 1946 and 1952, it was also the first car to be assembled and completed at the Bentley factory in Crewe. “The Bentley Mark VI is the first car fully built by Bentley rather than a standard chassis with a coach-built body,” said Davies.

Properly named the Bentley Mark VI Standard Steel Sports Saloon, it quickly became the best-selling car to wear the Bentley badge. In fact, the company sold more than 5,000 Mark VI cars in five years. The Bentley Mark VI was available as a 4-door and 2-door saloon or 2-door drophead coupe. It came equipped with a 4.25-liter 260 cubic inch inline-six motor and four-speed manual transmission.

2. Bentley R-Type Continental (1952-1955)

Bentley R-Type Saloon

The R-Type is essentially the replacement for the Bentley Mark VI. It’s also the basis for the Rolls-Rolls Silver Dawn, which are both four-door saloon cars with a 4-speed manual or optional 4-speed automatic.

But what really struck a chord is the Bentley R-Type Continental, the high-performance derivative of the R-Type. The car came with aerodynamically-correct rear fins and a lightweight steel body, two fewer doors, and the same 4.6-liter straight-six engine in the R-Type. However, the R-Type Continental had modified carburetors, intakes, and exhaust manifolds. It also benefited from higher gear ratios. “The R-Type Continental was the fastest four-seater in the world at that time and set the stage for the modern Continental series,” added Davies.

What’s more, the Bentley R-Type Continental is extremely rare with only 207 units produced.

3. Bentley Turbo R (1985-1999)

Bentley Turbo R

The Bentley Turbo R is a high-performance luxury car. It came with an engine previously utilized in the Mulsanne Turbo and also came with retuned suspension, alloy wheels, and wider tires. “The Bentley Turbo R is the breakout model so to speak, back when Bentley was still part of Rolls-Royce,” said Davies.

However, the Turbo R and Mulsanne Turbo were sold together until Bentley retired the latter in 1985. The Bentley Turbo R benefited from stiffer anti-roll bars, a panhard rod in the rear sub-frame, and new dampers to give it better handling. It came with a 6.75-liter turbocharged V8 engine and the choice between a 3-speed or 4-speed automatic transmission, the latter of which is sourced from General Motors.

But if you want the ultimate Bentley Turbo R, you should go for the Turbo RT model with a 400-horsepower 6.75-liter V8 motor. It also came with a Garrett T04 turbocharger and Zytec engine management system, which is the same utilized in Formula 1 racing teams. Unfortunately, the Turbo RT was only sold from 1997 to 1998 with only 252 units produced during that time.

4. Bentley Continental GT (2003-2011)

Bentley Continental GT

The first-generation Bentley Continental GT was first seen at the 2003 Geneva International Motor Show. Bentley was acquired by Volkswagen AG in 1998, and the Continental GT is the first Bentley car released under VW’s management.

The Continental GT was initially sold as a two-plus-two fastback but a two-door convertible followed soon after. It came with a 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged W12 engine that produces 552-horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque. It also came with a Torsen permanent four-wheel drive system. This allows the car to rush from 0 to 60 mph in 4.8-seconds, which is impressive given the 5,000 lb. curb weight of the vehicle.

Bentley released numerous incarnations of the Continental GT including the Flying Spur in 2005 and the Continental GTC in 2006. The second-gen model came to market from 2011 to 2018 and came with either a 6.0-liter W12 or 4.0-liter V8, both with twin turbos.

The third and current generation Bentley Continental GT V8 is one of our favorite sporty GT cars. It’s also available with the familiar turbocharged W12 motor, but the V8 gives the Continental GT a much sportier endeavor.

5. Bentley Bentayga

Bentley Bentayga

The Bentley Bentayga needs no introduction. It’s the first ever SUV from Bentley, and boy it’s a special one. And with a starting price of around $165,000 for the V8 model and $230,000 for the W12 model, it has to be. With the new Bentayga SUV, you still get a Bentley that possesses immense power, unbridled luxury, room to move about, and neck-breaking speed.

Bentley is currently offering the Bentayga SUV in six distinct models. There’s also a hybrid version offered in the USA and Canada. But the ultimate model has to be the Bentayga Speed. Bentley claims it’s the fastest SUV in the world with a claimed top speed of 190 mph. It achieves 0 to 60 mph in 3.6-seconds. The Bentley Bentayga Speed is equipped with a 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged W12 motor with high and low-pressure fuel injection, good for 626-horsepower.

On the other hand, the Bentayga V8 makes good use of a twin-turbocharged 542-horsepower V8 engine. This is good for a 0 to 60 mph run in 3.8-seconds. A more sensible choice is the Bentayga Diesel and Hybrid. The former has a hi-tech 4.0-liter V8 diesel with 429-horsepower and achieves 35.3 mpg while the hybrid has a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 and electric motor good for 443-horsepower.

Bentley is set to reveal the company’s first ever electric car on it’s 100th anniversary. What we know so far is the car will be called the EXP 100 concept. It is considered the future of zero-emissions grand touring while merging the perfect blend of technology and craftsmanship.