Bentley is one of the premier luxury car companies in the world. This ultra-high class brand hails from England, where for decades it was part of the Rolls-Royce company. Bentley were initially known for their powerful and durable coupes and race cars, and they have gradually built upon this image to create some of the quickest and most indulgent luxury vehicles available. The company has rebounded from its status as a somewhat bargain-priced Rolls-Royce clone, having been purchased by Volkswagen in 1998 and given a fresh infusion of cash and engineering capability.
The used Bentley lineup is composed a strong mix of coupes and sedans. The sporty Continental GT two-door coupe variants are also available in a convertible version, while the Brooklands coupe and Azure convertible present a more dignified option. On the four-door front, the Continental Flying Spur and the Arnage are available as two interpretations of the traditional Bentley image.
W.O. and H.M. Bentley were brothers who were both addicted to the speed and thrills of automobile and motorcycle racing. While for a time they sold vehicles for French manufacturer D.F.P., it wasn’t long before W.O. decided to strike out on his own and begin selling cars of his own design under the Bentley name in 1919. With customers demanding heavier cars with more ornate styling, Bentley was forced to develop ever more powerful engines to keep these immense hunks of iron moving. Their engine program eventually saw the company do very well at Le Mans and other race tracks, which helped to further the proliferation of the Bentley name around the world. The cost of these extensive operations took their toll, and Bentley eventually partnered with Woolf Barnato, an heir with seemingly bottomless pockets. Unfortunately, the company would fall victim to the Great Depression, a fate not even Barnato’s money could stave off. Bentley would be purchased by competitor Rolls-Royce in 1931.
Under the vision of their new corporate parent, the vehicles emerging from Bentley would bear a striking resemblance to the Rolls-Royce offerings of the day – indeed, the vehicles frequently shared the same platform. More and more Bentley’s were built alongside Rolls-Royces on the same assembly lines, by the same technicians, and the company’s image began to dilute in the face of the similarities between the two brands. The 1950’s and 60’s did see a period where Bentley vehicles would impress the world due to their incredible speed and poise. However, at the same time the similarity to Rolls-Royce would increase to the point where only the body work could be considered different between models. The company’s racing image faded into the past, and sales also began to drop off.
Modern Day Bentley
It wasn’t until the 1980’s that Bentley began to see the light at the end of the tunnel in terms of rebuilding their brand image. While the company still had to deal with the fact that their vehicles were essentially badge-engineered Rolls-Royces, in terms of engine development Bentley was finally able to begin to pull ahead of their corporate twin. Turbochargers and large displacement engines began to produce enormously heavy sedans that seemed to possess almost supernatural acceleration. This performance momentum finally translated into a sales pickup for the company, and Bentley’s began to outsell Rolls-Royces by a significant margin. BMW engines also began to take their place under the hood of the automaker’s cars, furthering their overall technical sophistication. Bentley was purchased by Volkswagen in 1998, and has benefited from the financial and technical strength of their new parent company. Today the Bentley reputation has recaptured much of the original passion for beauty and performance that originally defined their vehicles.