Even the great motorcars dont last forever. Like lesser vehicles, the posh Bentleys from Britain are subject to alterations in corporate structure. A different breed of Bentley will soon enter the international scene. 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 sums than those by Rolls-Royce. 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. 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.
Meanwhile, a Series Two range of the Arnage sedan has been launched for the 2003 model year. The final lineup includes a sporty Arnage T, a grand-touring Arnage R and an especially luxurious Arnage RL.
Engineering enhancements for the Series Two Arnage sedan include body stiffening and a revised suspension. An ESP electronic stability system is installed. Side-impact and side curtain-type airbags are new. In the Extreme Sport Arnage T, the twin-turbocharged 6.75-liter V-8 engine generates 450 horsepower and 645 pounds-feet of torque. Beneath other Arnage bonnets, the power plant is rated at 400 hp.
Largely hand-built, the basic Bentley sedan is essentially the same as the Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph but with a slightly different appearance and several unique features. Buyers can either choose from factory body colors or specify a custom hue.
Arnage T sedans get a sport-tuned suspension, 19-inch alloy wheels with Pirelli P-Zero tires and dechromed exterior trim with front fog lights. A separate engine-start button is mounted on the center console. The grand-touring Arnage R has a comfort-tuned suspension and 18-inch wheels. The top-of-the-line Arnage RL rides a wheelbase thats stretched 10 inches to give even more space to backseat occupants.
The outside mirrors can be folded in electronically, when required, and feature electrochromatic glass to reduce night glare. A satellite-based navigation system with a 3-D horizon view is standard. A 26.4-gallon fuel tank is installed for good reason, as fuel economy is not a reason to buy a Bentley.
Bentley buyers may choose walnut, oak, birds-eye maple or black lacquer interior trim to complement what the company calls grade-A hide upholstery, which is available in a palette of colors. Tucked amid all this traditional luxury are several technological treats. A satellite-linked navigation system includes a screen that pops up from the dashboard when in use but is concealed when its off. The drivers seat automatically moves rearward to ease entry and exit, and both sides of the rear seat also shift positions.
Under the Hood
In regular form, Bentleys twin-turbocharged 6.75-liter V-8 engine develops 400 hp; output jumps to 450 hp in the Arnage T. Both engines work with a four-speed-automatic transmission.
Antilock brakes and traction control are standard. Side-impact and side curtain-type airbags are newly standard for 2003.