Bentley Arnage Origins
It's been a long and winding road from Bentley's adolescent days as an airplane engine producer during World War I to the introduction of one of its signature luxury automobiles eight decades later: the Arnage.
Following the end of the war, Bentley began experimenting with car motors, testing its mettle in some of the foremost European auto races of the day. With engines growing larger and more powerful and a budding worldwide auto craze shifting into high gear, the struggling Rolls Royce brand purchased Bentley in 1931. Unfortunately, the relationship was anything but smooth, with Bentleys being mere copies of what Rolls Royce already manufactured.
Bentley finally found its distinctive place among luxury cars in the early 1980s with the introduction of the Mulsanne Turbo. Other popular and well-received lines followed suit, and in 1998 VW bought Bentley, pouring nearly $2 billion into reviving the name. That same year, Bentley introduced the Arnage, the first completely redesigned model for almost 20 years in both body style and engine muscle.
In 2002, to celebrate Queen Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee, Bentley fashioned the reigning monarch's official State Limousine, containing a twin-turbocharged 6.75-liter V-8 engine modified from the Arnage R. The Arnage was also featured prominently in the 1999 Pierce Brosnan heist film, "The Thomas Crown Affair."About the Bentley Arnage
In previous decades, the same 6.75-liter V-8 engine powered all Bentleys. After culling several choices, among those the GM Premium V engine and a Mercedes-Benz V-8 engine, the Bentley makers settled on BMW for the job. The new Arnage would be saddled with a special twin-turbo version of the 4.4-liter BMW V-8 with Cosworth-engineered twin-turbo installation.
From a technical standpoint, the BMW-powered Arnage is decidedly more modern, and significantly more fuel efficient; equipped with 32 double overhead-valve camshafts, along with twin-turbo Bosch electronic engine-management technology. These changes directly contrast the previous 16-valve, single turbo, archaic pushrod motor with less advanced engine management.
Bentley released Red and Green labels in 1999, both with stiffer body shells, larger wheels, and a more refined braking system (all implemented to handle a heavier engine). Other improvements to the vehicle's design and handling include a standard pop-up Alpine navigation system, dual rear- and front-park distance control, improved back-seat leg room, the addition of power-folding exterior mirrors, and precision modification to the steering rack to help reduce steering effort at low speeds.
In its 11-year run, from 1998 to 2009, the Arnage racked up a lion's share of industry accolades, with most critics praising its impeccable image and overall quality. The Royal Automobile Club of England even went so far as to call the Arnage the finest car ever produced under the Bentley name.Bentley Arnage Features
For the farewell of the celebrated Arnage, Bentley pulled out the stops in terms of performance, comfort, and vehicle design as a way of giving its prized model a stylish send off. Combining the sophistication of the Arnage R with the performance of the Arnage T, the 2009 version (known exclusively as the Final Series) was served up as the ultimate expression of class-leading luxury mixed with natural power.
Able to accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds, the Final Series came loaded with a 500 horsepower, twin-turbocharged 6.8-liter V-8 with 738 lb-ft of torque, a six-speed automatic transmission with sports function, and an adaptive/auto-leveling suspension including stiffer road springs, anti-roll bars, and revised damper tuning for better handling. This Arnage reached a top speed of 179 mph.
For the interior, buyers could choose between walnut, oak, bird's-eye maple, and black-lacquer interior trim to complement the numerous leather options. Additional features included diamond-quilted leather seats, a GPS navigation system, a power-adjustable tilt steering wheel with cruise-control buttons, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated/powered seats in the front and rear, and even a back-seat cocktail cabinet with "Final Series" labeled steel flask and shot glasses, two picnic tables finished in unbleached veneers, four Bentley umbrellas, and—in case that's not quite enough—an 1100-watt Naim audio system with an SD memory-card slot instead of a CD player. And, of course, an optional iPod-integration unit was available.
In terms of safety, the Arnage included a back-up camera on the Final Series, along with side curtain airbags, front and rear side-impact airbags, front and rear sonar sensors, an anti-lock braking system, electronic stability control, and traction control.
Pricing for the 2009 Bentley Arnage Final Series began at approximately $280,000.Bentley Arnage Evolution
During 1999 and 2000, Bentley released Red and Green labels of the Arnage respectively. With the Bentley model's recognizable Winged B logo embedded against a Red background (the Green version would be altered similarly), the Red version's engine bay is fitted with the common turbo-charged 6.75-liter V-8, while a 4.5-liter V-8 powers the Green. In the end, the Green's engine design offers more agility from a driver's perspective (better vehicular balance and less curb weight by more than 600 pounds), is ultimately more reliable, and remains less expensive to service. Still, by 2002, Bentley ceased production on both models.
The Arnage RL, released in 2001, featured an entirely reworked version of the Red's standard 6.75-liter V-8 with most of its parts made up of a Bosch Motronic ME7.1.1 engine management system in place of the old Zytek system. It also had two small Garrett T3 turbochargers instead of the single large T4. This newly designed, fully electronic engine gives the RL a sturdy 405 horsepower and a torque of 835.
In 2002, the last of the Red labels hit the market, known only as the R. In contrast to the Arnage T's sportier design (465 hp; 875 torque), this model appealed to families with young children, most notably due to the installation of ISOfix child-seat mounting points in the rear of the car. Like the RL, the R featured two Garrett T3 turbochargers under its hood.
In 2007, both the Arnage R and the T received slight power upgrades, their engines being matched with a version of the six-speed ZF automatic transmission found in Bentley's Continental line. Low-inertia Mitsubishi units, designed to improve engine response, replaced the Garrett turbochargers. With all said and done, the T topped out at 500 hp and the R at 460 hp.
A year later, the fully-loaded powertrain of the T found its way into Bentley's last version of the Arnage to roll off the assembly line: the Final Series.