Car reviews - Bentley - Arnage - sedan range
Performance, brakes, ride/handling, cachet value
Room for improvement
Small boot for this leviathan
15 Dec 2006
By LUC BRITTEN
FRANKLY, we've had enough of the global alarm bells.
We know the planet is warming at an alarming rate. Icebergs have been spotted floating off New Zealand. Al Gore has sprung back into our consciousness as an environmental policeman.
It's all grim news.
Any particularly day we are being warned, chastised and brow-beaten from all quarters as we're told our civilisation is hurtling towards an abyss because we're destroying the planet with greenhouse emissions.
Is it any wonder we're all suffering some global shell-shock from the doom-sayers.
And what about the car industry? Everyone's pointing the finger at the car giants over where they've gone wrong and what they should do about it.
Based on these grim tidings, a pessimist would buy a bicycle. An optimist, however, would step and out buy a Bentley Arnage.
The Arnage is that type of car. It elicits optimism and good will. It soothes the soul.
And the day Bentley dumps the Arnage's obscenely large thumping twin-turbo 6.75-litre V8 and replaces it with an electric hybrid engine will be our day of reckoning.
In its 2007 guise, the Arnage is, quite simply, a superb piece of engineering and craftsmanship that deserves a place in our automotive world.
Given that it was first launched in 1998, the current Arnage shape has worn surprisingly well and that will be a good thing leading into a resources-plundered future because things like the Arnage's acres of superb veneer and hand-picked leather hides will be tradeable commodities.
Take the veneer. Up to 6.2 square-metres of the stuff is used in every standard Arnage, each wood-set taking about 60 hours to complete.
Then there are 27 colours in the standard range of leather hides available, although Bentley says it can match almost any colour you choose.
The leathers are sourced from cattle in northern Europe, where it is said they are less prone to imperfections in the hides.
Apart from the veneer and leather, there is a lot to love about the latest Arnage range – the T, R and RL – perhaps most importantly, the stately impact the huge 5.6-metre long car has in traffic.
An S-class Mercedes and 7 Series Bimmer would provide you with plenty of modern technology, but the Arnage literally smashes you in the face with its street presence and cache.
With this presence is also power.
The Arnage T's twin-turbo 6.75-litre V8 has come in from some minor tweaks to lift power to 373kW at 4200rpm and 1000Nm at 3200rpm, via a silky six-speed ZF automatic. It is astonishingly quick.
Power and torque is up 11 per cent and 14 per cent respectively over the outgoing model, providing a top speed of 288km/h and 0-100km/h acceleration in 5.5 seconds - impressive for a vehicle tipping the scales at 2585kg.
The Arnage R and RL also gain more power and torque, now 336kW at 4100rpm and 875Nm from 1800rpm.
The changes mean the R hits 100km/h in 5.8 seconds and has a top speed of 270km/h, while the long-wheelbase RL – with an extra 250mm wheelbase and 350mm of overall length - takes six seconds to reach 100km/h but has the same top speed as the R.
The RL has a wheelbase of 3366mm and overall length of 5640mm - significantly longer than Holden's Statesman, which is 5160mm long and has a wheelbase of 3009mm.
Bentley claims the Arnage T is a "true driver's car" designed to handle as crisply as a much-smaller luxury rival.
And it makes a pretty damn fine effort at doing so. On some winding roads around Sydney's northern beaches the Arnage T coped admirally with the coarse and bumpy roads, soaking bumps with distain and flying around hairpins with surprising confidence.
Because of its size you do not expect the T to handle as well as it does. This is in part due to the addition of the optional Mulliner additions of the "sports combination" suspension, a cool $36,108.04.
Floor the accelerator and it will pick up its skirts and hurtle to 100km/h and beyond in the blink on an eye, emitting a delicious burble from the quad exhausts.
The sports suspension is adept at completely isolating what's happening at ground level, while the steering offers tidy turn-in and good feedback.
You're left with an overwhelming impression that the Arnage T is on the one hand a uber-luxury limousine, but on the other, quite a tidy little unit.
Apart from power and torque upgrades the 2007 models also benefit from a raft of safety, interior and design improvements.
Every Arnage gains tyre pressure monitoring, a Bluetooth-integrated telephone and improved driver ergonomics via a 25mm increase in the length of the steering column and greater vertical adjustment.
The Arnage RL gains a rear centre armrest bottle-cooler, veneered rear centre cushion box, a rear telephone system and a reversing camera.
As well, there are new alloy wheel designs across the range, new paint colours and interior trim options, as well as an optionally retractable bonnet mascot.
The T also had the optional dark aluminium inserts on the dash and doors, costing $8510.17.
Apart from the tyre monitoring system, other safety improvements include a new ESP system that improves dynamic response and is less intrusive.
For 2007 the sports suspension and sports gearbox settings have also been separated, allowing the driver to independently select their preferences.
Inside, the driver sits quite upright and the view across the bonnet is almost like an SUV. You step up and into an Arnage, sinking quickly into the beautifully stitched and supportive leather armchairs.
The old-fashioned dashboard and upright A-pillar may hark back to another era but it fits perfectly with the Arnage image. The meaty 19-inch five-spoke alloys and massive tyres also look the part.
Out back, there is a massive amount of rear legroom and headroom. But given the car's size, we were surprised the boot was not a tad bigger. We suspect that the average Arnage customer owns more than one car, however.
We embrace the Arnage because we understand that apart from being a blatant display of wealth, it's a blatant display of optimism.
To borrow a phrase made famous by former world champion boxer Muhammad Ali, the Arnage T floats like a butterfly but stings like a bee.
And if ever there was an optimist, it was Muhammad Ali.
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