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Car reviews - Bentley - Arnage - sedan range

Launch Story

Bentley logo15 Dec 2006

By LUC BRITTEN

IN a true British blueblood fashion, the VW Group-owned Bentley brand goes about its business in an understated way.

It may well be owned by the Germans, but the company handles its business in a traditional low-key way of "continuous improvement", which is evident in the 2007 flagship Arnage range.

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, mated to a silky six-speed ZF automatic.

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 a zero to 100km/h 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 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.

Apart from power and torque upgrades the 2007 Arnage range benefits from safety, interior and design improvements.

Every Arnage gains tyre pressure monitoring, 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, rear telephone system and a reversing camera.

As well, there are new alloy designs across the range, paint colours and interior trim options, as well as an optionally retractable bonnet mascot.

Apart from the tyre monitoring system, other safety improvements include a new ESP system that improves dynamic response and is less intrusive.

Bentley's public relations manager for South-East Asia and Australasia, James Barclay, said the Arnage buyer was a particularly loyal Bentley owner even though just 700 were sold globally last year out of the company's 8500 output.

"It is the pinnacle of the range," he said.

However, despite the fact that the Arnage range starts around $505,000 in Australia, Mr Barclay said Bentley was keenly aware of its competition but would remain exclusive.

Exclusive in Bentley-speak means that this year's production output of 9000 vehicles is its expected to remain the company's production ceiling.

"It is important for us to be profitable without going 'mass market'," he said.

"It is for that reason that we would never do a Flying Spur with a smaller engine or less spec.

"Our customers find that appealing and exclusive.

"We talk about the idea of making one car less than demand."

Mr Barclay said Bentley "could" manufacture 20,000 cars a year but it was not part of the company philosophy.

Bentley's most important market remains North America, where the bulk of this year's output will be sold, followed by the UK and Japan.

The company has come a long way since 2003, when it was struggling, building just 1000 cars.

In 2003 the Volkswagen Group became Bentley's salvation, grabbing the name and setting about resurrecting the brand with new products like the Continental GT, the first car delivered under the stewardship of VW.

VW paid 750 million Euros ($A1.2 billion) as part of a complex deal that also saw BMW claim ownership of British brand Rolls-Royce.

VW brought the latest technology and manufacturing processes to the old-world Bentley environment, which are still manufactured at Crewe in the UK, although some of the GT models do go down the same line at Dresden in Germany as the Phaeton.

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