A few years ago, when I last visited England, I was fortunate enough to book myself a press car for a couple of days. I would have been fine with just about any car, but what I ended up with was a 2008 Bentley Azure. While this car is no longer being produced, here is my account of my time with it. Hope everyone reading will enjoy it:
For a car that is worth more than most people’s houses, you’d expect this car to be the final word in technology, but nothing can be further from the truth. I mean, for starters this car has no telescopic steering wheel (it only tilts), no lazer guided cruise control, no air-conditioned seats, no self closing doors and no folding hard-top roof. All these features can be found on a much, much cheaper Lexus or BMW, not to mention plenty of other cars.
So by this point you must be thinking, rubbish car and wondering what is the point of such an expensive dinosaur?
The truth is, this is not rubbish at all, it is infact quite good. Let me tell you why.
For a start, this is one of the few truly hand-made cars. If you are someone who prefers hand painted art pieces to something that comes out of a printer, you will understand the value of this car. This car goes to show that proper craftsmanship still exists in this world.
Every detail is worked over with painstaking accuracy and the end result would put a smile on anyones face. This car is a celebration of what man can still do with his hands.
Because every detail of this car, from trimming of the seats to the shining of the chrome, is all done by hand, it takes a very long time to put one whole car together. A Dodge Challenger takes just 10 hours to complete, a Porsche 911 takes about 40 hours to put together, even the more mass produced Bentley Continental GT takes 200 hours to finish, but an Azure takes a whopping 450 hours to complete, more if you specify some personel touches. This should give you some idea where the money is going.
Another reason this car is so expensive is because of its hand-made 6.75-liter, twin-turbo, V8 engine. This old unit can be found in many power trims in the Arnage, and in the limited edition Brooklands coupe this engine produces 530hp. In the Azure however, you get 450hp, and a simply colossal 645 lb/ft of torque at 1800 rpm, which is more than enough to melt the tires away.
So despite this car having a gross vehicle weight of 3065kg, it will still rocket you down the road like a gazelle that has just spotted a lion in the bushes. In other words, 0-100 km/h is achieved in 5.6 seconds, and if you can find a long enough stretch of road that is empty and void of police officers (good luck finding that) it will max out at 275 km/h. That makes it supercar fast, but don’t go thinking this is a supercar. Sure it has the power but it uses it in a more gentlemanly manner.
That power is sent to a six-speed automatic with semi-automatic shifts with a sports function. Then it sends all its power to just the rear-wheels via a traction-control device that cannot cope with this cars immense torque. So while it sure can act like a mental Italian missile, honestly that is not this cars true character. Hence I think that the semi-automatic gearbox is a bit pointless in this car, because you are never really encouraged to shift down a few gears manually and explore the power. Plus the gear shifting speed is quite lazy, so that further discourages you from any spirited driving. This car is at its best when you are just cruising.
And cruise I did. I picked up the car from the Bentley factory in Crewe, U.K. and immediately set off for Leicester, which is about a two-hour drive away. My first 10-minutes in the car can only be described as tense. First of all, this is a large car, just over 17-feet long. Since I live in Canada where all the cars are left-hand drive, getting used to right-hand drive does take a few minutes. Since I also just got off an overnight flight, I was a bit tired, but my fatigue took a back seat as soon I set off. I had the sat nav (a rather ancient version of which is found here) set for my destination and its fine that it knew how exactly to get there, but since it worked out the shortest route it took me through some of the narrowest roads I had ever seen. I must have been the slowest car headed out of town, but surprisingly no one honked their horn at me so either the British are very friendly or they respected the Azure that much. By the way, if you are wondering, the word Azure stems from a persian word for ‘precious stone’, and hence it was treated as such.
Once on the motorway, I could relax and enjoy what this car is all about, effortless wafting. I relaxed by playing tunes on its excellent stereo system and also by turning those wonderful massaging seats on. On the nearly deserted M6 toll-road, I got passed by a hard charging M3 and an E55, so taking a hint that probably there are no speed cameras on this stretch, I shifted into the “S” setting on the gearbox, pressed the “sport” button on the dash, and mashed my foot into the carpet, and then Oh My Lord, this car picks up speed in a manner that you just don’t expect from a 3-ton car. Just be careful where you open it up, because the brakes on this car are certainly not the best they can be (it surely would benefit from the Brookland coupes carbon ceremic brakes), so you do need some decent space to haul it down. Surprisingly, despite having suspension that give you the plushiest of rides its does keep its composure surprisingly well in the corners, this is where it’s carbon-fibre cruciforms come in to provide not only a nearly scuttle free ride, but also help with stiffening the chassis to aid handling. Best way to drive it fast through tight turns is swinging the tail out just a tad, so you can have a neutral slide. So if you take this big beast by the scruff of its neck, it does handle quite well. However, the steering is not the most informative unit, nor is it the most precise. On the highway I noticed it lacked a solid on-center feel, but you can get used to that.
The interior is very comfortable indeed. Even with the roof down on the motorway, it is comfortable cruising at 70 mph with just the side windows up. Sure there are better convertibles that have less cabin wind turbulance at speed, but the Azure is not bad at all. Front or back, you will not complain about space either, this is a proper four-seater. Plus all the fine leather and perfectly varnished wood (of which you can choose from a selection of seven vaneers) will keep you pleased from the knowledge you are not driving around in a plastic soap-box on wheels.
Personally for me, I would get the biggest joy out of seeing this car parked on the driveway. It is such an impressive, imposing vehicle, you cannot help but feel good about having it. It is also quite a beautiful car and you’ll like it more, the more you look at it and admire its details.
So while it may not be the last word in technology or speed, it is a sensational machine that you can be proud to own. Would I buy one? Well it probably won’t be the first car I’d buy from my $ multi-million lottery win, but perhaps at a later stage in life I could consider one.
I have always had a rather soft spot for Bentley’s all my life and I am happy to say the romance still continues to this day. Thank you Bentley, for making such a great car and making my trip to England one I will never forget.