Note: Time for another blast from the past, and let me take you back to a time when I tested the 2005 Bentley Arnage R. Hope you all enjoy the article:
If cars ruled the world, as in the Disney/Pixar movie “Cars”, certain cars will have certain stature in society. The Toyota Camry will be the accountant, the Mazda RX8 would be the athlete with a drinking problem, and the Spyker C8 Spyder would be a supermodel that can also sing.
In this kingdom of cars, one car that would certainly be a member of the Royal family would be the Bentley Arnage.
Drive this car anywhere and you do get a sense that you are important and of higher stature to others around you in mainstream cars. You also get treated like a celebrity, people pull up along side to just take a look who is driving it, and most people give you the space if you wish to come into their lane, and let you out of side streets without any hassle.
All this makes you feel very special indeed, but does the car do anything for you nearly as much as what others do for you for having one?
Well that is a question I had never been able to answer. I had driven other Bentley’s before, but the Arnage, the flagship sedan, had always been out of reach.
That all changed during Christmas as Bentley Toronto gave me my gift, I finally got to taste what the Arnage is really all about.
What it’s about is class and you can see it in the design. This is an impressive looking sedan with just the right amount of ‘bling.’ There is chrome only where it should be, the wheels look right not over-sized, and that grille is stunning.
So it looks the part on the outside, and you get a similar dose of class as you step inside. Everything is leather-lined in the finest leathers, and the bits that are not covered in leather are fashioned in the finest wood trim you can imagine. Even the carpets are made from lush wool.
There are plenty of gadgets too like sat nav and dvd players for the rear seat occupants, and you get a decent stereo. Of course everything operates electrically, but knowing what does what exactly is a guessing game. For instance, the power mirrors had not one, but two knobs, to control each mirror. Sort of pointless if you ask me. Then all the power windows switches seem to be put upside down so you might think you are putting the window up, but infact are putting it down. And in true British car fashion, two windows were not working on the car I had, perhaps they were on their Christmas vacation.
You also start to notice little things that are missing on this prestige motor, simple things like doors that lock automatically as you start moving, the Arnage doesn’t have that. Even the cheapest VW has that, and since VW owns Bentley, why didn’t they just nick that mechanism from the parts bin?
They could have nicked some other technologically advanced stuff too like active suspension and variable dampers. You do get a sense that what you’re driving is not a car at the cutting edge of technology. In fact this car belongs in another era, a bygone era when the badge mattered more than the car itself.
Thankfully, Bentley does offer a car that is at the peak of what technology can do, the cheaper, more comfortable, more advanced and much faster Continental Flying Spur. That has active suspension, that has active all-wheel drive, semi-automatic gearbox and so many other gadgets I can write a book on it.
So what does the more expensive Arnage has to offer? Why would you buy an Arnage over the Flying Spur?
For a start, this car is the ultimate status symbol. Like I mentioned before, this is car royalty at its very highest level. You drive one of these and you really are the King of the road.
It is a car for those who don’t want something that is too common. This car is very, very expensive ($340,000 in Canada) and is hand-built in tiny numbers by the craftsmen in Crewe, England, where they spend about 450 hours to make each car (in comparison, a Ford Taurus takes 16 hours to make). So it certainly has exclusivity going for it.
Then despite its old world style underpinnings, this car is surprisingly nice to drive. Sure it isn’t an adrenaline rush, but it sure is quick enough and fast enough to surprise a lot of people, including me. I expected this car to be fast, but this 2.5 ton cruise ship surprised me the moment I stepped on that loud pedal on the highway. The Arnage wastes no time in slopping down a gear or two and hurtling you towards the horizon at great speed.
The performance figures don’t tell you the whole story, as a 0-100 km/h time of 6.9 seconds and a top speed of 250 km/h doesn’t sound all that amazing for a car of this caliber, but just the way this big, heavy sedan moves puts a huge smile on your face. My test car was the 2005 Arnage R, which means it had a 6.75-liter V8, which has two turbo chargers. This thus produces 400 hp and 616 lb-ft of torque. If you want even more power, you can opt for the Arnage T which produces 500 hp and a tire-melting 738 lb.ft of torque. The Arnage T will do the 0-100 kph sprint in 5.2 seconds and will top out at 288 kph.
However trust me on this, the last thing you need is more power because this chassis is not exactly the best in the business. Yes, putting the power down in a straight line is fine, but around corners you have to be careful. This is a heavy car and it shows in the corners. There is loads of body roll as you enter the corner and a feeling of instability in longer sweeping corners because you don’t quite know what the rear-end will do. Once you spend enough time with it, you learn how the car reacts to different situations and you begin to enjoy it, even play with it, but this certainly is not the car you just jump in for the first time and start pushing it to its limits.
However, if you have the money to buy one of these, chances are you already have a car for playing around in. Thus I would stick with the less powerful Arnage R, because this will fulfill the purpose just as well as the Arnage T.
This car is best suited for those comfy long distance drives where you simply cruise on the highway and savor in its magic carpet ride.
So, is it a drivers car? Afterall, Bentley’s are marketed as cars for those who like to drive rather than be driven in. That certainly is true of the Continental GT and the Flying Spur, but the Arnage is perhaps better to ride in than drive, so you can sit in the reclining rear seats, play your favorite dvd and melt the miles (sorry kilometers) away.