Sunday 2 July 2006

Road Test: Bentley Azure

Our first road test on this site.

It’s the world’s most expensive and exclusive convertible, and a car that’s as British as afternoon tea at London’s Ritz Hotel. The Bentley Azure has been in production at the factory in Crewe, Che­shire, since 1995. Now, there’s a new version that’s set to grace the globe’s trendiest resorts from August, when the first customers take delivery.A massive 875Nm of torque en­sures the car offers incredible acceleration, despite its 2,695kg weight Based on the latest Arnage, the Azure uses the same 6.75-litre twin-turbo V8 as the saloon and retains the unique Bentley character of effortless power. Revving to 4,500rpm, the cabrio has a seamless four-speed auto gearbox to drive the rear wheels. A massive 875Nm of torque en­sures the car offers incredible acceleration, despite its 2,695kg weight. From 0-60mph, it’s four-tenths of a second quicker than the outgoing Azure, recording the sprint in 5.9 seconds. However, Bentley’s engineers have also concentrated on body stiffness, which is crucial for a roofless car of such vast dimensions. As well as traditional strengthening in the sills, A-pillars and underbody, the Azure has two carbon fibre crossmembers linking the front and rear sub-frames. Bentley says this design is an industry first. The system provides an impressive level of rigidity, and there’s barely any scuttle shake or body twist. Compared with the previous version, torsional strength has increased by 300 per cent. And, crucially, this has refined the ride, as the Arnage R-sourced all-wishbone suspension offers a superbly cushioned driving experience. The classic floating Bentley ride is a constant, while the Sport button tightens the active dampers to reduce this vertical movement. While the latest Azure’s weight and dimensions – it’s 5,530mm long – make it far from agile, handling is safe and stability good. Body roll is controlled well, and the steering is acceptable. The driving experience is compromised slightly by a soft brake-pedal action, although the ride and refinement are now both highly impressive. That’s partly because of the hood. When it’s raised, wind noise is no greater than in the saloon. The head­lining is completely smooth and even includes a rear reading light – a first for an open-topped car. Constructed of triple-layer fabric, it is fully automated and operates very quietly at driving speeds up to 20mph. The cabin has the traditional dash from the Arnage, while beautiful hand-polished wood, sumptuous leather and thick carpets create a luxurious feel. However, due to the coupé-like windscreen angle, the Arnage’s lofty perch seats have been replaced by the Continental GT’s lower chairs. So, while there’s no reach adjustment on the steering wheel, the driving position is accommodating, and there’s plenty of rear legroom. The entire cabin exudes opulence from a bygone age, but you get few hi-tech toys, except a DVD sat-nav in the dashboard. Yet, as with all Bentleys, bespoke Azure buyers can choose from a huge range of colours, hood fabrics, woods and options. Costing an eye-watering £222,300 and with virtually limitless scope for personalisation, the Azure is set to grace the world’s top locations and remain the most exclusive car money can buy.

First Opinion:

With its bespoke craftsmanship and traditional opulence, the Azure is a Bentley in every sense. The styling and 6.75-litre V8 powerplant reflect that heritage, too. But don’t be fooled. The Crewe manufacturer’s engineers have done an excellent job of improving body stiffness. As a result, the ride and refinement on the new model are very impressive.

At A Glance:

The triple-layer fabric of the Azure’s roof ensures superb sound insulation. And, despite the hood’s impressive size, it folds neatly and quickly into a panel behind the back seats. It then lies flush with the bootlid.

The process takes about 14 seconds.

Engine: 6.75-litre V8, 450bhp0-60mph: 5.9 seconds.

Top speed: 168mph.

Price: £222,500.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...