Cult Cars Road Tests

Cult Cars 18: Bentley Arnage

Time 12 years ago

arnageIf Continental GTs are new-gen Bentley, this is very much the old money choice.

Class, elegance, upstanding dignity – oh, and a huge great slug of none-too-subtle British beef. That’s the Arnage, alright. If Brunel were alive today, he would drive one of these.

Some may be surprised to discover that, despite its stately appearance, it is not prehistoric. This version came along in the 1990s – originally, appearing as the Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph.


Bentley soon got its way, though, and started chucking out the statesmanlike, sedate frippery, cranking up instead the famed Bentley Boy Boldness.

Ridiculous power outputs were matched by the sort of torque figures normally discussed in the context of hydrodams. Tidal wave, indeed, is an apt way of also describing how the mighty Arnage delivers its thrust (never power, dear boy). The right-hand pedal is as sturdy as a railway sleeper, and meters out go that just never stops.

Perched atop high, decadent, plumply-stuffed leather seats, occupants are pushed into them with nothing more dramatic than a creak of the leather they’ve covered in. Like a butler, whatever your request may be, it’s there. No fuss, no histrionics, nothing but the old lady gathering up her skirt and whipping the 100m sprint.

The latest, Last Of Line model, is the most searing. Try this for size: 6.75-litres, two turbos, 500bhp and 0-60mph in 5.2 seconds. It doesn’t stop either, hitting 100mph in 12.1 seconds. And it won’t stop pinning you back until 178mph. Imagine, something this big and heavy, hurtling along so fast. It’s quite a sight.

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But the most dramatic figure is that which is key to its character – 1,000Nm of torque. Available with a mere tickle of the organ pedal throttle. It’s like no other experience you’ll have had in a car – sheer brute force, with so much grunt making such light work of so considerable a bulk of car. And all without ever breaking a sweat.

Remarkably, it even handles. Sure, the body isn’t as dynamically brilliant as a Flying Spur, despite 6,500 spot welds ensuring it’s stiff and sturdy.

But, accept that it’s one to be stroked rather than hustled, and there’s a lot of reward to be had. Steering is crisp, handling direct, grip considerable. It’s old-school sensations with decent levels of modern ability. The connection you have here is something newer cars just can’t offer.


Mind you, it’s plain wrong to chuck it about with real gay abandon. Where’s the dignity, old chap? No, sit back and savour all the trees that have been cut down to bestow decadence upon you.

The best-of-breed cows that have given their life to cover almost every exposed surface. The combination of both this and cutting-edge technology. There’s even an 1,100-watt Naim stereo.

In the rear, guests can tuck into the contents of a cocktail cabined, and munch on the smoked salmon atop unbleached wood veneer picnic tables. Furthermore, if the British weather plays that typical British trick of peeing it down, there are no less than four umbrellas secreted within, to keep the well-maintained barnets just so.

Bentley says the 150 Last Of Line models are almost entirely sold out, despite a £200k price tag. Not that money puts Arnage buyers off – indeed, four-in-five of them happily spend even more, by fitting bespoke bits from the exclusive Mulliner catalogue.

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The Arnage is that sort of car, that sort of brand. There’s no doubting its passing is the end of an era. The days of old Bentleys are almost through.

The company is thus wise to ensure the days of Bentleys for old money Bentley buyers are to be sated. The replacement Mulliner sticks closely to this script. Bentley sure does know its buyers. New and old.

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James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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