Before being acquired by Rolls-Royce in 1931, W.O. Bentley made a name for himself and his cars by terrorizing the circuit at Lemans. Between the years 1924 and 1930, a car bearing the winged B won that grueling race five times. Well, to mark those heady motoring days of yore, Bentley developed this new Arnage. Named after one of the trickiest corners Lemans has to offer, the Arnage strives to capture the passion, performance, and opulence that surrounds this historical race. And, as you’re about to see, it does so…twice.
You see, there are actually two Bentley Arnage models for the 2000 model year, the original “Green” label car introduced last year, and a new “Red” label model. What’s the difference? Well, the most significant one is at the heart of what makes every Bentley such a desirable motor car, under the big, bold, bonnet.
The original Arnage, like its sister the Rolls Royce Silver Seraph, was developed with BMW engines. So the “Green” label Arnage is motivated by a twin-turbo 4.4-liter BMW V-8 producing 350 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque. Power transfer is by way of a 5-speed automatic with traction control. And, even given that the Arnage Green Label weighs in at 5,075 pounds, it’s still more than enough Bavarian juice for a most spirited sprint from 0 to 60 in only 7.0 seconds.
But it bothered Bentley purists that the new engine was smaller and less powerful, and less British, than the antique V-8 that powered the uproariously successful Bentley Turbo R.
Well, it may be ancient but that 6.8-liter, turbocharged, V-8 with an even 400 horsepower and 619 pound-feet of torque looks very much at home below the cap of this 2000 Bentley Arnage Red Label. And it is particularly at home on a straight piece of asphalt. With its 4-speed automatic, Red romps to the same 60 miles per hour in only 6.3 seconds. And the effort is, well, effortless.
But there is much more to these Bentley “hot rods” than just the drivetrain. Compared to the Rolls Royce Silver Seraph, the Arnage chassis is stiffer, with the Red label bettering the Green label by an additional 20%. The unequal-length control arm suspension has been tuned for nimble high-speed touring. Handling credit also is due to the 17-inch tires and rims on the Green Label, and even more so to the super sticky Pirelli P-Zeros on equally serious 6-spoke, 18 inch cast wheels on the Red Label. So equipped the Red Label handles twisty blacktop with the same aplomb as it does straights.
Obedience to driver commands is impeccable. On the road, steering feel is light and a bit numb, yet cornering is quite precise and welcomes an aggressive hand. In fact, this is not a car that likes to be coddled. The ride is slightly firm and you do feel small road imperfections. Yet major pavement shifts and rapid elevation changes are soaked up with less drama than a dish of kidney pie.
Which is not to say the Arnage is not dramatic. Besides its fire breathing performance, this very large luxury barge has the look of a road burner. The front end begins on a high note with a polished brass flying “B” on the bonnet, progressing down to the aggressive stainless steel matrix grille, covered headlamps, and ending with a serious lower fascia spoiler and air intake. Everything about this car makes a statement of powerful panache.
The interior is true to the rule as well. The Bentley traditions of using only the finest woods and cowhides is upheld without question. This is more a parlor than a cockpit. You sit high, and like most British cars, there is never quite enough front leg room, but it is adequate.
Now, you might be a little surprised at some antique-looking fittings like centralized engine gauges and chrome vent knobs. But, once you settle in you will find a modern, thick rimmed, power-tilt steering wheel that fronts a clear, cream-faced speedo and tach. It’s all you need for a rapid getaway.
Behind a door resides an Alpine tuner, with 6-disc CD-changer hidden in the center console. The vent system may look antique, but the digital dual climate control head is totally up- to-date. Convenience additions to the Red Label Arnage include a dash top satellite navigation system and front and rear sonar parking assist. Oh, and one more thing. Through better packaging, Red Label adds four additional inches of leg room to the Green’s already limousine-style rear seat. And if you’re wondering, the luggage space remains the same between the two cars at 14 cubic feet.
But then, you expect everything to be well thought out in any car with a 200 grand price. Actually, $203,800 for the Arnage Green Label, and $209,900 for the Arnage Red Label. While lofty, it is a little less than the less capable, if better known, Rolls Royce Silver Seraph.
But then automotive historians will tell you that W.O. Bentley was never concerned nearly as much with popularity as with performance. That tradition has remained true nearly seven decades after Bentley was acquired by Rolls Royce, and new owners Volkswagen are expected to only further that heritage. So consider the 2000 Bentley Arnage, whether Green or Red, to be the start of a new palette of richly colorful and unique motor cars.
Engine: 3.5 Liter Dohc 24-valve V-6
Torque: 265 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 8.7 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 16.5 Seconds @ 83 MPH
60-0 MPH: 121 Feet