Can there be any better combination of automotive attributes than luxury and speed? While quite a few cars deliver these qualities, no machine combines them quite like this one, the Bentley Arnage T. It’s an over-the-top expression of wealth and acceleration. But that’s only part of the story. And with the protracted and rather convoluted struggle that took place several years ago between Volkswagen and BMW over the ownership of the renowned Rolls-Royce and Bentley marques, that story took on the makings of a mystery thriller. And while the conclusion of this story has yet to be finalized, BMW will acquire full ownership of Rolls-Royce in 2003, while Volkswagen will retain ownership of Bentley and launch a new Bentley product line that same year. One of the successful subplots is this 2002 Bentley Arnage T.
This new Series Two Arnage T, sporting a nearly complete make over, also hints at the direction the sequel to this story is headed. As the Volkswagen group intends to sharpen Bentley’s focus on its impressive racing and performance history and reflect that past more clearly in its future product line.
And that hint is not a subtle one. For under the hood of the Arnage T is a fire-breathing 6.75 liter V8 that produces 450 horsepower and a crushing 645 pound-feet of torque. First introduced in 1970, the 6.75 liter engine has gone through almost total renovation, including the addition of a drive-by-wire throttle, and not one but now two turbochargers, all to meet the needs of 21st century power-hungry drivers, and exhaust emissions.
This torque monster hurls the 5700 pound Arnage to 60 in 5.4 seconds and through the quarter mile in 13.8 seconds at 105 MPH. Bentley claims that the Arnage T is the world’s fastest production saloon, that’s sedan to us, and of that we have no doubt, as the T trims almost a full second off the 0 to 60 time of the speedy Arnage Red Label There is a very slight bit of turbo lag at launch that accentuates the throttle’s on/off feel. But as soon as the tach hits 2200 rpm, you’re hammered back into the seat and held there until the engine reaches its rather modest 4600 rpm redline. All that power makes its way to the rear wheels through a GM supplied 4-speed automatic, and it handles it well. Shifts are crisp yet smooth, but some of our driver’s kept searching for a manual shift mode.
Gathering in the Arnage T’s forward momentum is aptly handled by ABS-governed 4- wheel disc brakes with large 13.7 inch vented discs up front, 13.5 inch in the rear. We averaged stops from 60 in an excellent 119 feet. Although there is a considerable amount of nose dive, stability is first rate as the car tracks straight and true. A benefit no doubt due to not only its superb braking system, but also its newly reinforced chassis. Torsional rigidity has been increased and the suspension system has been completely revised without a significant gain in weight.
The independent suspension uses rubber isolated wishbones at the front and rear along with computer-controlled active electro-hydraulic dampers to keep the Arnage ride smooth and controlled. The system includes a switch for sport mode and there’s automatic ride height control. The sport setting tightens up the highway ride considerably. But on our tester we found that setting induced quite a bit of suspension noise, especially on secondary roads. And while this may be the best handling Arnage to come down the pike, it’s still no sports car. The Arnage’s light steering makes it easy enough to pilot the car through the cones, but switch off the electronic stability and traction control, and push it aggressively and with all that power on tap, it’s oversteer city. Best leave the ESP on and enjoy a stress-free, but still very sporting, ride.
Of course it’s hard to get too stressed when you’re cocooned in an environment rich in diamond-stitched Connolly leather, Wilton carpets, and exquisite wood trim. The T fittingly has engine-turned aluminum trim around the dash and on the doors. Bentley’s new focus may be performance, but it’s not about to forget the opulent side of its heritage. That’s really apparent as soon as you slide into the handsome, if classically styled, cockpit, where a full range of power goodies are at your disposal. Like power adjustable heated seats that are designed and built in-house, and an electronically adjustable steering column. There’s also a flip-up DVD driven GPS navigation system and a concert quality audio system with 6-disc CD changer. And, of course, automatic climate controls.
On the safety front, you’ll find the latest complement of front and side impact airbags, as well as full length side curtain air bags. And front and rear parking distance control sensors will help you navigate in close quarters.
Your back seat passengers will be coddled by electrically adjustable heated seats, fold down tray tables and plenty of room to stretch out. In addition to performance and luxury, another Bentley tradition that the Arnage T carries on is stratospheric pricing. Price of admission to the Arnage T club is a stately $228,900. But then again, good breeding isn’t expected to come cheap.
As we stated earlier, according to head honchos at Volkswagen, the new 2002 Bentley Arnage T is just a hint as to what’s in store for the Bentley brand. Indeed, new Arnage Red Label and Arnage long wheelbase models are just around the corner. As for us, we don’t care what color the label is. As long as it builds upon the speed, power, and luxury demonstrated by the new Bentley Arnage T, you can color us gone!
Engine: 6.75 Liter V8
Torque: 645 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 5.4 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 13.8 Seconds @ 105 MPH
60-0 MPH: 119 Feet
EPA Mileage: 11 MPG City 16 MPG Highway