2002 Bentley Arnage Review

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Ian Norris Ian Norris Editor
January 7, 2002

The requirements laid down by their bosses gave the engineers that created the new Bentley Arnage T, unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show on January 7, some difficult targets. The demand was that the latest version of Bentley’s four-door saloon should be able to accelerate from zero to 60 mph in just 5.5 seconds and should have a maximum speed of 170 mph. The task would be difficult because this was a Bentley, with all the size, comfort and luxury associated with the brand. Weighing in at over two tons, the car would be no lightweight. Nevertheless, the engineers were successful, and now Bentley can boast it has the fastest four-door sedan in the world – and we’ve driven it.

The Arnage T is a development of the Red Label Arnage, the sedan Bentley built when it became obvious that the company’s new owners, VW, could not have a car with a BMW engine in their range. The BMW power unit had been introduced in 1998, when Bentley introduced its new four-door for the new millennium. BMW had won the contract to supply engines to Rolls-Royce and Bentley because the company’s existing V-8 was considered too old and Vickers, the British armaments company that owned Bentley and R-R, wasn’t prepared to pay to bring it up to date. In fact Vickers wanted rid of its venture into the luxury car business, and BMW was expected to be the buyer. It wasn’t, as we now know, because VW outbid its rival from Munich. But the Brits had a trick up their sleeves, and arranged that BMW should get Rolls as a consolation prize from 2003.

So VW is putting all its efforts into Bentley, and the first thing it did was to give the engineers the wherewithal to make their classic 6.75-liter V-8 legal. They did this with the Red Label, introduced in late 1999, and sales of the BMW-engined version dropped off a cliff. Now they have gone further, swapping the single Garrett turbocharger of the Red Label for two smaller ones, which give better gas mileage and more power. They’ve also added a new engine management system from Bosch that further adds to power and economy and also assists in making the venerable power unit, considered outdated in the mid-Nineties by Vickers, comply with emissions legislation through till 2005. The result of these modifications is a maximum power of 450 hp and torque that peaks at a massive 645 lb-ft.

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