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Bentley Prepping for Change (2/24/2002)
CAPE TOWN, South Africa — The sun beats down mercilessly as we race east on the coastal road out of Cape Town. The southern tip of Africa is a land of extremes, vast plains interrupted by towering cliffs, lush forests opening onto scraggy brush. A baboon darts across the roadway, wildebeests and ostriches briefly interrupt their grazing to gaze up as we roar by.
South Africa is a long way to go to test-drive a new car. But the Bentley Arnage T isn’t your average automobile. It’s not just the latest from the stately British automaker, but a vehicle Bentley officials are calling their “bridge car.”
forumFour years ago, a bitter bidding war broke up the
seven-decade pairing of Bentley and its sister division, Rolls-Royce. In recent
decades, the two marques’ products have been virtual clones, but that’s about to
change. Come December, Rolls will become the property of BMW, while Bentley’s
new owner, Volkswagen AG, hopes to broaden the appeal of the brand with a range
of new products. That includes the upcoming, $150,000 GT Coupe that will make
its debut during the upcoming Geneva Motor Show.
The Coupe will take aim at a younger, hipper, and slightly less affluent buyer, positioning Bentley directly against high-volume luxury brands, such as Mercedes-Benz. It should also yield significant increases in volume.
The Arnage line won’t go away, however, and will remain one of the most exclusive nameplates on the market. Which raises a fundamental question: is the Arnage T worth the price, which is expected to come in around $235,000 when it hits U.S. shores later this year? To find out, TheCarConnection spent 34 hours traveling to the other side of the globe.