Like strapping rocket boosters to a house

When you’re an automaker that’s nearly a century old, playing catch up isn’t always easy. The problem lies in mixing tradition with innovation, striking a balance between the things that brought success in the past, and the things that are required by the future. The full-size Arnage T sedan manages to find such an equilibrium, but it does so through somewhat shocking means. The essentials are all present and correct, with an abundance of class, style, and luxury permeating throughout. But along with these Bentley basics comes an unprecedented need for speed, courtesy of nearly 7 liters of displacement, two turbochargers, and sporty suspension tuning. The result is an old-school throwback with modern bite.

Named after a corner at the Circuit de la Sarthe, home to the world-famous 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, the Arnage arrived at a time of upheaval within Bentley. Anxiety over a buyout by Volkswagen left many wondering where the marque would head next, but the Arnage answered by becoming Bentley’s best-selling model.

At launch, the Arnage T was the first Bentley designed wholly by computer, and it was the first Bentley to use engine components from VW. These steps forward certainly had their benefit, though, as for a while, the Arnage T was not only the most powerful road-going four-door to bear a winged B, but it was also the fastest sedan in the world.

Essentially, the Arnage T mixes classic British luxury with contemporary expectations. Read on to see how it all played out.

Continue reading to learn more about the Bentley Arnage T.

History And Background

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Prior to 1998, Rolls-Royce and Bentley vehicles were produced under Vickers plc, and after nearly two decades without a new model, the luxury brands were in desperate need of something fresh.

Bentley Arnage, which was introduced in the spring of 1998 as a replacement for the Mulsanne.

The answer was the Bentley Arnage, which was introduced in the spring of 1998 as a replacement for the Mulsanne. Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce badged the new sedan as the Silver Seraph, replacing the Silver Spirit. Bentley vehicle production was relocated, with assembly of the body moved to a factory in Crewe, and engine assembly moved elsewhere.

Prior to the introduction of the Arnage, Bentley relied chiefly on its 6.75-liter V-8 for motivation. This old pushrod powerplant was essentially a carryover from a design first penned in the late ‘50s, so to replace it, BMW was called upon for its 4.4-liter V-8. To the 4.4-liter, Bentley added a twin-turbocharger system from Cosworth, which was a subsidiary of Vickers at the time. Output was rated at 350 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque.

However, just as Arnage models began to roll off the assembly line, BMW and Volkswagen became embroiled in a convoluted buy-out of the Bentley marque, and Bimmer threatened to halt supplies of the 4.4-liter V-8. VW eventually won, but the spat hurt sales, so Volkswagen decided to return to Bentley’s roots by dusting off the old-school 6.75-liter V-8, mating it with a four-speed automatic transmission, and creating the Arnage Red Label.

Because the Arnage was created specifically to use the smaller 4.4-liter BMW engine, Bentley added a stiffer body, bigger wheels, and better brakes to compensate for the 6.75-liter’s extra girth and output. The final package was significantly faster in a straight line, but offered degraded handling, less efficiency, and poorer reliability.

However, these issues weren’t terribly impactful when it came to public reception, and a variety of iterations and special editions would follow, including the Arnage Green Label for the 2000 model year, and the Arnage Birkin between 2000 and 2001.

2001 also saw the release of the Arnage RL, which was essentially a second-generation model with nearly 10 inches added to wheelbase. The growth spurt was mainly around the C-pillar and rear doors, which added a good deal of space to the rear seating area. The RL also came with high levels of customization, and a retuned suspension, plus a slew of armored variants for VIPs.

When it was first introduced at the Detroit Motor Show, the Arnage T was said to be the most powerful road-going Bentley in existence.

The RL also introduced yet another version of the 6.75-liter V-8. Over half the components on the freshened engine were new, including the electronic engine management system, and the turbochargers. Output was rated at 400 horsepower and 616 pound-feet of torque.

Finally, in 2002, Bentley launched the sporty Arnage T, as well as a slightly detuned variant called the Arnage R. When it was first introduced at the Detroit Motor Show, the Arnage T was said to be the most powerful road-going Bentley in existence.

In 2005, Bentley updated the styling to coincide with the Continental GT. Then in 2007, the Arnage was refreshed with more updates to the 6.75-liter V-8, plus a new transmission.

More special editions would follow, including the Le Mans edition, which celebrated the brand’s return to the race after seven decades on the sidelines, and the Diamond Series, which celebrated 60 years of production at the Bentley factory in Crewe.
Production of the Arnage ceased in 2009 with the Final Series. In its stead, Bentley introduced the new Mulsanne at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

Exterior

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2002 Bentley Arnage T
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2002 Bentley Arnage T
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As previously stated, the Arnage T is a strange mash-up of the archaic and the modern, with many of the upgrades added being long overdue by current standards. These included power-folding side mirrors, HID headlights (with covers made from plastic, rather than glass), and 19-inch wheels.

That said, the Arnage T still looks like a classic Bentley. The lines are simple, squared-off, uncluttered, and classy. Starting at the front fascia, there’s a large upright grille that’s flanked on either side by dual rounded headlights, all of which is underlined by a smaller grille section. The front overhang is short, while the rear overhang is long. The hood line and trunk line seem to extend for days past the cabin, and the whole thing exudes elegance without the need to shout.

And one more thing – this car is big, no matter how you slice it, which makes it a bit tricky to maneuver in crowded areas. But that should be the concern of the chauffer, no?

Exterior Dimensions
Wheelbase 3,118 mm (122.77 inches)
Length 5,394 mm (212.37 inches)
Width 1,932 mm (76.06 inches)
Height 1,516 mm (59.69 inches)

Interior

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Of course, Bentley doesn’t build cars to be admired from afar – at the end of the day, these machines are made primarily for transportation enjoyment.

The Arnage T remains true to this idea, albeit from the perspective of luxurious speed. For starters, there’s lots of space in back (although probably not as much as you’d expect given its titanic dimensions), plus an almost crypt-like level of ambient noise. Per Bentley tradition, customers were offered abundant opportunities for individualization, including custom stitching, carpeting, wood trim, and door panel coverings. There’s liberal use of leather upholstery and chrome trim throughout, plus numerous flying B badges.

The whole thing looks and feels handcrafted, because, for the most part, it is.

To add to these traditional characteristics, the Arnage T throws in the kind of modern equipment you’d expect. The center console gets a standard audio system and Alpine navigation, both of which are covered up by a wood panel that folds down for a cleaner look. The seats are electrically adjustable, and there’s an assortment of gauges studding the dash.

When it was first offered, the Arnage T came with a surprisingly tight ride, as the suspension was no doubt stiffened to compensate for the monster engine lurking under the hood. Thankfully, Bentley seems to have improved this throughout its life cycle.

Drivetrain

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The Arnage T uses a longitudinally mounted, front-engine, RWD drivetrain layout. At launch, it came equipped with an updated version of the famous twin-turbo (guess what the “T” stands for) Rolls-Royce 6.75-liter V-8. Output when new was rated at 460 horsepower and an earth-twisting 645 pound-feet of torque. Max boost pressure was 13 psi.

At launch, it came equipped with an updated version of the famous twin-turbo (guess what the “T” stands for) Rolls-Royce 6.75-liter V-8.

At full boil, the Bentley could hit 60 mph in 5.5 seconds, 100 mph in 13.5 seconds, and scorch the quarter mile in 14.1 seconds at 102 mph. Top speed was rated at a world-beating 170 mph, making it the fastest sedan available to the general public. Routing the muscle was a four-speed automatic transmission from General Motors.

The Arnage T was refreshed for the 2007 model year. The turbos were replaced with new, smaller units from Mitsubishi, upping throttle response. Engine displacement was also increased to 6.8-liters. These tweaks yielded a sizable increase to output, with final figures rated at 493 horsepower at 4,200 rpm and 738 pound-feet of torque at 3,200 rpm. The extra power also cut into the acceleration figures, dropping the 0-to-60 mph time to 5.2 seconds, and upped top speed to a bewildering 179 mph.

However, all this speed came at the cost of atrocious fuel economy – think low teens for mpg. On the highway. Emissions were equally awful.

But that’s to be expected from a luxury liner that’ll pin you in your seat with a brush of the throttle.

Chassis And Handling

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Speaking of boats, the Arnage T is absurdly heavy, tipping the scales at well over 2.5 metric tons (5,750 pounds).

That is a lot of mass to move around, but the Arnage manages relatively impressive performance numbers nonetheless. According to Car And Driver, braking from 70 mph to a standstill takes 182 feet, while 0.79 g is achieved on the skidpad.

The steering rack included updates for more assistance at low speeds, while multiple driving modes for the drivetrain and electronically controlled dampers could be dialed in for either greater performance, or enhanced comfort.

Pirelli is used for rubber duties, dishing out traction though 255/45ZR19 P Zero tires.

Safety And Convenience

In addition to the obvious safety benefits of sheer size and mass, the Arnage is also equipped with modern amenities like park distance control (both front and back). There are also standard airbags, and electronic aides like stability control.

Prices

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When new, the Bentley Arnage T started at roughly $230,000 – and that’s before options and customization, both of which could pad the bottom-line with gusto.

These days, you can pick up a decent used example for roughly $50,000 to $70,000, while newer, low-mileage examples go for between $80,000 and $100,000.

While that may seem like a pretty good deal for a car that originally cost almost a quarter million bucks, it should be remembered that nothing is cheap when you get into a Bentley – insurance, maintenance, and even the amount of gas this thing sucks down can quickly outpace savings gained on the initial buy.

Competition

Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph

1998 - 2002 Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph
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Introduced alongside the Bentley Arnage, the Silver Seraph is closely related in terms of style, class, and luxury, but replaces the fire-breathing 6.75-liter V-8 with a 5.4-liter V-12 from BMW. Pricing when new, however, was equally eye watering, starting at $220,695.

Read the full review here.

Mercedes Benz S600

2015 Mercedes-Benz S600 High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Unlike the more traditional Arnage, this flagship German four-door came with all the bells and whistles you could ask for at the time, including cell phone integration and even web access. Behind the three-pointed star lies a 5.8-liter V-12 that makes 362 horsepower, good enough for a run to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds. And compared to the Bentley, the Merc was surprisingly affordable, starting at a little over $120,000 when new.

Read the full review here.

Conclusion

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If I were to choose one feature that defines the Bentley Arnage T, it would have to its engine. Like the rest of the vehicle, the T’s 6.75-liter V-8 is a throwback to an earlier time, upon which is laid the dressing of the 21st-century. It’s old-school cool, as boosted by modern technology.

And that’s what you get with this thing. It’s endlessly luxurious and obscenely expensive, but at the same time, outrageously quick when asked. It’s slick when cruising, brutish when the hammer falls. It’s the equivalent of a burnout at a garden party. On Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson said the experience behind the wheel was like “riding a brontosaurus… bareback. Actually, make that a t-rex.”

And why not? Why not mix fine wine with a little gasoline? After all, this thing is named after a racing corner – it should have the guts to rattle some sensibilities.

  • Leave it
    • * Expensive in every conceivable way
    • * Not as comfortable as it could be
    • * Faster options for the money
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