The luxurious Bentley Arnage was debuted at the Sarthe Circuit in France on the 26th of April of 1998. This was considered fitting because this was the racecourse where Bentley's had finished first place in the legendary '24 Hours of Le Mans' at least five times during their history. The name Arnage was taken from the challenging bend at the famous track. The Arnage measuring 197 inches long, 75 inches wide and featured a curb weight of more than 2.5 metric tons. At one point, it was the fastest and most powerful four-door saloon on the market.
The first of a new generation of sporting Bentleys, the Arnage featured great mid-range pulling power alongside superb levels of refinement. A large luxury vehicle produced by Bentley Motors in Crewe England, the Arnage was introduced in 98 and ran until 2009. Introduced in the spring of 1998 alongside it's Rolls-Royce branded sibling; the Silver Seraph, both were the first brand new designs for the two marques since 1980. Completely breaking from tradition, these new vehicles had bodies constructed at the Crewe factory, with its internal combustion engines built elsewhere.
Some Bentley enthusiasts were unhappy that the vehicle lost the traditional 6750cc V8; a powerplant that could trace its history back to the 1950's, it instead featured a 4.4-liter turbo-charged V8 engine from BMW. The BMW engine, with Cosworth-engineered twin-turbo installation was an excellent unit that delivered tons of power and torque. Diehard Bentley devotees weren't pacified though until September of 1999 when the Volkswagen Group, Bentley's parent company, offered the huge Rolls-Royce 6.8-liter V8 in a new version of the Arnage.
In 1998 during the takeover battle between BMW and Volkswagen Group for possession of Rolls Royce and Bentley Motors, BMW threatened to halt supply of their engines if Volkswagen Group won. This threat was later withdrawn when BMW acquired the right to manufacture the Rolls Royce marque at a new location and it was obvious that Volkswagen couldn't accept the risks association with having their long-term business partner as a rival. In response Volkswagen got ready their old 6.75 liter 16-valve engine from the Turbo R, which they mated to an outdated 4-speed automatic. Unfortunately this combination made for a thirsty engine that wouldn't meet Government-imposed emission standards without quick modifications.
The BMW-powered version was called the Green Label, while the Rolls-Royce engine model was dubbed the Red Label. Both Red and Green Label vehicles received stiffer body shells along with larger wheels and brakes. 2000 model year vehicles were fitted with more powerful brakes while the Green Label model received the 18-inch wheels that were displayed by the more powerful Red Label variant. Because of the extra weight of the British engine the stiffer body shell was a priority, the same with the larger brakes. Unfortunately though despite the larger brakes, the performance only worsened with the additional weight of 6.75 engine. The 1999 Green Label had braking performance from 70-0 at 172 feet while the Arnage T's performance was 182 feet from 70-0.
Other revisions included adding park distance control to the front and rear, making a pop up Alpine navigation system standard and increasing the rear seat legroom. The steering rack was also modified to reduce steering effort at low speed and adding power folding exterior mirrors. The headlight lens covers transitioned from glass to plastic.
Bentley public relations department hinted at customer demand for the reason behind the reversal of the previous two valve per cylinder 6.75 liter unit for the Red Label. Most consumers accepted this, but few criticized the BMW motor as lacking in power and dull. The BMW-powered Arnage was more up-to-date, more fuel efficient and featured 32 valves with double overhead camshafts, twin turbo and Bosch engine management technology, rather than 16 valve, single turbo and a pushrod motor with considerably less advanced engine management.
Less than a second of the 0-60 mph time was shaved from the Red Label's growth in motive power. The BMW's twin turbo unit did continue to remain more responsive and nimble from the driver's perspective due to its DOHC engine being more responsive along with better weight balance and nearly 600lb lower curb weight.
The Green Label was sturdier and more reliable as well as being cheaper to service in the long run. The BMW engine's output drawback was the ZF 5HP30 transmission; which wasn't rated to handle more than 413 lb/ft of torque that the twin turbo engine was tuned to produce.
The production of the aged 6.75 liter Roll's Royce engine was outsourced for use in the continued Azure and Continental models to Cosworth, so going back to the old standby engine was a easy choice for the company. The Red Label model went back to the old V8 engine that featured torque of 835 newton meters with a single Garrett T4 turbo charger. At this time, it was the highest amount of torque for a four-door vehicle. The GM-sourced four-speed 4L80-E automatic transmission also made reappearance.
The Green Label was very quietly dropped shortly afterwards in 2000.
The Arnage RL was a long-wheelbase model introduced in 2001. It was 9.8 inches longer than the original Arnage with the extra length at the rear doors and its C-pillar. The RL model had rear wheel butts a few inches further back than the standard Arnage model whose wells butt up against the rear door-frames. The effect was a larger rear area on the interior of the vehicle. Sometime dubbed 'double-cut' in the U.S. the type of saloon stretch was named this was because of the two main points where the car is extended. Each Arnage RL was individually customized for the buyer.
Arnage RL wheelbases ranged from 131.3 inches to 140.4 inches, and even sometimes 151.3 inches. The longest wheelbase version, the 151-inch version had its length stretched between the front and rear doors instead of at the C-pillar at the rear doors, American limousine-style. The large car handled well due to the suspension being retuned for the added weight. Many Arnage RL limousines were ordered with bulletproof elements, reflecting the clientele of the vehicle. For a hefty pricetag starting at $243,000, a full B6 package was available which offers protection from grenades and assault weapons. As of 2006, the Arnage RL continues to remain in production.
The RL featured a completely reworked version of the old 6.75 liter V8 engine. Over half of the engine's parts were brand new, with the old Zytech system being replaced with Bosch Motronic ME7.1.1 engine management and two small Garrett T3 turbochargers replacing the single large T4. This new engine was said to be capable of meeting all future emissions requirements and developed 405 metric horsepower and 835 newton meters. Similar to the originally Cosworth-BMW unit developed for the 98 Arnage, the RL was powered by a modern twin-turbo unit with state-of-the-art electronic management system.
In 2002 Bentley updated the Red Label as the series two Arnage R. The Arnage T was the more sporting model and was introduced in contrast to the Arnage R. Same with the RL the Arnage R features two Garrett T3 turbochargers. It also claimed to be the most powerful road warrior at its debut at the Detroit Motor Show in 2002. There were twin-turbochargers, like with the Arnage R, but they were tuned to develop 465 metric horsepower and 875 newton meters. The T's top speed was 170 mpg and could achieve 0-60mph in just 5.5 seconds. All R & T models share the same 122.7 in wheelbase. In 2005 the Arnage range was updated and the front end now resembled the new Continental GT.
In honor of the Queens Golden Jubilee in 2002, the Bentley State Limousine was an official vehicle created by Bentley Motors Limited. Only two were built. The car's twin-turbocharged 6.75-liter V8 engine was converted from Bentley's Arnage R version to produce 296 kW; 397 bhp and 616 lb/ft or torque.
For 2007 the Arnage R received low-inertia Mitsubishi units designed to enhance engine response that replaced the Garrett turbochargers. This model year's engine was joined to a variant of the six-speed ZF automatic transmission found in the Continental range. The engine capacity was increased from 411.8 cu in to 412.6 cu in. Due to the new tuning, the horsepower was bumped up to 500 (368 kW; 493 bhp) and 1,000 newton meters in the Arnage T, while the Arnage R featured 460 metric horsepower and 875 newton meters. The Arnage T was performance oriented and could reach 0-60 mph in just 5.2 seconds with a top speed of 179 mph.
For 2006 Bentley commemorated their 60 years of production at the Crewe factory with a unique Diamond Series Arnage. A total of 60 vehicles were planned, mostly for the United States. The vehicles featured diamond quilted leather seats, diamond wood inlays, special 19-inch alloy wheels, a stainless steel front bumper and Union Jack badges on the front wings.
Two years later in September of 2008 it was announced that Arnage production would cease the following year, once a final run of 150 'Final Series' models had been completed. The Final Series included the Arnage T powertrain and the twin-turbo 6.75 V8 engine that produced 500 metric horsepower and approximately 1,000 newton meters of torque. Through a six-speed ZF automatic transmission the powertrain delivers torque to the rear wheels.
On the exterior the Final Series featured special 20-inch alloy wheels, body-colored headlamp bezels, a retractable 'Flying B' mascot, dark tint matrix upper and lower grilles, lower front wing vents, special badging and a 'Jewel-style' fuel filler cap. Mulliner designed the interior of the car, and featured Final Series kick plates, special chrome trim, drilled alloy pedals, two picnic tables and a rear cocktail cabinet. This model also came with a premium 1,000 watt audio system by Naim Audio and came with four distinct umbrellas.
Forty-Two exterior color schemes were offered with this model, twenty-five interior hides and three wood veneers. Customers could also specify bespoke color- matching offered by Bentley. The Arnage Final Series marks the 50th Anniversary of Bentley's V8 engine. The 2009 version of the engine continues to be loosely based on the same design that was introduced way back on the 1959 Bentley S2. Though the 2008 engine shares no identical parts with the 1950 model, the final common item having been replaced in 2005. Advertising of the engine when first introduced described the power and torque as 'adequate'. Twin-turbocharged, the all-aluminum alloy engine delivers 0-60mph in just 5.3 seconds. The car weighs 2.5 tons.
In 2009 a replacement model called the Bentley Mulsanne was debuted in August at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in Monterey, California. Because of separate parent companies, the design of the Mulsanne will now be completely separate and independent from Rolls-Royce cars. Rolls-Royce is held by BMW and Bentley is held by the Volkswagen Group. Sources:
By Jessica Donaldson