Full 2009 Bentley Arnage Review
What's New for 2009
Entering its last production year, the 2009 Bentley Arnage takes a final bow with the addition of the Arnage Final Series – limited to only 150 examples that combine the performance of the T model with the refinement of the R variant from last year.
Bentley is one of those revered automotive nameplates with a rich history. In the company's early days, it was known for daring racing cars. But when the company was sold off to Rolls-Royce under shifty circumstances, much of the Bentley personality was lost. Fortunately, since falling under Volkswagen's control in 1998, Bentley once again has reclaimed its own identity.
From the beginning, Bentleys have been known as a driver's car as opposed to a chauffeur's car. Such is the case with the 2009 Bentley Arnage line. Despite being the brand's big four-door model, the Arnage continues Bentley's bold touring car tradition thanks to its massive 6.8-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 and surprisingly sharp handling. But alas, 2009 marks the end of the line for the current Arnage, just as this platform begins to show its age among the company's newer and sharper models.
As the sun sets on the Arnage empire, Bentley celebrates the end of this era with the release of the Arnage Final Series. Limited to only 150 hand-built examples that combine power and prestige, it is sure to be an instant classic. Returning to take a bow are the "regular" Arnage R, sportier Arnage T and stretched RL models. Also returning is the line's superlative-inducing peak of 500 horsepower, palatial interior design and truly unique customization options.
As far as ultra-luxury sedans go, the Bentley Arnage straddles the narrow divide between the higher-performing AMG S-Class from Mercedes-Benz and the exorbitantly priced Rolls-Royce Phantom and Maybach 62 limousines. Deciding on one of these tributes to conspicuous consumption comes down to personal preference, as there is no real underachiever or contender in the group.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The Bentley Arnage is offered in four trim levels: the Arnage R, higher-performance Arnage T, the Arnage Final Series and Arnage RL. The Arnage R is the more common of the lineup (though there's really no such thing as a common Bentley Arnage) with a long list of standard features that includes 18-inch alloy wheels, a computer-controlled adaptive suspension, leather interior with wood trim, heated seats, independently adjustable rear seats, three-zone climate control, a satellite navigation system, Bluetooth, a six-speaker audio system with six-CD changer, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and park distance control. A front sunroof and exterior pinstriping are available at no additional cost. The RL is the stretched version of the Arnage (by nearly 10 inches in wheelbase) to provide even greater rear seat comfort. Additional features include satellite navigation and the choice of either a rear-seat bottle cooler or a hard-wired telephone.
The more performance-oriented Arnage T model adds on top of the Arnage R's features with 19-inch wheels, stiffer sport suspension tuning, foglights, quad tailpipes and diamond-quilted leather trim. Combining both the Arnage T and R trim levels is the Arnage Final Series, named in honor of this model's last year of production. Additions for the Final Series include 20-inch wheels, a retractable "flying B" radiator mascot, model-specific badging, satellite navigation, a rearview camera, an engine start button, drilled alloy pedals, flip-down wooden picnic tables for rear passengers, rear passenger document storage compartments and knurled chrome switches and door handles.
Nearly all of the above features are available as options for supporting trim levels. Additional options include (but are certainly not limited to) massage seats, a rear cabin surround-sound system, premium Naim 11-speaker sound system, satellite radio, iPod connectivity, a rear-seat bottle cooler, privacy curtains, a rear window shade and security (but not bulletproof) glass.
Powertrains and Performance
All models within the 2009 Bentley Arnage line are powered by a 6.8-liter twin-turbocharged V8. Power output for the Arnage R and RL is an impressive 450 hp and 645 pound-feet of torque, with a slight increase for the Arnage T and Final Series, which register 500 hp and 738 lb-ft. Either engine choice utilizes a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control to route power to the rear wheels.
Despite its nearly 3-ton curb weight, acceleration is surprisingly brisk, with Bentley estimating 0-60-mph times of 5.2 seconds for the Arnage T up to 5.8 seconds for the larger RL. Though it's doubtful that fuel economy is of major concern to most Arnage owners, the EPA estimates mileage at 10 mpg city/14 mpg highway and 11 mpg in combined driving, with the Arnage RL rated at 9/15/11 mpg.
Considering the weight, performance and target market for the Arnage, safety is an obvious priority. As such, Bentley equipped the 2009 Arnage with a full complement of safety features that include antilock disc brakes and side and side curtain airbags for front and rear outboard passengers. Fortunately, the rather intrusive traction and stability control from previous model years have been reworked to be more measured and sophisticated.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2009 Bentley Arnage foregoes contemporary trends in interior design to embrace the old-world feel of classic British luxury. Occupants are surrounded by rich leather and wood trim that has a hand-crafted look and feel – and indeed, the Arnage is hand-built by master craftsmen. Even with modern conveniences like the optional dual-screen LCD monitors or built-in personal computer with wireless keyboard, the cabin maintains the stately air that Bentley is known for.
Among the countless choices of interior trim owners may specify, the Arnage is sure to please nearly any taste in leather and wood. For those with deeper pockets and the luxury of time, interior materials and features may be custom designed with the assistance of Bentley's Mulliner Consultants – ensuring true one-of-a-kind status.
There is no getting around the fact that the Arnage is a big car. Normally, a car of this size and weight is expected to be as maneuverable as a fully laden cargo ship -- not so with this Bentley. Acceleration is sports-car quick and braking is surprisingly competent, though the brake pedal could benefit from a bit more feel.
While no reasonable driver would expect the Arnage to be nimble, the suspension provides remarkable amounts of grip, with body roll kept in check. Even with sport damper settings and optional higher-performance suspension tunings, the luxurious ride quality remains uncompromised -- though still not as smooth as the latest Mercedes S-Class. Steering feel is well weighted and offers a decent amount of feedback as well. Were it not for the audiophile-pleasing sound system or the glorious note of the massive V8, the Bentley Arnage could easily pass as one of the most luxurious sensory-deprivation chambers.