What's New for 2007
After a three-year hiatus, the Bentley Azure convertible returns for 2007 atop a much newer chassis and equipped with an enhanced engine and new transmission.
When a brand as rarefied as Bentley creates an imposing 18-foot-long land mass and gives it room for four, a fold-down roof and a price on par with L.A. real estate, people of means take notice. Although the Bentley Azure convertible was originally designed for old-money, old-world types living in Lake Country chateaus, more than a few Azures have found their way into the hands of West Coast superstars and MTV hip-hop videos. Of the previous-generation Azure, sold from 1995-2003, it's said that fewer than 1,500 were sold.
For 2007, Bentley is reintroducing the Azure. Where it was once based on the old Continental, this time the Azure is related to the current Arnage sedan. Of course, the Arnage isn't exactly the pinnacle of modern design, but Bentley's engineers have done considerable work to make it suitable for topless duty.
The Azure's new structure is dramatically stiffer and promises better road isolation and handling ability. Also updated is the engine. As in other 2007 Bentleys, the 6.8-liter V8 gets a new set of twin turbochargers this year and a 450-horsepower output. Also significant is the move to a six-speed automatic transmission, a welcome upgrade over the old four-speed. Fuel economy, blunted by the car's approximate 3 tons of mass, still barely manages to rise into the double digits, however.
The Azure's interior is unmistakably Bentley. Generous helpings of burl walnut wood create a unique appearance as soft leather cossets the two front thrones. Expect less comfort for the rear pair. And expect frustration when trying to operate the unfriendly and unattractive audio and navigation controls -- the side effect of imposing modern technology on an old-fashioned cabin design. Fortunately, restoring the smiles is as easy as powering back the Azure's enormous fabric roof.
As expected, normal shopping advice doesn't really apply to the $337,000 2007 Bentley Azure. If you've got the financial backing and like the car's image and prestige, you certainly don't need validation from us. Still, were it our choice, we can't help but think that Bentley's own Continental GTC and its 102 extra hp and better-engineered and 500-pounds-lighter chassis makes it a vastly more compelling drive. Alternately, it's probably worth waiting a bit for Rolls-Royce's Phantom Drophead Coupe to arrive, as it will be the Azure's only true competitor.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2007 Bentley Azure is a four-seat, soft-top luxury convertible. It comes in only one trim, and standard fare includes a power-operated cloth top; 19-inch wheels; xenon headlights; power-adjustable front seats and steering wheel with three-position driver memory; tri-zone climate control; a six-disc CD changer; DVD navigation; and front and rear parking sensors. Bentley also offers plenty of customization for wheels, badging and interior materials, as well as two stages of stereo upgrades from Alpine and 39 color choices.
Powertrains and Performance
All 2007 Azures use Bentley's long-running 6.8-liter V8, which evolves for 2007 with twin turbochargers that spool up faster than the former units. It's mated to a new six-speed automatic transmission (with manual shift mode) that drives the rear wheels. With 450 hp and a prodigious 645 pound-feet of torque, acceleration is forceful and the 6,000-pound Azure has no difficulty charging to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds by Bentley's count.
Bentley secures the Azure's four occupants with full-sized side thorax airbags front and rear, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, front and rear parking sensors and roll bars that deploy from behind the rear seats.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2007 Bentley Azure continues the classic English fashion of beautifully finished leather and wood surroundings arranged for a classic old-world feel, and the extensive selection of carpets, wood and hide colors leave ample room for a personal touch. The impression of unfettered luxury is somewhat spoiled by cheap-feeling switchgear, a steering wheel that can't telescope and aesthetically mismatched stereo and navigation systems that are difficult to use. Such are the complications of installing modern electronics in an interior that was never designed with such technology in mind.
Even with the 2007 Bentley Azure's immense power and torque, its scale-crushing 3-ton curb weight keeps performance at rather average levels by luxury standards (and slams city gas mileage down to 11 mpg). More linearity in the throttle and brakes wouldn't hurt either, nor would more feel in the steering. Still, such massive torque makes the Azure feel alert at any speed, and some will equate the heavy-handed way in which the big convertible goes about its work with luxury and stateliness -- qualities that extend to the way it absorbs bumps and road noise out on the open highway.