What's New for 2008
Two new 20-inch wheel designs join the options list for the 2008 Bentley Azure.
The 2008 Bentley Azure is an old-school Bentley. You won't find any Volkswagen engines here. The Azure turns back the clock to a bygone era when British car companies weren't owned by foreigners, and Bentley convertibles weren't ashamed to be luxury yachts on wheels. The 18-foot-long Azure drop-top has room for four in its painstakingly crafted interior along with a 6.75-liter twin-turbocharged V8 under the hood. If you have to ask how much it costs, you probably can't afford one.
For the record, the Azure starts in the neighborhood of $330,000, which makes it a phenomenal bargain compared to the $400,000-plus Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe. It's also a phenomenal rip-off compared to the quicker, sharper-handling BMW M6, which goes for a third of the Azure's price, or even Bentley's own Continental GTC, which can be had for less than $200,000. But then, it's pointless to talk about value at this rarified price point. Azure buyers probably already have an M6, or at least they've bought one for their teenage kids. Image and exclusivity are the names of this game, and the Azure's certainly got those bases covered.
Whereas the Azure used to be based on the old (pre-VW merger) Continental, the current car is related to the Arnage sedan. That might sound like progress, but in reality the Arnage is the most dated car in Bentley's lineup. The Arnage-sourced 6.75-liter engine (how quaint of them to use hundredths) traces its roots all the way back to 1959. At least the transmission is a modern six-speed unit, though what this nearly three-ton jalopy really needs is some liposuction, not a couple extra cogs in its gearbox. Not surprisingly, the Azure's handling is distinctly nautical, a shortcoming that likely won't bother Azure buyers in the slightest.
Beyond its imposing exterior, the Azure's calling card is its cosseting cabin. Generous helpings of burl walnut and soft leather make this an interior fit for royalty, or at least for those who elect not to buy a Drophead Coupe. The Azure lacks the Rolls-Royce's rear suicide doors, though, so ingress and egress is less than dignified for backseat occupants. Expect further frustration when trying to operate the unfriendly and unattractive audio and navigation controls. Fortunately, you can always power back the Azure's enormous fabric roof and appreciate that beautiful Beverly Hills sunshine.
If you've got the financial wherewithal to buy a 2008 Bentley Arnage, who are we to tell you not to? It's like trying to convince Snoop Dogg to forgo the $100,000 shoes because the $30,000 shoes are more comfortable. Buying decisions in this segment aren't about cost-benefit analyses; rather, they're about what will impress your friends and neighbors. By this measure, the Arnage is a ragtop for the ages.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Bentley Azure is a four-seat, soft-top convertible offered in a single trim level. Standard features include a power-operated cloth top, 19-inch wheels, xenon headlights, power-adjustable front seats, a power tilt-only steering wheel, driver memory functions, tri-zone climate control, a six-disc CD changer, a DVD navigation system and front and rear parking sensors. Bentley also offers a dizzying array of customization options for wheels, badging and interior materials, as well as two stages of stereo upgrades from Alpine and dozens of color choices.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2008 Azure is powered by Bentley's hoary twin-turbocharged 6.75-liter V8, which is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission that drives the rear wheels. The V8 cranks out 450 hp and a prodigious 645 pound-feet of torque. Acceleration is impressive given the Azure's preposterous 6,000-pound curb weight -- Bentley estimates a 0-60-mph sprint of 5.6 seconds.
The Azure comes standard with side airbags front and rear, antilock brakes, stability control, front and rear parking sensors and roll bars that deploy from behind the rear seats.
Interior Design and Special Features
In the grand British tradition, the 2008 Bentley Azure has a beautifully crafted interior that's not especially functional. Exquisite leather and wood trim imbue the cabin with a classic old-world feel, and the extensive selection of carpets, wood and hide colors leave ample room for that personal touch. However, the overall effect is diminished by cheap-feeling switchgear, a steering wheel that doesn'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. The Azure's Continental GTC stablemate isn't exactly a model of ergonomics, but its VW/Audi-influenced interior is leaps and bounds ahead of the Azure's in terms of functionality.
Despite the walloping torque from the V8, the 2008 Bentley Azure's three-ton curb weight puts a damper on straight-line performance, though a sub-six-second sprint to 60 mph is nothing to sneeze at. The sub-5,000-rpm redline is a true novelty among gasoline engines in this day and age. Dynamically, the Azure is about as engaging as a Chevrolet Suburban, but there's an undeniable stateliness about the way it soaks up bumps and limits road noise on the open road.