Used 2007 Bentley Azure
Edmunds' Expert Review
While the 2007 Bentley Azure stands above just about any other luxury convertible on the market for sheer snob appeal, it falls well short of newer rivals when it comes to driving dynamics and interior design.
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.
Trim levels & features
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.
Performance & mpg
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.
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.
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.
Features & Specs
More About This Model
Driving the 2007 Bentley Azure luxury convertible is like hanging out with royalty. Things are done a little differently, but once you get into the swing of things, it can be a lot of fun.
And it takes a king's ransom to own a 2007 Bentley Azure. We're told that a buyer for a Bentley Continental GT might be worth around $3 million, while the client who might buy an Azure will have about $30 million stuffed under the very lumpy mattress of the four-poster back at the palace. Even then, it might be hard to see where the $329,000 goes when you buy an Azure. After all, it doesn't park itself like the Lexus LS 460.
It turns out that the Bentley Azure brings you two particular things so characteristic of England. First, it's exclusive, as only 125 will find their way to America this year. Second, stubborn British craftsmen with incredible pride build the Azure by hand, and this gives the car something approaching a soul.
For an engine that's 48 years old, there's nothing much wrong with this 6.75-liter pushrod V8. Then again, VW did throw more than $165 million at it when the company acquired Bentley from BMW in 1998.
When the Arnage sedan was introduced in 1998 under the Munich company's brief interregnum, it carried the BMW-built DOHC 4.4-liter V8 instead of the old pushrod V8. Bentley traditionalists never cared for the German engine's comparatively frantic personality. Bentley clients want thrust, not spin, and the old V8 from the 1950s had the broad, deep torque curve they preferred. So this seemingly antiquated bit of industrial engineering has been updated for the modern world, and it's a natural fit for the Arnage-based Azure.
It's mighty, too, as twin turbos help deliver 450 horsepower at 4,100 rpm, more than enough with which to traverse a kingdom. But the crucial ingredient is torque, a staggering 645 pound-feet at just 1,800 rpm. That's the real power behind the throne, figuratively speaking. It gives the car a long-legged feel, and motoring seems so effortless. As Oscar Wilde said, style is the apparent lack of effort, and style is what the Azure is all about.
Perhaps it seems unseemly to speak in terms of crude measurements of performance like acceleration to 60 mph, yet we'll tell you the Azure completes the task in 5.6 seconds and will whistle all the way to 171 mph. Yet it's not what the Azure does, but rather how it does it that's the important thing. When the revs are high enough for you to hear the engine and exhaust note, you'll enjoy a subdued fanfare — subtle yet glorious.
The 2007 model has a six-speed ZF automatic transmission that sends drive to the rear wheels, replacing the old GM four-speeder, and it makes this beast of an engine far livelier. The transmission is at least partially responsible for the car's slightly improved performance figures, and yet it leaves the turbocharged engine to go about its business largely as before, like the most efficient and discreet maitre d' in town.
The ruling-class theme continues when you're behind the wheel. The Azure moves in a stately manner, majestic and imperious. Every maneuver is controlled and dignified — the Azure doesn't do instant responses to driver input. A long 122.7-inch wheelbase, a prodigious 5,942-pound weight with substantial bodywork overhangs, and tall 19-inch wheels deliver a ride that barely disdains to acknowledge any imperfections in the road surface.
Surprisingly, the Azure has a more playful side. Pushing the car through a series of bends might seem as inappropriate as inviting Queen Elizabeth II to get on up to a James Brown tune, but the Azure shimmies around corners with some degree of grace.
As expected, there's little feedback from the steering, and only the highly skilled or incredibly foolhardy would disengage the electronic driving aids that help keep all this mass on the road. Nevertheless, the Azure holds its line in a corner much longer than one might expect before it finally succumbs to understeer and traction control.
Since the days of Woolf Barnato, Bentley's chairman during the 1920s and heir to a South African diamond fortune, a Bentley motorcar has traditionally appealed to the upscale enthusiast, and so the Azure is allowed to do its best by electronic stability aids that refrain from intruding too soon or too aggressively.
The inside of any Bentley is a delight to the senses, and the Azure stays with the program. Creamy, soft-touch leather covers the seats, door panels and part of the dash, and it contrasts with lots of little surfaces finished with knurled metal, like the audio system controls, the door-lock posts and the underside of the grab handles for the doors.
The Azure's cabin is one of the few cars where wood seems right and proper. This is also a genuine four-seater, though it would be better for all concerned if the rear occupants were petite and nubile. (Let the bodyguards follow in the Range Rover.)
There are some great features, like the traditional, round chrome grilles for air ventilation (which resonate like bells when you ping them) and various bits of switchgear. The five gauges in the center of the dash reflect Bentley's customary affection for mechanical precision, as W.O. Bentley was an engineer of the old school, an apprentice on the railway as a boy and later a manufacturer of aluminum pistons for the Sopwith Camel fighter plane in WWI. The fuel gauge doesn't just say "E" and "F"; it spells out the words in the Queen's English.
But you'll also find the ergonomics take some getting used to. As if we were still living in the 1960s, the asymmetrical key only goes into the ignition one way. The controls for the electric seat adjustments are in the center console and too close to the cupholder. In fact, the cupholder sounds one of the few false notes in this symphony of luxury, as it's plastic, floppy, difficult to access and generally nasty. The steering wheel adjusts only for height, and just a half inch at that.
Despite this, it's easy to find a comfortable posture at the controls, and these little foibles contribute to the car's character. Yes, a Mercedes-Benz S-Class would be more efficient, but it doesn't come close to imparting the same sense of occasion.
Once the canvas with its multilayer headliner is in place, there's little intrusion by either the weather or even the hustle and bustle of city streets. Once you're ready for proper open-air motoring, the roof disappears neatly beneath a leather-covered tonneau and leaves 8.8 cubic feet of cargo capacity for your luggage and a picnic basket. With the roof down and windows up, conversation is still possible at freeway speeds.
We are not amused
Let's be clear. The Bentley Azure is not exactly from another age.
The Arnage upon which it's based was thoroughly engineered by BMW and Rover personnel for its introduction in 1998, and the Azure itself finally reached production only in 2006. The Azure features some of the electronic gizmos you'd expect of a modern automobile, including Bluetooth-compatible telephone, Bose audio, satellite navigation and a remote camera for reversing. But that's about it.
Yet the Azure isn't aimed at the PlayStation generation. The Bentley Azure buyer typically is in his or her late 50s. And after all the trials and tribulations one endures to reach such an age, when one has reached the pinnacle of success despite untrustworthy business associates, troublesome ex-spouses and the like, the Azure is more than just a reward.
Living like royalty is the best revenge.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
Used 2007 Bentley Azure Overview
The Used 2007 Bentley Azure is offered in the following submodels: Azure Convertible. Available styles include 2dr Convertible (6.8L 8cyl Turbo 6A).
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Should I lease or buy a 2007 Bentley Azure?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.