At the weekend I had the opportunity to drive a Bentley Arnage for the first time. The timing could have been better now that it has been replaced by the Mulsanne in Bentley's line-up but it was still something that I had been looking forward to. I knew it would be a completely different experience from the other cars that I have been driving over the last six months but would it be a pleasant companion for a two hour drive from central London to Rutland - England's smallest county I believe - or would it be a car best experienced with a chauffeur?

Let's get the obvious out of the way: it is a huge car. Driving the Arnage for the first time through central London was a bit of a baptism of fire even though I had managed to avoid the morning rush hour. However, the visibility is very good and the steering responsive, both immediately helping to inspire confidence when dodging pedestrians and cyclists or when changing lanes.

The other thing that you quickly realise is that other drivers seem to really respect this car. It clearly has a presence that other motorists can't ignore and I can only imagine that it is a combination of the size of the thing, its imposing front grill, the badge on the bonnet, and a belief that it might be carrying someone important in the spacious back seats. Even taxis seemed to back off slightly and were less eager to leap out at junctions in front of you, although a cyclist decided to jump a red light and speed across the road. The idiocy of some cyclists aside, all these things help to develop a slight feeling of invulnerability within the first couple of miles.

It's a feeling you don't want to hold onto for too long though as this car has more than enough power from its 6.75 litre V8 engine to see you into license-losing speeds before you've noticed. The increased jet-like drone and thrust from the engine is noticeable any time that you care to flex your right ankle but you always feel slightly cocooned in a way that makes high speeds very comfortable. This is clearly a machine that is designed with continent-crushing in mind; only if you ignore the fuel gauge though. This is possibly the thirstiest car that I've ever driven and you quickly become aware of the fuel that is required to propel this beast with such disdain for the laws of physics.

I personally think it is a good looking car, with a certain degree of style that makes you question whether you should be sporting a bandana and diamond ear studs or dressed in black tie. I did neither and was left feeling somewhat outclassed by the car I was in. It somehow manages to remain discreet though, people rarely taking much notice at petrol stations in the same way that people do with a Ferrari or Porsche. Perhaps it implies a desire for privacy that more ostentatious cars don't convey.

Of course it is no sports car and the handling reflects that. Take a roundabout too quickly and the car will react with a fair degree of roll, something that your passengers will certainly feel. On country roads it is better behaved, the excellent damping soaking up the worst of the British roads and the effortless power allowing you to maintain momentum. Again though, your passengers will know about it if you drive too hard. Better to sit back and enjoy being in such pleasant surroundings knowing that you can make up any shortfall on the straights.

The interior really is sumptuous. The carpets are almost unnecessarily thick and the seat comfort and position makes you feel as though you are about to sit down for brandy in the drawing room rather than join thousands of other motorists on the roads. It’s that aspect of the Arnage that makes me want to be driven around in one rather than to drive one myself. I guess there’s always the ubiquitous Continental GT if you want that level of luxury and space with a bit more engagement.



29/06/2011 09:45

Good post man, would be good to have a video of the features you mention - I am thinking of that thick carpet ;)

07/07/2011 09:02

Thanks for the feedback Mark.

I will be getting some more review-orientated video developed over the next little while which will hopefully give a better feel for the cars I'm talking about.

I'll be sure to revisit the Arnage and show you that carpet!

09/08/2013 21:39

Nice review. How about a video looking in some detail at what the various knobs, buttons and switches do, the facia display (gauges), etc.


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