2003 Bentley Arnage R Road Test

The premium sound system is made by Alpine and is hidden behind a manually operated folding walnut door. It has only two knobs and a few push buttons. There’s a wireless remote control that resides in the drivers door pocket when not in use. Sound quality was incredible, but imaging was slightly off, perhaps due to the placement of the mid-bass so far away from the tweeters. Again, a very minor complaint and almost not worth mentioning.

Finally, what ultra-luxury vehicle would be complete without a navigation system? The Arnage R answers the call with a dash mounted, motorized LCD screen that elegantly raises or lowers itself from the top of the dash. There’s a DVD player and six-disc CD changer for those who require entertainment while driving.

MUSIC TO OUR EARS

Speaking of music, we rarely played any, as the Bentley Arnage R loves to make its own music. The twin-turbo charged, 6.75 liter pushrod operated V8 loves to be pushed. It was shocking to feel this vehicle accelerate like it did – with 600+ foot-pounds of torque available at 3000 rpm, there’s little that will stop the Bentley from going where it wants to go.

Why twin turbos? The smaller, Garrett T3 turbo chargers increase throttle response and eliminate virtually any turbo lag (which is common in traditional single turbo charged V8’s). When you mash the gas, there’s no waiting – you simply go! And go, and go and go.

With all of that power on tap (0 to 60 comes in less than 6 seconds, according to Bentley), you’d think the 5,700lb vehicle would be a bear to stop or turn. Wrong on both accounts.

The Bentley Arnage R handles like a car 1/2 its size. It swallows up corners like only a canyon carver can, and it brakes like a sports car thanks to large, 13.7″ front disc brakes and equally large 13.5″ rear discs.

Apply the brakes and you’ll be stopped in no time thanks in part to a fairly complex ESP (Electronic Stability Program) system that incorporates traction control, ABS, “Electronic Brake Pressure Distribution” (EBD), Engine Torque Control (ETC) and Hydraulic Brake Assistance (HBA). That’s a lot of fancy acronyms for “stop now, with complete control”…

Driving the Bentley at cruising speeds is no problem. The steering transmits the perfect amount of feel, and the variable resistance makes short work of maneuvering this beast. Need to parallel park? No problem – the steering is light and nimble; the power assist leads you to believe the front end is light as a feather. Need to kick it up a notch and dive for that tricky apex? Again, not a problem – the steering assist offers the perfect amount of resistance and feel.

The transmission is glass smooth, and shifts are crisp and spot on, without being notchy or jarring. Our only complaint with the drive system is Bentley’s apparent use of an “on-off” switch where the gas pedal would normally reside. It seemed like smooth, gentle throttle transitions were not possible – the engine was either loafing or roaring (but to be honest, we preferred the roaring mode).
Road noise was somewhat higher than we would have expected from such a heavy, luxurious car, but we blame most of the noise on the heavily cupped Pirelli PZero tires. Apparently, the journalists before us had quite a good time with the Arnage R – I wouldn’t doubt it if this car had seen some serious track time prior to our experience with it.

All in all, the ride was plush and comfortable without being wallowy or boat-vague. That’s an incredible accomplishment for a car as heavy as the Arnage R. Oddly, however, we found ourselves commenting that we were feeling things that we didn’t expect to feel – speed bumps were more like “speed hills” – the heavy front end communicated its dislike for the bumps with a lot of noise and exaggerated up/down movement.

On the road, the comments continued. “In something like the Tahoe, we’d never have felt those bumps,” commented one tester. “It sure objects to potholes,” commented another. This may be a direct effect of the worn Pirelli tires that were fitted on our tester, however, we believe it has more to do with the Arnage’s sporty suspension. Champagne drinkers take note: you may end up wearing your Crystal if you hit the right combination of road irregularities.

While we complain slightly about the firm ride, there’s no mistaking that the chassis has a very solid, Fort Knox feel to it. Bentley has done a remarkable job of creating a stiff chassis and there’s no doubt that in the event of a collision, the Bentley would prevail victorious. Speaking of collisions, should one occur, Bentley has you covered with a complete array of safety features, including driver and passenger air bags, 4 side-impact air bags and full length curtain air bags on either side of the interior compartment.

Written by Roadfly Charlie

Charlie is Roadfly’s founder and publisher, and was taught to drive by his father in a 1974 Porsche 914. That made poor Charlie a Porsche fanboy for life, and after driving a 911SC at 16, he bought and campaigned a variety of 944s at racetracks up and down the East Coast, earning awards and track records in his twenties. Charlie never really got over the car bug, and after a career in real estate development he founded the Internet media firm that became Roadfly. Charlie lives in McLean, VA with his wife and two daughters, and between the demands of family and business doesn’t have much time to play with cars anymore, excluding the machinery we review.

One comment

  1. THE PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED REVIEW ONLY ‘TOUCHES ON’ THE FINE POINTS OF THIS CAR. I HAVE MANY, MANY CARS IN MY TIME AND HADN’T PURCHASED A BENTLEY SINCE THE MID EIGHTIES WHEN I BOUGHT AN OLD SII. LATER I BOUGHT A SIII AND THEN A BENTLEY EIGHT AND THAT LED ME TO THIS VERY FINE MOTORCAR. I JUST PURCHASED MY 2ND ARNAGE AND I CAN’T SAY ENOUGH ‘ABOUT IT. IT IS SIMPLY ‘THE BEST CAR IN THE WORLD’ AND AT 64 YEARS YOUNG I’VE HAD (OVER 200) FERRARI’S, ROLLS-ROYCES, TONS OF MERCEDES (INCLUDING THE 500CLS AND 280SE 3.5 CONVERTIBLE), A FEW BEEMERS AND JAGUARS. NOTHING COMPARES TO THIS CAR IN DRIVING COMFORT, QUALITY, PERFORMANCE, ‘WOW FACTOR’, PRESTEIGE AND ENDURANCE. I ONLY WISH THEY HELD THEIR VALUE BETTER. IF YOU EVER HAVE A CHANCE TO BUY AN ARNAGE – DO IT. SKIP THE CONTINENTAL GT COUPE AND SPUR- THIS IS THE ONE!

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