The Beautiful Product of a Messy Breakup
Breakups are hard on the heart and mind. When Volkswagen and BMW sparred over buying Rolls-Royce in the late 1990s, it was the children who suffered – namely the Bentley and Rolls marques that would be separated after more than six decades. In the end, both seemed to flourish with their new families.
The second-generation Bentley Azure issued for 2006 was a good sign that things were going to be alright. This nearly three-ton convertible was based on the Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph / Bentley Arnage sedan. The Bentley version used the twin-turbo version of the Rolls-Royce V-8, an engine that dated to the late 1950s.
Bonhams is offering this stunning 2007 Bentley Azure at no reserve at its Scottsdale auction on January 25. The pre-sale estimate is $100,000-$130,000 for a car that originally started at about $330,000.
Bentley Gets Its Mojo Back
Before it became the object of two German automaker’s affections, Rolls-Royce had embarked on a concerted effort to carve out a more sporting persona for Bentley, the marque it had absorbed in 1931. Gradually, Bentley’s individuality faded, with the early 1950s R-Type Continental and the subsequent S-Type Continental being welcome exceptions to that trend.
That burst of individuality lasted only until 1965, after which Bentleys were Rolls-Royces with different front grilles. The early 1980s Bentley Mulsanne Turbo finally gave Bentley something of its own, a turbocharged version of the Rolls V-8. By 1992, Bentley had a truly distinctive model with its own body not shared by Rolls – the Continental and higher-performance Continental R coupes and Azure convertible.
The Azure Gains Muscles
The first-generation Azure went away after 2002. The next Azure arrived four years later, now based on the Arnage platform instead of the old Rolls Silver Spirit Turbo structure that had its roots in the 1965 Rolls Silver Shadow. The new Azure was just two inches longer in wheelbase and length than the previous model. A coupe version was called Brooklands.
The 6.75-liter turbo V8 now sported dual turbochargers instead of one. The newly fortified engine gave 450 horsepower and a gargantuan 645 lb-ft. of torque, the latter at a super-low 1,800 rpm. In other words, you got nearly instant massive torque at the mere touch of the accelerator pedal.
The newly fortified engine was now teamed to a ZF six-speed automatic transmission, replacing the previous General Motors four-speed automatic. Bentley claimed the new Azure could do 0-60 in 5.6 seconds and reach a top speed of about 170 mph. So, bragging rights were big, even if many customers wisely chose to not explore the outer limits of this heavy car’s capability.
Big and Blue
The Azure’s undeniably eye-catching design updated the basic theme of the original model. A nearly 6,000-pound curb weight and a stronger structure, which Bentley said was four times stiffer than the first Azure’s, gave a sublime ride that seemed to flatten bumps. Said Motor Trend in its initial assessment of this Bentley, “The good news is the Azure suffers from none of the body flex that many convertibles display.”
The Azure also featured the modern passenger protection of pop-up rollbars for the unfortunate event of a rollover accident. The car rode on a 122.7-inch wheelbase and stretched 213 inches from bumper to bumper. So, yes, it was nearly as large as your grandfather’s 1969 Buick Electra convertible.
We mention that big American land yacht also because the Silver Lake Blue paint color on the Bentley offered by Bonhams looks suspiciously close to the Crystal Blue Iridium offered as one of the vintage Buick’s choices, or even one of the blues featured on Schwinn Sting Ray bicycles in that period. Safe to say it’s a gorgeous blue on anything with wheels.
Old-School Bentley Luxury
Inside, the second-generation Bentley Azure was a veritable sea of sumptuous Connolly leather, thick carpeting, and gorgeous woodwork accented by billet aluminum vents and knurled metal surfaces. Those big front seats offered 16-way power adjustments.
The thick, three-layer power top silently lowered or raised in 25 seconds. This Bentley did not draw on Audi parts supply like the first all-new models of the VW era, the Flying Spur and Continental GTC models, which is why Edmunds.com noted the “aesthetically mismatched stereo and navigation systems that are difficult to use.” At least you got Bluetooth. However, making the buyer pay extra for the navigation system with back-up camera in a $330,000+ car seemed a tad insulting.
The second-generation Bentley Azure left a lasting impression on drivers. Motor Trend concluded: “The thing about this car is that it feels indisputably special, almost like it’s come from another world.”
The Azure offered at the Bonhams Scottdale auction will, as noted, be sold at no reserve, so it will be going to a new garage. Can you picture it in yours?