Bentley Arnage T

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Keywords: car reviews, automotive reviews, automotive news, bentley arnage t
Description: Bad boy in black tie. Hey, does Bond know about this car?

When you think about the world's foremost purveyors of supersedans, it's probably safe to say that Volkswagen AG isn't the first name that pops into your head. Yeah, there's some formidable stuff just around the corner - the VW Phaeton, for example, or the Audi RS 6. But neither of them is in showrooms yet, and neither of them will contend in the rarefied economic latitudes north of the $200,000 parallel.

For all its upscale aspirations, VW hasn't quite moved the needle in the car consciousness of those who populate the Fortune 500. Which is understandable, because it's still hard to get used to the idea of Bentley as a VW AG subsidiary. Nevertheless, way over there in the tiny little Bentley corner of the VW Gruppe, they build sedans that make the Audi and the VW look almost like everyday-transportation appliances.

Bentley has become a multinational concept since Volkswagen acquired stewardship of this storied old British brand. Thus "over there" could mean England, or it could mean Germany, depending on your point of view and what aspect of the car you're considering. Assembly, you're talking Merry Olde. Engineering, you'd better sprechen Deutsch. But regardless of the language, the commitment continues to be the creation of unique automobiles for the privileged few. And in this case, for the privileged few who enjoy the all-too-rare combination of princely prestige, country-club comfort, and nose-flattening acceleration.

The Arnage T is named for a famous racing corner at Le Mans, the circuit that's the wellspring of Bentley fame, thanks to five victories in the famous 24-hour race, including a string of four straight. Never mind that the last of these victories occurred in 1930; the mystique endures. The T stands for twin-turbocharged - a pair of Garrett T3 blowers replacing the bigger T4 singleton previously employed. The new force-feeding arrangement, plus a nearly total overhaul of the aluminum V-8 engine, conspire to make this big sedan the fastest four-door Bentley has ever made. Thanks to the self-imposed 155-mph top-speed limiters on most high-end Euro sedans, it's also the fastest four-door sedan in the world (168 mph), the first Bentley designed entirely on a computer, and the first Bentley engine built essentially with VW's toolbox.

Rated at 450 horsepower and 646 pound-feet of torque, the pushrod Bentley V-8 makes a lot of highly respected DOHC four-valve engines look a little tame. Bentley has been turbocharging its 6.8-liter pushrod V-8 engines since 1982, but this is a thoroughly revamped 6.8, and it packs a thoroughly modern big-league punch.

When the twin-turbo V-8 hits max boost (13.0 psi), a process that is far from instantaneous, the Arnage T makes its best move: straight ahead at full gallop. Although this car's mass ranks up there with that of the heaviest sport-utility vehicles, there's enough thrust to hurl its 5750 pounds from 0 to 60 in 5.7 seconds, 0 to 100 in 13.5 seconds, and through the quarter-mile in 14.1 seconds at 102 mph. As noted, it'll do 168 mph before the electronic governor cuts in - fast enough to qualify at Charlotte.

There's a strong suggestion of irresistible force here. It's the linebacker you can't outrun, the fighting bull that won't go down, the invincible shape shifter that gets there before you do - and it would be lovely if the rest of the bad boy Bentley's dynamics measured up to its hustle. In fact, even the hustle is tempered to some degree by powertrain computer calibrations that kick the transmission down a gear about the same time that full boost comes on, producing jerks and lurches that are unseemly in such a posh conveyance.



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