14 January 2005

Bentley stunned visitors at the Los Angeles Motor Show last week with this Arnage Drophead Coupé. The VW-owned British luxury brand has confirmed that the two-door drop-top will be on sale in 15 months, provided the car gets a good reaction. Bentley hopes the cabrio will fill the gap vacated by the £231k Azure, which ended production in mid-2003 after an eight-year run. The quick turnaround from the car’s conception a year ago is possible because of the number of components shared with the 2005 model-year Arnage saloon. The cabrio benefits from the same front-end as the Arnage, including the 6.75-litre twin-turbo V8 producing 450bhp and 645lb ft of torque and new double wishbone suspension. The chassis has been stiffened through steel bars in the sills and extending into the A pillar, as well as cross-bracing across the shell.

From the cabin backwards the four-seat convertible is new. Bentley says the interior, which features the usual array of burr oak and leather, has been influenced by contemporary furniture design. The canvas hood drops electrically in 25 seconds, stowing flush behind the rear seats. The roof mechanism doesn’t impact on boot space as it sits separately below the rear deck, which means the essential two golf bags will fit in the luggage compartment with the roof down.

Roll-over protection is provided by pop-up hoops in each of the rear headrests. These rise in milliseconds in the event of a crash and, along with the windshield, will support the weight of the car. Bentley claims the Drophead Coupé will comfortably seat four adults, thanks to its 3116mm wheelbase – identical to the saloon’s – and an overall length of 5411mm, 11mm up on the Arnage. Passenger space is also maximised by the cabin being wider than in the Azure — by 20 per cent in the rear. The car is 35mm lower than the saloon, because of a raked windscreen that helps reduce the distance the hood needs to travel, as well as improving the styling when the canvas is in place. The 19-inch six-spoke alloys are unique to the convertible, while the tail lamps are borrowed from its Continental GT sibling. The hugely successful Continental GT will soon follow the Arnage’s lead, with a drop-top version expected sometime next year.

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