Generally speaking, large, luxurious and very expensive four-door saloons, larded thick with avoirdupois, don’t grab driving enthusiasts by the lapels and slap them around the face with desirability. Yet there’s something almost universally appealing about the Bentley Arnage.
Initially conceived under Vickers ownership but launched in 1998, when Bentley was under the Volkswagen Group umbrella, the Arnage had a heart originally from a BMW: the 4.4-litre V8 in turbocharged 344bhp form. To avoid the obvious embarrassment after its takeover, Volkswagen in 1999 added the old 6.75-litre V8 from the Bentley Turbo R, taking the opportunity to stiffen the Arnage’s bodyshell in the process, and then a year later dropped the more efficient BMW unit. A little tweaking of the nomenclature to distinguish between the two resulted in the BMW-engined cars being called Green Label and the Volkswagen-engined cars Red Label.
In 2001, you could even buy an extended version of the Arnage, called the RL, with an extra 25cm of wheelbase and its engine upgraded and made suitable for future emissions legislation by the addition of two turbochargers and fuel injection.
A year later, it was all change again, as the Red Label became the Arnage R. A few months later, that was joined by the Arnage T, with the engine sufficiently souped up to produce a wholesome 453bhp and 645lb ft of torque. Finally, in 2007, it was upped again to 493bhp and a whopping 738lb ft.
If for some reason you’re not instantly attracted to this prime rump of butch British steak, let’s start with the obvious fact that this imperious Arnage has oldschool appeal by the bucketload. Considerable reserves of power, too, with almost any of those engine options.
Go for the more numerous 6.75-litre models and underneath that elegant bonnet that hushed monster produces colossal torque – strong enough in the Arnage T to waft from 0-60mph in just 5.5sec. And that’s not all: it will carry on accelerating, locomotive-like, all the way up to 170mph. In fact, thinking about it, this is possibly your only chance to buy a road-going version of the Class A4 Mallard.