Inspiration for checking out a big Bentley came from bumping into the owner of one at a filling station the other night. Chances of that happening? Pretty high, given the Arnage’s appetite for fuel. A 500bhp V8, 2.6-tonne kerbweight and aerodynamics of a stately home will do that. I just thought it looked absolutely magnificent though. Magnificent enough that such trivialities would be set aside as soon as you plonked your backside back onto the thick leather of the driver’s seat.
There are, to my mind, two levels of Bentley. The Continental GT and its related Flying Spur saloon are all very well but are undeniably the new money end of the spectrum. Cars like the Arnage and the current Mulsanne might wear the same badge and be sold from the same showroom but they feel like totally different cars, aimed at a very different audience. The real old money will always prefer a Rolls of course. Or perhaps a tatty Defender. But if you want a car true to the more hedonistic, caddish image Bentley has always thrived on you need something like an Arnage.
If you’re feeling brave you can pick one up for around £20K these days, these being from the earlier cars with the glazed in headlights and with the (all things relative) less powerful 400bhp version of the classic V8. The car underwent some significant revisions as it matured though, the 2005 model year cars getting the Continental inspired twin headlights and more power. From 2006 onwards though things took a decisive step up, the ageing four-speed automatic replaced by a more modern six-speeder, power going up to 500bhp for the T and torque rising to a monumental 737lb ft – 1,000Nm for those of a metric persuasion.