By KBB.com Editors
Bentley considers the Azure Convertible to be the flagship of its lineup. And rightly so. The Azure Convertible four-seater drapes the current Arnage sedan platform in elegant two-door sheetmetal from the A-pillar rearward that, combined with a luxuriously appointed wood- and leather-lined interior, evokes the image of a classic speedboat. Unlike the new GTC convertible version of the more modern Continental GT, the Azure is definitely "old school" and aimed at a select few wealthy individuals who prefer a more traditional expression of the Bentley mantra of speed with style. The Azure is big, beautiful and unmistakably a Bentley.
If you are looking for a car that tells people you have arrived, in every sense of the term, the Azure will announce it in a powerful yet refined voice. The Azure will also appeal to traditionalists who are looking for a modern car that showcases an elegant sportiness over trendy styling and excess gadgetry.
Even if its huge price tag does not make you blink, the sheer bulk and appetite of the Azure will. It is nearly 18-feet long, over six-feet wide and weighs about three tons. And even an oil baron might feel just a little bit guilty about fuel mileage that dips into single digit ratings when negotiating city traffic.
The original Azure convertible, which had much in common with its sibling the Rolls-Royce Corniche convertible, was offered from 1995 to 2002. Approximately 1,300 were produced. The new Azure, however, was designed to stand alone at the top of the Bentley range as a role model to show that despite the company's highly successful move downstream with the Continental GT and its variants, there are no plans to abandon traditional Bentley customers and other discerning buyers who have the means and the desire to own an ultra-premium bespoke automobile.
Driving Impressions Despite the nautical references to its styling and stature in the Bentley lineup, the Azure does not ride or handle like a boat. The double wishbone front and rear suspension,...with computer-controlled adaptive electro-hydraulic damping system (ARC), provides a proper balance between comfortable cruising and the ability to move swiftly over twisty mountain roads. The power-assisted, speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering supplies good road feel and accurate placement through turns. Given its length and width, the steering also makes the Azure relatively easy to maneuver in tight spots. A few minutes behind the wheel is all that is needed to drive the Azure comfortably on all but the narrowest of back alleys or driveways. The new six-speed automatic transmission fitted to 2007 models erases any hint of turbo lag and allows full use of the prodigious amount of available torque. The huge brakes (13.71-inch front discs and 13.59-inch discs at the rear) are up to the task of hauling the nearly 6,000 pounds of expensive steel, leather and wood to a stop, especially if the driver remains conscious of the weight factor. All-in-all, despite its size and weight, the Azure is a fun car to drive over any type of road.
The Azure's fabric convertible top provides the best of both worlds with coupe-quality sound and weather insulation when raised and elegant open-air motoring when lowered. The frame consists of seven bows for a taut, smooth fit to avoid what Bentley engineers describe as the "starved cow" look. The top itself consists of the outer fabric, a layer of insulation and an inner headliner that gives the interior the upholstered overhead of a hardtop. Despite its complex construction, push a button and the entire top folds completely out of sight beneath a leather-trimmed tonneau aft of the rear seat in less than 30 seconds.
Six-Speed Automatic Transmission
A computer-controlled ZF automatic transmission replaces the old four-speed automatic of the 2006 models that were available only in Europe. It makes a dramatic change in both the performance and demeanor of the 2007 Azure as it comes to the U.S. The new transmission has a user-friendly manual mode, but it is rarely required as the electronics and additional gears automatically provide smooth and steady use of the power produced by the twin-turbo V8 in all situations.
The Azure is available in four-passenger or five-passenger seating arrangements. On four-passenger models the center console is extended to the middle of the rear bench seat. In either case, the place to be is up front in either of the large, cushy, multi-adjustable heated seats. The dash is in the familiar retro modern format of late-model Bentleys, with two large parchment-faced dials facing the driver and a quintet of similarly-colored ancillary gauges in the center dash. Also present are the large round air vents with chrome push-pull control knobs. The color, style, and combination of leather and wood veneer trim and upholstery are limited only by the balance in the customer's checking account and the boundaries of good taste. The three-layer convertible top features a color-coordinated inner lining that recalls the headliners of Bentleys from the 1930s.Exterior
The commanding grille ensconced in a body-colored shell is unmistakably Bentley. Like the rest of the bodywork forward from the windshield, it is shared with the Arnage four-door sedan. The rest of the Azure is cloaked in all-new panels with longer doors that mimic the conservatively-sculpted lines of the sedan. The result is a familial resemblance, but also a visually well-proportioned transformation, despite the vehicle's size, from upright four-door sedan to sleek two-door convertible. The elegantly-chiseled curves of the rear end evoke a modernistic boat-tail effect when the top is down.
The Azure, as expected, is fully equipped with premium items such as xenon headlamps, parking distance sensors, a two-tone, leather-covered, multi-function electrically-adjustable tilt steering wheel with easy entry/exit feature, dual-zone climate control with separate rear-seat controls, six-disc CD changer and GPS satellite navigation system. Wheels are 19-inch, 12-spoke alloys with 255/45 Pirelli P-Zero radial tires. The standard color palette offers 39 exterior colors and 21 colors of premium grade-A leather upholstery. Safety features include full-sized driver and front-passenger airbags, thorax airbag systems for front and rear occupants, a reinforced windscreen structure and pop-up rollover protection bolsters.
The Mulliner personal specification program offers two levels of optional equipment. The first level consists of an extensive menu of items that range from the "Flying B" hood ornament and a variety of alloy wheels to wine chillers in the rear center console and headrest-mounted video screens. Level two goes beyond this to make each Azure a bespoke automobile catering to a customer's preference in terms of offering an almost unlimited choice of color, interior trim, upholstery and other accoutrements.
The 6.7-liter aluminum V8 is the latest derivation of an engine with roots that can be traced back nearly five decades. It is a thoroughly modern engine featuring low-pressure twin turbos with intercoolers and a roller tappet valve system. There is virtually no turbo lag and it produces tractor-like quantities of torque for smooth and instant acceleration to move the hefty Azure from zero to 60 miles per hour in 5.9 seconds. Top speed is 168 miles per hour.
450 horsepower @ 4100 rpm
645 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy 11/16