November 13, 2008

LA Auto Show Preview: 2010 Bentley Azure T

Life is often divided into questions of nuance. No matter the subject, clear cut answers are hard to come by. For instance, when is enough enough? When does indulgence become decadence?

Bentley, an automaker well acquainted with indulgence, will release their newest convertible at the LA Auto Show next week. We've got an early preview.

With lines that recall the first post-war Bentleys, the Azure received an enthusiastic reception as a concept car at the 2005 Los Angeles Show. The production version retains much of the concept car's character and is instantly recognizable as a successor to the 1946 Mk.6 drophead coupe.

Significant time and effort has gone into making the Azure T’s folding roof attractive as well as highly functional. Operated hydraulically at the touch of a switch, the Azure T's three-layer canvas roof is elegantly stowed beneath the rear parcel shelf in a matter of 25 seconds. Because the roof is held in a separate well area, there is no impact on the generous trunk space which was designed to hold two sets of golf clubs and hand luggage.

As impressive as its stately dimensions is the Azure T's immense power. 500 horsepower and 738 pound feet of torque are on tap, courtesy of a 6.75-liter twin-turbocharged V8 mated to a six-speed ZF automatic transmission. Each engine is assembled by hand at the factory in Crewe; the signature of the build team leader is engraved into a plaque fixed to the intake manifold.

With 90 percent of peak torque available from 1800 rpm to 3800 rpm, the Azure vaults toward the horizon with zeal. 60 miles per hour is accomplished in a mere 5.2 seconds, whilst on the way to a top speed of 179 mph.

Keeping the powerful and weighty Azure T composed are a set of computer-controlled, adaptive electro-hydraulic dampers with automatic ride height control and load compensation. In addition to countering acceleration squat and brake dive, the Azure T's dampers will counteract body roll, delivering impressive control in all driving conditions.

Twenty-inch alloy wheels with 255/40 ZR20 Pirelli P Zero tires further improve handling and road holding. When equipped with the optional brake upgrade, each wheel houses the largest set of brake discs available on any production car in the world.

Measuring 420 by 40 mm in front and 356 by 28 mm in the rear, these massive carbon-composite discs are clamped by eight-piston calipers front and rear. In addition to 16 pounds of weight savings, the carbon discs are designed to last the lifetime of the car while offering nearly fade-free performance.

Building a Bentley is an intensely personal affair. To suit, the British automaker offers 42 exterior paint colors, eight different wood veneers and 25 different leathers to furnish a customer's Azure.

Befitting its role as Bentley's new flagship convertible, the Azure T embodies a range of new standard features. The seats and door panels are covered in diamond quilted leather. The dashboard features an ‘engine-turned’ aluminum finish reminiscent of 1920s racing Bentleys, and the instrument faces are finished in black rather than parchment.

Yet beneath the traditional Bentley cues lies a raft of modern technology.

The Azure T's stereo head unit now reads audio files stores on an SD memory card rather than from a compact disk. As an option, Azure T buyers can specify a premium audio system designed by Naim Audio, a UK-based high end hi-fi manufacturer. The upgraded audio system features 10 speakers, a dual-channel subwoofer and an 1100 watt amplifier, plus eight individual equalizer modes to reproduce a ‘live’ concert-like experience.

Like the Continental T and Arnage T before it, the Azure T carries on the tradition of modern sporting Bentleys, cars known for their sybaritic luxury, sporting character and titanic performance.

Which leads back to one of those precious clear-cut answers.

Enough is never enough.


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