By Mike Torpey on 2010-03-26 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
Bentley Azure T
THERE'S just one snag about spending a few days with a Bentley Azure T, apart from there being precious few places you dare park.
Quite simply you need a uniform, cap and impeccable manners, because what you become is a chauffeur.
Not just any old chauffeur mind, but one behind the wheel of the world's most luxurious convertible, a soft-top par excellence, a thing of beauty, opulence - and savage power.
The top brass at Bentley are convinced that the Azure T is nailed on to become a future classic and few would disagree - this is a car that combines modern, elegant design with traditional values.
It also has the space to carry four adults in diamond quilted soft leather luxury, another reason why there was rarely an empty seat during my seven days of indulgence.
A succession of passengers, some even formally dressed for the occasion, insisted on the roof being lowered as they bathed in the Bentley experience.
The speed had to be kept to a minimum so they could truly appreciate the premium audio system with its 10 speakers, dual-channel sub-woofer and 1100 Watt amplifier, plus eight individual DSP modes to reproduce a ‘live' concert-like experience.
In truth, it was just so they could be easily recognised from the pavements, their philosophy being that if you cruise round for long enough there's bound to be someone you know out there.
What most of them didn't appreciate is that the Azure T is also capable of thunderous performance. But then this latest in a line of Bentley models to bear the ‘T' legend is fitted with a high performance version of Crewe's iconic 6Â¾ litre V8 engine.
Add a set of 20-inch 5-spoke wheels and tyres, ‘Le Mans' front wing vents, dark tint matrix grille and a sculpted, retractable Flying ‘B' mascot and you have a car in a million - well, a quarter of a million to be more precise because it costs the best part of Â£250,000.
Those wanting to tap in to a volcanic eruption can rely on a twin-turbocharged powerplant producing 500bhp and 1000 Nm of torque - an 11 per cent increase in power and a 14 per cent increase in pulling power over its 450bhp/875 Nm Azure stablemate.
That little lot equates to a top speed of 179 mph, a 0-60 mph time of 5.2 seconds and 0-100mph in 12.1 - accompanied by a prodigious wave of torque.
It all takes some stopping and if you feel the need for more heavy duty anchors then why not go for the upgraded braking system with carbon/silicon carbide, cross-drilled brake ventilated discs. Measuring 420 x 40mm at the front and 356 x 28mm in rear, these discs are the largest fitted to any production car on sale today.
Among the other distinguishing points from the standard Azure is a ‘jewel' filler cap made from billet aluminium. It's something Azure T owners will become extremely familiar with due to constant usage.
In fact I'm still struggling to understand how Bentley came to its average fuel consumption figure of 14.5 miles per gallon, as a single digit return was much closer to the mark.
Who cares about trivia like that though when the majority of Azure buyers use the Mulliner service to create a bespoke convertible to their exact specification - at extra cost of course.
I painstakingly worked my way through the Bentley - inside and out - to find something you could place in the cheap ‘n nasty bracket, to no avail.
Bentley Azure T convertible
Mechanical: 500bhp, 6,167cc, 8cyl petrol engine driving rear wheels via 6-speed automatic gearbox.
Max Speed: 179mph
0-62mph: 5.2 seconds
Combined MPG: 14.5
Insurance Group: 20
C02 emissions: 465g/km
Bik rating: 35%
Warranty: 3yrs/ unlimited miles
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