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First look: Arnage drops in for LA

Rolls Royce rival: The Arnage Drophead Coupe appears just months after Rolls Royce announced plans to build a convertible.

Bentley reveals an Arnage-based convertible that could go on-sale in 2006

6 Jan 2005

BENTLEY has continued its tradition of building glamorous convertibles, with the Los Angles auto show unveiling of the Arnage Drophead Coupe.

Although labelled a concept, Volkswagen-owned Bentley says it is entirely production viable and the right reception would bring it to market as early as the second quarter of 2006.

Bugger the pencil, Texta it in right now would be our tip! The timing is important because it means it would beat BMW-owned Rolls Royce’s planned drop-top to market by somewhere between six months a year.

Rolls Royce's take on a $1 million plus convertible first appeared at the Geneva show last March in the form of the 100EX concept.

Soon we'll have two mega drop-tops on-sale, but is there a market for them given the struggles Benz-owned Maybach and Rolls have already admitted to with ultra-luxury limousine sales? Apparently so, in the US just before Christmas there were already more than 50 orders for the Roller! And it probably won't end there, with Maybach expected to join in with a convertible as well.

The Arnage Drophead Coupe is in essence a replacement for the Azure model which was in production from 1995 to 2003.

It shares the same front end as the current Arnage limousine, as well as its platform and its wheelbase. The convertible’s two-door body style with raked windscreen is new, as is the fully automated canvas roof that stows in 25 seconds.

A pop-up rollover protection system is included. Along with a strengthened windscreen it can support the entire weight of the car in the event of calamity.

54 center image The entire four-seater cabin and rear section of the car are newly designed. Bentley says the influence for the interior comes from contemporary furniture, including new seats and floating armrests.

But the Drophead concept has also been brought into existence to promote the extensive engineering development of the Arnage production range, as Bentley's chairman Dr Franz-Josef Paefgen explained in a press release.

"The 2005 Arnage range has been extensively re-engineered at significant cost and is a very modern, high-technology saloon. It is natural, therefore, that we would use this base to further our reputation as the pre-eminent builder of large, luxury convertibles in the world.” A big claim, which Rolls Royce would dispute. But it’s worth remembering that open-top cars have been an intrinsic part of Bentley’s history. Many convertible or 'drophead' models were created, both by notable Bentley coachbuilders such as Mulliner, Park Ward, and later 'in-house' at the company's Crewe headquarters.

Bentley's design team cites the 1955 Park Ward S1 Drophead Coupe and the Azure as its main influences for the show car.

The Drophead concept’s powertrain is the familiar 6.75-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine from the Arnage R that produces 336kW and 875Nm.

Also sourced from the Arnage are ventilated brakes with Electronic Stability Programme, ABS and EBD, independent double wishbone suspension and a computer-controlled adaptive electro-hydraulic damping system including the R’s new comfort suspension system.

There has also been significant strengthening of the chassis to ensure adequate body stiffness, cross-bracing members reinforcing the whole body shell. Strengthening has also been applied to the body structure behind the rear seats.

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