Bentley’s Azure, the convertible version of the Continental R, strikes a magnificent presence. It also served a unique purpose for Bentley, filling a niche that today is left empty in their model line-up. This new model was unique in that it simultaneously featured enough space for 4 adults, a convertible top, and enough luxury and power to turn any outing into a memorable experience. With a starting price around £200,000, however, the cost of entry was a steep one.
A big 6.75-litre V8 made use of a Garrett turbocharger to produce somewhere in the neighbourhood of 385 bhp and 553 lb-ft of torque, although Bentley never released official ratings. It really isn’t important, either, as it was more than enough power to get the massive droptop moving. The transmission was sourced from none other than General Motors; the four-speed unit teamed up with the V8 to propel the Azure from 0 to 62 mph in 6.5 seconds. Top speed was measured at 150 miles per hour; not bad, but quite a ways off of what modern Bentleys are capable of. The extensive bracing required to reinforce the chassis carried with it a considerable 190 kg weight gain. A titanic 2,610 kg kerb weight makes its performance that much more impressive.
An Immense Droptop
Bentley used the services of Pininfarina in designing the bodywork for the big convertible. What they came up with is at once sleek and imposing, its large, square shoulders gently sloping to an elegant yet sporty rear end. A Mulliner trim level was added to the line in 1999. Those purchasing one of these special editions were allowed to specify various bespoke features on their Azure, creating their very own unique version of the car. As you would expect, the interior is absolutely swathed in wood and leather and most other luxury accoutrements of its era.
The Mark I Azure lasted from 1995 to 2003, with 1,403 total models produced. A redesigned Mark II Azure would take over from 2006 to 2009, sporting significant upgrades worthy of its own model writeup. Those looking for a similar car today will have to turn to Bentley’s British rivals over at Rolls-Royce, as their Dawn model is essentially a modern interpretation of the Azure.