No doubt that all cars have gotten pretty darned good recently, but until you've driven something like this 2002 Bentley Azure drophead coupe, I can guarantee that there's an entirely different layer of amazing that you have yet to experience. There are no other vehicles, then or now, that drive like a big Bentley. I might compare it to a living room that can run 13-second quarter mile times, but it's likely that most readers haven't been in a living room this nice. No other vehicle in the motoring kingdom drives with the dissonant power and grace of this lovely Azure convertible. None.
This Sunrise Red Azure shows just 19,263 immaculately maintained miles from new (which is a little more than 2100 per year), and is as gorgeous and silky smooth as the day it arrived on the ship from England. The Azure was introduced in 1995 and given a facelift in 1998, but as you know evolution is a slow process, especially with coach-built English vehicles. And that's just how the buyers of these cars like it. Here at RK Motors Charlotte, we are easily able to spot factory paint on most cars by virtue of its built-in flaws. There are no such identifying markers on this Azure. The paint you get with your one-third of -a-million-dollars has probably been hand rubbed by a whole team of guys named Jeeves or Kensington who wear white gloves whenever they touch it, or perhaps even by magical elves, because it's spectacularly even. Orange peel? None. Mismatched colors? Never. Misaligned panels? Unthinkable. There is one fellow at the Bentley factory whose only job is to find flaws and send the car back to whomever made the mistake and force him to fix it. Seriously. Quality control isn't a department, it's ONE GUY! And that gentleman obviously takes his job very, very seriously. In the nine years since this luxury yacht landed on our shores, it has been beautifully maintained, and everything that was spectacular about it in 2002 remains, and there are almost no signs that it has been driven. We're experts, we get paid to find problems, but on this car, it was A LOT harder than usual. If you come to look at this one, bring your magnifying glass if you're that intent on finding a problem.
Bentley is the sporting side of Rolls-Royce. Well, not anymore, but when the Azure was designed, the Corniche was on the drawing board beside it. As a result, there's a lot less chrome, although the pieces that are on the car are simply as good as anything you'll see on the nose of a Duesenberg or Hispano-Suiza. From the trademark mesh grille to the delicately framed tail light lenses, the brightwork is so clean and without fault you want to dip your finger in it like it has been coated in liquid mercury. Lenses are wonderfully well preserved, and if the body has escaped road rash, I can assure you that the glass is equally unmarked. The convertible top features a glass rear window with a heating element, and it, too, is scratch-free.
No question that this is a beautiful, hand-made car. But that's only half the equation, because the other half will leave you speechless. This is a car that weighs somewhat north of 5500 pounds, yet can hurl itself to 60 MPH in less than six seconds. Do the math—oh, never mind, if you can afford this car, you can afford to have someone do it for you. The bottom line is that the ancient pushrod V8 (which Bentley calls the “six and three-quarter” liter engine) now sports two Garrett turbochargers which stuff it full of enough boost to make 400 horsepower and a towering 615 pounds of torque. Let me spell it out in case you can't grasp the enormity of the number: six-hundred fifteen pounds of torque. It makes the substantial curb weight of the car vanish, and it rockets forward with such creamy smoothness that you might think there's an electric motor working under the hood. Ever been on a Japanese bullet train? It feels kind of like that. Only faster. The engine bay is spotless, and since Bentley clearly does not want the layman doing his own oil changes on these cars, you can rest assured that it has been properly serviced by only qualified factory technicians. It fires up easily and idles as softly as a whisper, and if you tread lightly on the accelerator, it is happy to cruise at 2 MPH along the coast so that everyone can see you. Or you can pin the throttle to the floor, at which point this glorious chariot of the gods will rear up on its haunches and begin to shred those expensive tires with a ferocity that would make John Force blush.
The transmission is a 4-speed automatic, because, let's face it, with that much torque, you really don't need gears. Out back there's a fully independent suspension and a pumpkin with remarkably serene 2.69 gears (can you imagine the trouble this thing would make with a set of 4.10s in it?). The suspension is tuned for a little more road feel and performance feedback, thanks to a lever arm front suspension and a sophisticated trailing arm rear suspension. The exhaust offers a hushed murmer, and even at full song, it never raises its voice because that would be unseemly. Brakes are massive discs with ABS at all four corners, and like the engine, their performance will astound you with its vast envelope. It rolls on a set of flashy chrome-plated 17-inch Azure alloys wearing fat 255/55/17 radial tires (or should that be “tyres?”).
The legends of fabulous interior workmanship and materials are true—there's not a single man-made fiber anywhere in this interior. Instead, it's all natural, including leather that is specially selected to match not only in color but texture, Wilton lamb's wool carpets, ¾-inch thick walnut paneling, and brilliantly polished chrome knobs and vents. The tan leather seats are exquisitely stitched with contrasting red piping, and are more comfortable than, well, any piece of furniture in your home. The seats show wear appropriate to the mileage, and the contrasting red carpets are nicely preserved. Every detail is beautifully finished because someone actually took time to hand-make most of the pieces, and those that are not hand-made are carefully inspected, polished, and buffed before installation, ensuring that everything is just as perfect as it can be before the car is shipped to a customer. They are even careful to take the leather used on the steering wheel and shift knob from the same hide to avoid dissimilar sensations when moving your hand between them. You'll be pleased that the convertible top mechanism is as simple to use as a light switch—push the button and the top unlatches and stows itself beneath a matching boot. When it's up, it has six layers of fabric and insulation between you and the outside world, resulting in a convertible that's quieter than most closed cars. And don't forget the trunk, which is as carefully stitched as a custom suit, while also carrying a full set of tools and a pair of umbrellas fitted to the underside of the lid.
This lovely Bentley also carries the original window sticker, owner's manual (which comes in a unique folder keyed to this car alone), a service handbook, and a clean CarFax report. And in case you'd like to accessorize yourself to match your new Azure, there's also a Bentley Collection catalog.
Until you've experienced one of these ultimate luxury cars for yourself, it's almost impossible to understand how polished they really are. Stunningly fast, but so opulent that you'll feel badly about wearing shoes while you drive, there is no other motorcar on earth that feels like a turbo Bentley. With exceptionally low mileage and first-rate maintenance, this Azure Touring convertible represents an opportunity to enjoy the experience for half price. These are wonderful cars to drive, reliable, fast, and everything works as it should. For no-compromises luxury performance, there's really only one place to shop: the home of the winged 'B.' Call today!
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