In one year's time Bentley top brass will tug the covers off the replacement to the Arnage limo – but our spies have been beavering away and have caught sight of the new saloon on test in Britain. This grainy photograph was taken with the mother of all telephoto lenses near a test track, but it reveals the big new Bentley for the first time.
The new Arnage will be even bigger and posher than today's model, but will it also signal the end of the old Rolls-era character of its predecessor? This scoop photo suggests it will keep the ocean liner presence of today's car and sources in Crewe say there is plenty of old-school charm in the 2010 limo.
Crewe is desperate to put clear water between the Arnage and the smaller, VW-related Continental family, so the Arnage successor will be targeted very closely at Rolls-Royce's Phantom range.So the next Arnage will be an uber-expensive saloon?
Spot on. Bentley will unveil the car at the 2009 Frankfurt motor show, and it's likely to cost upwards of £250,000-£300,000 when it hits dealerships in early 2010. Everyone at the VW Group is desperately hoping the looming global recession will have receded by then...Will the new Arnage just be a big VW then?
Get real – VW has done a brilliant job of bringing Bentley into the 21st century with the Conti family. Now the challenge is to preserve the hand-crafted charm of its biggest model, yet subtly updated with the latest tech and eco brains.
The platform of the old Arnage is in fact due to be carried over, albeit in heavily modified form. The wheelbase is stretched by 150mm, extending the car to around 5500mm long. Extensive use of aluminium should stop the scales protesting too much, but it would have been lighter still if Wolfsburg had successfully pushed through its aluminium A8 engineering package. That plan was rejected at an early stage, as too unbecoming for a proper Bentley.What's under that – huge! – bonnet?
Bentley is far from pensioning off the half-century-old 6.75-litre V8. The characterful lump is getting a shot in the arm with some fuel-saving tech and we hear it will mix 550bhp power (for the waft) with novel cylinder deactivation systems (for the prudence). ZF's six-speed auto is likely to continue in production, since the market's latest seven- and eight-speed boxes simply can't cope with the Bentley's colossal torque.
The new Bentley Arnage will continue to be built in Crewe and this engineering package will, in time, spawn next-gen successors to the Azure and Brooklands. We'll also see green 'eco' versions, which can run on biofuels and – eventually – hybrids too.Talk me through the design of the new Bentley Arnage...
We're expecting a subtle upgrade to the regal Arnage look, with new LED lights, incredible attention to detail and – this spyshot of an early prototype reveals – generous proportions to swallow as much luggage as four or five aristocrats could reasonably want to carry.
There's still a long wait until the new Arnage goes on sale in 2010. Bentley has signalled the demise of the current Arnage with the aptly named Arnage Final Series
edition unveiled at the 2008 Paris motor show
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