The Arnage R is an important model within the range retaining the successful styling of its predecessor, the Arnage Red Label. Do not let that fool you though into thinking that beneath that familiar skin lies anything less than a car as radically re-engineered as the Arnage T.
Even so, its brief is subtly different to that of the all-powerful T. It shares the same twin-turbo engine, but in the Arnage R it has been recalibrated to provide the ultimate in smooth manners at the expense of a little power though few are likely to find its 400bhp exactly lacking. Nor is peak torque of 835Nm/615 lb.ft at 3250rpm, going to provide less than sparkling acceleration - expect a 0-60mph time of 5.8 sec and a top speed of 160mph.
But while the Arnage R is capable of keeping up with fleet footed sportscars, its more natural gait is in keeping with the finest grand touring traditions. 'Effortless' is the word that probably best describes progress in the Arnage R - a seamless flow of hushed power pushes the car towards the horizon while substantially less aggressive suspension settings than the Arnage T make sure that nothing comes between its passengers and total ride comfort.
This is the ultimate luxury statement within the Arnage Series Two range. Using the Arnage R as its base, the Arnage RL benefits from a 250mm (9.84 inches) extension to its wheelbase to provide unparalleled levels of luxury and comfort for those travelling in the rear.
Though the Arnage RL is, like all Bentleys, more than capable of enthusing its driver, this is one Bentley in which most owners will typically occupy the back seat with a chauffeur behind the wheel.
And naturally while he or she can simply relax and enjoy the sumptuous surroundings, displaying the unequalled skills of Bentley's wood and leather craftsmanship, the RL is just as likely to be put to more practical purposes: with that amount of room at your disposal, it creates the ideal surroundings for a mobile office with more than space enough to house the equipment needed to run a very substantial business while on the move.
Indeed with the help of Bentley Mulliner – Bentley's personal commissioning department – customers can configure their Arnage RL (or any other Arnage for that matter) in any way they see fit, their own imagination being the only practical limit to what can be achieved. You can create a cabin of classical English elegance, a high-tech recreation area with televisions and DVD players or can specify a thoroughly modern interior where traditional materials are turned to the most forward-thinking shapes and finishes.
And this, in fact, is just the start. For while the Arnage RL is indeed the ultimate expression of opulence within the standard Arnage range, the scope of Bentley Mulliner goes much, much further.
Perhaps the most striking proof of this was revealed at the Paris Motor Show in September when, alongside the new Continental GT, Bentley unveiled the Arnage Limousine by Bentley Mulliner.
Using a 728mm (28.66 inches) extension to the wheelbase, the Limousine is neither a standard production car nor an impractical concept - it is simply an example of what can be achieved using a little imagination and the tremendous resources of Bentley Mulliner.
The extra space between the front and rear creates a wonderfully spacious rear cabin with room aplenty for occupants of almost all sizes to stretch out fully with their feet on footrests that also double as rear-facing occasional seats.
The Limousine's ultra-modern interior proved that with the right skills and knowledge, wood and leather can be employed to create a strikingly contemporary theme without in the least jeopardising their inherent, timeless qualities. To go with this, Bentley Mulliner also created a partition between the front and rear compartment from within which a 22-inch (55cms) entertainment screen could be produced at the touch of a button, which in conjunction with the state of the art DVD system instantly turns the rear of the car into a private, mobile cinema.
So it can be seen that there is almost no on-road discipline that the Bentley Arnage cannot turn its hand to. Whether you are in town or country, at speed or in traffic, on road or on track, in the front or in the back, the Arnage is at home. In the 1920s WO Bentley saw no problem in creating a car that was the master of all trades and is a view still strongly held at Bentley today. It is what gave the marque unprecedented scope among luxury carmakers then, just as it does so now. As other marques find themselves pushed ever more into small, specialised corners of the market in order to claim some unique turf, Bentley is happy to continue as it always has, tearing up the entire field.Published 9 January 2003