Bentley Azure

In 1995, following the Rolls-Royce RB211 financial disaster, both Rolls-Royce and Bentley were owned – at least for the time being – by Vickers. The new company was nothing if not ambitious and they set out to produce the biggest and most luxurious convertible in the world. In the Azure they not only succeeded but created the most expensive one too.

At 17 1/2 feet long it was definitely big and it tipped the scales at 2610 kg; that is over 2 1/2 UK tonnes, nearly 2.9 USA tonnes. Propelling this monster took every single cc of the 6.75 litre V8 engine; and even then it needed a turbo. Power output was rated at 450 brake horsepower; this propelled this huge machine from nought to 60 in 6.3 seconds with a top speed of 150 mph.

Buyers were falling over themselves to get their hands on one; they needed a lot of patience though, since the waiting list extended way over a year.

Speed wasn't the solely selling point though. This two-door convertible could seat a driver plus four passengers in luxurious comfort. The standard of finish was immaculate. Even the leather clad steering wheel was stitched by hand; 15 hours of work was allowed for this. The wood veneers were hand cut. The convertible roof was made by Pinninfarina in Italy to the highest possible standards.

The shape was hardly aerodynamic; brute force alone gave it it's hair raising speed and acceleration.

In 1998 business politics intruded. There was a battle for ownership of the company. Finally Volkswagen bought Bentley from Vickers; Rolls-Royce cars went to BMW who had been supplying some parts to the old company. BMW were threatening to withhold supplies if they didn't get the various rights that they were after and so Volkswagen made a commercial decision to switch to other suppliers and this meant a redesign of the Azure.

In 2001 a twin turbo replace the old single turbo; this shoved horsepower up and gave a claimed nought to 60 time of 5.6 seconds and a top speed of 168 mph.

As the most expensive convertible in the world buyers were limited to the very wealthy; and they would have to be too. Fuel consumption was rated as nine miles per US gallon (11 per UK gallon) for city driving and 15 miles per US gallon (18 per UK gallon) on the motorways.

This power and speed just wasn't enough though! In 2008 The Azure T was unveiled; with numerous upgrades to both body and engine power output went up to a claimed 500 bhp giving a top speed of just short of 180 mph and nought to 60 within 5.1 seconds.

Just how super can a supercar get?

Next: The Continental Supersports

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