By Andy Enright
Bentleys of course, share their shape with modern-day Rolls Royces. That doesn't prevent them being bought by a very different group of customers, however. Bentley owners prefer to drive themselves and often see their cars in a sporting light. A Bentley, after all, is hand-crafted, not mass-produced. And the feeling you get at the wheel of one is like nothing else. The British motor industry may hardly exist as we once knew it but a lasting legacy has been left. You could own a part of it.
Models Covered (1984-1992 - V8 6570CC 4DR EIGHT 1992-1997 - V8 6570CC 4DR BROOKLANDS 1994-1992 - V8 6570CC 4DR MULSANNE 1984-1985 - V8 6570CC 4DR MULSANNE TURBO 1985-1998 - V8 6570CC 4DR TURBO R)
For around the same price as a new Mercedes S-class, a BMW 750 or a Daimler, you could have an immaculate previously owned Bentley - from an official Rolls Royce and Bentley dealer. It's an option well worth considering - if you have the means. Prior to the current day Arnage, saloon buyers chose between the Brooklands or the faster Turbo R. The Brooklands was introduced in August 1992 to replace the previous 'entry-level' Bentley model, the 'Eight'. This model was originally launched for under £50,000 in 1984 to bring Bentley ownership within relatively affordable bounds. At the same time in 1984, customers who wanted speed as well as comfort could pay around £6,000 more and buy the more sporting Mulsanne model which rolled a little less though had the same 6750cc engine. Between 1984 and 1985, there was a turbocharged version too, replaced by the much better handling Turbo R in 1985. In 1990, both the Mulsanne and the Turbo R were improved and further upgraded again in 1994. Like the Brooklands, they were replaced by the Arnage in 1998.
What You Get
There is still something unique and special about owning one of these cars - and about the statement it still makes. Valet parkers spring into action on your arrival. Doorman leap to your aid, waving lesser cars to less exalted berths. Truly, a Bentley has presence and plenty of it. It's hide-covered interior smells - almost literally - of money. Stand outside it and the sheer size overwhelms. Walk round it and you should take your rucksack. In both front and rear, you sink your shoes ankle-deep into something which seems more like an entire sheep than a mere carpet. All around you, there's craftsmanship that would send the Antiques Roadshow Team into sheer ecstasy. Anything that couldn't be veneered has been chromed; switches, door handles, ashtrays, airvents; only the nasty plastic column stalks are a reminder of the 20th Century. You sit high up, of course, with a commanding view of the proletariat who remain mightily impressed by that enormous front grille, even without the famous silver lady statue astride it. After a few miles, you won't care that this car has the drag co-efficient of a garden shed. All that matters is that behind that endless bonnet, you've achieved a superior kind of peace with the world.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
To avoid potential problems, try and buy from a Rolls Royce & Bentley official dealer. Otherwise get a detailed expert inspection carried out. Insist on a full Rolls Royce-approved service before you buy because running costs are huge.
(based on an M-reg Brooklands - approx ex-Vat) A full exhaust system (excluding catalyst) is around £1,200 and an exchange gearbox around £1,500. Front and rear brake pads are around £113 and £74 per set respectively. A starter motor is around £480, a radiator (exchange) around £268, an alternator around £675 and a front headlamp lens around £67.
On the Road
Under the bonnet, you'll find a 6.75 litre V8 engine in normally aspirated and turbocharged forms, depending on your model choice. Despite the prodigious body weight, this unit still manages to shift this huge Gentleman's Conveyance at a surprisingly rapid pace. It's rather undignified to drive the car like this of course but for raising eyebrows amongst your fellow road users, you can't beat it. Most of the time, you'll be content to glide from county to county, much as the standard four-speed automatic gearbox slides imperceptibly from ratio to ratio. You can hear the engine all right, but it sounds a bit like a thunderstorm happening fifty miles away.
A chance to sample the high life - for less than you might expect.