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BLUE SKIES

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Sep 22, 2007

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

BLUE SKIES

By JOHN GRAFMAN

We all wish the good times would last just a little longer. I find myself feeling the same way behind the wheel of the new Bentley Azure. At least when it comes to size, this Bentley - at 17.66 feet - is indeed a little longer.

From the time I start the motor, the clock is ticking. Where can anyone go in this town and make it back in but two fleeting hours? A quick drive along the Sunset Strip and up Doheny to the majestic Graystone Manor should offer the glamour and prestige that is fitting for a car so regal.

It is a little awkward navigating something so oversized and pricey around the crowded city, but this is LA. Where isn't there traffic? No matter what trajectory one takes from the Beverly Hills O'Gara Coach dealership, a constant obstacle course of cars and people befuddle any attempt at carefree motoring for miles. As far as the jumping on the 405, don't even think about it.

The point is, in this car it doesn't matter. Let the sun pour in and let the tanning begin. If one does not want the overt visibility, a sedan or coupe will do just fine (and Bentley sells plenty of those). No, this is for those who like the exposure.

Does this get a bit of attention? You have to be kidding me? Even Britney Spears isn't flashier. After a while, it seems to be a burden as much as a pleasure. How many people can one smile and wave at before it gets to be old, is what I begin to wonder. This is certainly not for those keeping a low profile.

This grueling crawl along the boulevard is hardly what I consider driving. On the other hand, the very moderate pace allows for time to fiddle with a few of the controls. In particular, the audio system is an obvious distraction from gridlock. I have to admit, this really doesn't seem well integrated into the vehicle. The lack of satellite radio also is a downer (a unit with satellite is expected soon). Even odder still is the powered antennae that is a visually dated piece of merchandise, which disrupts the overall style when it is extended.

Perhaps this is best summed in a moment on Olympic Boulevard by a modest pick-up truck driver commenting at a stop that he can't even afford to look at this car, let alone buy one. Well, he isn't alone. In fact, most of the population of this country, or any other for that matter, can't.

While the Arnage (upon which the Azure is based) is a competent and complete driver, this Azure is more. This is a rolling sculpture on display. Bentley has done what so many try to achieve and few succeed at. Capturing the magic of prior generations and refining it, distilling the essence, and combining it with modern aesthetics. Both inside and out, the convertible's grace simply doesn't exist in nearly any other automobile. This doesn't mean the competition is any less proper, just different. The Bentley Azure doesn't overtly reflect its mechanical prowess in styling. As other offerings attempt to express a more sporty aspect, the Azure takes a different path. This is a more composed, relaxed affair. Every moment within is one to relish, and not race through.

Certainly, those who can afford this will undoubtedly have multiple vehicles - so the Azure wouldn't unnecessarily get overworked. The significance of this is important. As technology continues to get further complicated in most cars, it becomes increasingly difficult to learn and remember how everything functions. This is the unseen beauty of the pricey Brit: It keeps it simple. Even if one doesn't drive this in weeks (or months), it really won't hamper its usability.

While everything seems easy to adjust, the lack of a wider range of adjustability on the steering column is a little disappointing. A car of this caliber needs to accommodate the driver, not the other way around.

This vehicle is really meant to be enjoyed by all, or at least a full carload. There is plenty of room for everyone inside. The Entourage set will feel right at home literally sitting in the lap of luxury. Long flowing lines and surfaces in the interior are elegant and stately. Leather is everywhere, cattle beware. Fortunately for the heifers, only a few hundred of these will be produced - hardly enough to make a dent in the grass grazing population.

The metalwork accentuates the wood and leather, from the deep chrome to the metal pedals. The designers must know that people are attracted to shiny objects. Perhaps the metalwork has a mesmerizing effect or maybe not. Either way, the usage is well done.

Just peering into the car is overwhelming. Gleaming wood on the dash and on the center console radiates an image that says Bentley. The beautiful wood veneer is unfortunately marred by having the edges of the veneer extend beyond flush creating a sharp - less than finished feel. This is one of the few flaws in quality I catch, but it's an annoying one.

Never did this want for more power on the steepest grades, even with the bulk this carries, thanks in a large part to the massive 645 pound-feet of torque. This driver, however, wants an open road to sample the 450-horsepower, eight-cylinder, supercharged motor. Below the 50 mile per hour threshold, this is a gem. Above the limits of the city streets is where the real fun lies. Pushing the envelope is what most expect out of the Azure, as so many of those owners expect that from themselves.

Bentley is synonymous with performance, and the specs on this are in-line with the brand. To be in the field playing with the big dogs, one expects that refinement, such as an engine that is all but impossible to distinguish if it's running at idle.

This one is created for those who don't have to rush around for anyone. Likewise, it really doesn't matter how many hours are spent wrapped in the arms of Azure - it's time well spent. The only limit to the pleasure are the hours in a day.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT

When looking good counts, this is a ten.

For more information please visit www.bentleymotors.com www.ogaracoach.com

SPECIFICATIONS

Price of vehicle: $ 329,990 (base)

Engine: 6.7 liter DOHC 32-valve V8 Power: 450 horsepower Torque: 645 pound-feet Front engine - rear-wheel drive

EPA city/highway fuel economy 11.7 / 20.3 miles per gallon

Dimensions Length: 212.6 inches Width: 74.8 inches Height: 58.74 inches Curb weight: 2,695 kg

Performance 0-60 mph - 5.6 seconds

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