Regal motoring for a pauper’s price tag
Go back 20 years and a Bentley like this, complete with a big and thirsty V8, would have cost you over £140,000. Today, you can pick one up for the price of a Ford Fiesta. The Bentley Arnage, the first car to be launched after Volkswagen bough the company in 1998, is a seriously tempting buy. So long as buyer beware…
You might not want one of the earliest Arnage. They were powered by a 4.4-litre BMW turbo V8 engine. A year after launch, Volkswagen reinstated the 6.75-litre V8 from Bentley’s back catalogue, and all was right again. It produced more power, 395bhp versus 344bhp, but the big difference was torque: 616lb ft versus just 420lb ft. The German engine was easier to drive and more economical, but traditionalists weren’t interested.
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How to tell the difference? Bentley called BMW cars Green Label, and the bigger V8s were Red Labels. By 2000, the 4.4 was gone, making them rare and well-priced curious for collectors.
Bentley launched an extended wheelbase RL in 2001, with a revised engine that was cleaner, meaning it met future emissions regulations. A year later, the Red Label was replaced by the Series 2 Arnage R, with the 453bhp Arnage T following soon after. Our favourite T is the one from 2007, which had 493bhp and 738lb ft.
The last Arnage was the fittingly-named Final Series in 2008. These are desirable, as are the motorsport-themed special editions – by now, Bentley had won at Le Mans again. They’re unlikely to depreciate much, so will be sure-fire investments. Provided, that is, you can afford the maintenance.
‘They’re good value for money,” says expert Danny Riley, “and the Arnage T is quick. The trouble is, people may be able to afford an Arnage but most can’t afford to maintain it properly. Essential service jobs are ignored, while general garages lack the knowledge and tools to do little more than an oil change.”
Oil must be changed every 7500 miles – or half-yearly – with fully synthetic 5W-30 oil. Engines are tough, but 2001 twin-turbo Arnage can experience camshaft failure, and head gasket failure can hit 2000-2002 Red Labels. Gaskets commonly weep oil if the securing nuts aren’t tightened at scheduled intervals: it’s a good indicator of how well looked after a car’s been.
Is the ride unusually hard? The rear gas springs may have failed: the battery might also have failed, which is a cheaper fix (so long as you use the correct Type 100 service and Type 75 starter battery). Brakes are given a hard time, because this is a heavy car, and the front lower wishbone also wears.
Rust is not a major issue, but the inner wings can rot, and galvanic corrosion can damage the doorhandles, locks and window frames. Inside, it’s also robust, although it’s still worth checking the indicator works, the electric windows whirr up and own, and the heater works on every speed setting.
What to pay
£15,000-£20,000 – Early Arnage 4.4 V8s, high-mileage 6.75 Red Labels
£20,000-£25,000 – Sensible-miles Red Labels, higher-mileage Arnage T, the best 4.4s
£25,000-£30,000 – 2002-2005 R and T with 30k-60k miles.
£30,000-£35,000 – Good choice of sensible-miles 2002-on R and T
£35,000-£45,000 – 2005-on facelift R and T
£45,000-£60,000 – The best Arnage: 2007-2008 T