The success of the Bentley Continental R made the debut of a convertible version inevitable — and the Azure duly made a grand entrance at the Geneva Motor Show in 1995. This magnificent open-top touring car was based on the Continental R, but fully justified Bentley’s decision to classify it a separate model with a name and style all its own.
Inevitably, the designer was Pininfarina. Undoubtedly a — perhaps the — world leader in convertible design, the Cambiano studio produced a sinuous modern body with twin headlights and colour-matched bumpers. The Azure was the first entirely new Bentley convertible to come out of Crewe since the 1960s. This two-door beauty could accommodate four adults in extreme comfort and the powered top closed smoothly at the touch of a button.
The Azure was a large grand tourer, but the ever-reliable 6.75 litre engine with its intercooled Garrett turbocharger pumped out 400 bhp and massive torque, giving this heavy car performance figures that would make the average sports car blink. The transmission was a four-speed automatic sourced from General Motors. From 1999 the Azure was available with the Mulliner package, a trim option that allowed the customer to choose bespoke trim and have the car customized to meet personal requirements. As a result, no two Mulliner Azures are the same.
Although Volkswagen purchased Bentley in 1998, the German company took its time in updating the Azure, which therefore remained in production until 2003. An engine upgrade took place in 2001, introducing a twin turbocharger, and this was coupled with a new six-speed automatic box for optimum performance. The new Azure finally appeared in 2006, but the original remains a splendid motorcar that provides a fitting tribute to the Bentley marque’s final years in British ownership.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1995 (until 2003)
6,761 cc V8 Turbo
Top speed of 150 mph (231 km/h);0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 6.3 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The Azure was very expensive — partly because the sophisticated power-driven convertible top was not only designed by Pininfarina, but also built in Italy and shipped to Crewe for final assembly.