Home » You Can Buy A Baller Bentley Arnage For The Price Of A New Accord

You Can Buy A Baller Bentley Arnage For The Price Of A New Accord

Bentley Arnage Topshot
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It feels cliched to say that luxury cars don’t represent what they used to, but by and large, it’s true. After Lexus scared the living daylights out of Mercedes-Benz, almost every luxury automaker decided to hide down the cost-cutting and gadget-adding rabbit holes, resulting in a change in definition from materials and refinement to toys and performance. You can get into a brand new Mercedes-Benz GLS and chances are, it’ll still creak. Likewise, the current Lexus LS will let you do a bewildering array of things from a tablet in the rear console, but the admittedly potent twin-turbocharged V6 can’t quite be described as buttery. So, if something like a used Mercedes-Benz S-Class just doesn’t float your boat, might I suggest turning back the clock even further with a Bentley Arnage?

Early examples of the Bentley Arnage are still relatively cheap, with a choice of Cosworth or Bentley power for less than the price of a new Honda Accord LX. That’s an awful lot of wood, leather, and absurdly soft floor mats for your money, even if some of the bills on the back-end can make Freddy Krueger look like Mister Rogers. [Editor’s Note: I’m not really sure I follow this analogy; the bills are so expensive they make a notorious horror movie character seem like one of the kindest, most thoughtful humans ever to wield an owl puppet and roam the planet? But I’m going to leave it, in case I’m missing something. – JT]

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

However, let’s back up a second, because I’m sure you have a few good questions. Namely, what makes the Arnage cool, what sort of example can you get for new Accord money, and what goes wrong on them? Buckle up, because we’re about to find out.

What Are We Looking At?

Bentley Arnage Mulliner 2

Historically, the Bentley Arnage is a big deal. It’s the last Bentley sedan designed before Volkswagen bought the iconic British firm, and while that may raise some stereotype-based red flags, may I remind you of German engineering’s current reputation. The Arnage was the Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph’s sporty sibling, and Vickers’ vision of a mainline Bentley for the new millennium. We’re talking about a beautiful Crewe-built executive sedan resplendent in leather, metal, and wood, a beautiful stately sedan that was once the chariot of the rich and famous. Everything you touch and look at doesn’t just seem both real and absurdly expensive, it is both real and absurdly expensive, relying on substance above flash in ye olde luxury tradition.

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Bentley Arnage Interior

Named after the corner at the end of the Mulsanne straight at Le Mans, it seems a bit ridiculous that such a large, extravagant sedan could ever be pitched as engaging. However, don’t let the looks fool you. The Arnage may look positively classic, but it doesn’t drive like the old Turbo R. As Motor Trend reported from the press launch:

The Arnage’s new fully galvanized monocoque steel bodyshell is 65 percent stiffer than before; the independent wishbone front and rear suspension (with automatically adaptive electro-hydraulic dampers) is better controlled; the rack-and-pinion steering is now directly mounted to the front subframe and perceptibly more rigid; and the old ship-at-sea corkscrew motion over bumps is gone.

Complementing the inherent integrity of the new chassis are bigger, stronger brakes, a smoother-shifting five-speed automatic transmission, even a newfangled device called Automatic Stability Control. It’s significant that this traction-maxxing device-also BMW-supplied-can be switched on or off from the cockpit: Unlikely though it may seem at first appearance, the Bentley Arnage really is a driver’s car.

Importantly, the Arnage has stood the test of time. Today, while a Maybach 57 looks a bit tacky and a third-hand Rolls-Royce Phantom has a whiff of Instagram influencer to it, the Arnage still does the business. It’s regal without being pompous, grand but not obnoxious, a refined, stately cruiser that flies under the radar. Oh, and it’s assembled using some of the finest materials available to mankind. How nice is that?

How Much Are We Talking?

Bentley Arnage 2

First, let’s establish a benchmark. A base-model 2024 Honda Accord starts at $28,990, so anything under that is fair game. Back in December, this 1999 Bentley Arnage Green Label sold on Bring A Trailer for $25,500. With just 50,000 miles on the clock and the classic color combination of green over tan, it looks absolutely lovely, features Cosworth power, and cost its new owner less than a new base-model Accord.

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2001 Bentley Arnage Red Label 1

Then again, maybe green-on-tan isn’t your jam. Maybe you’re looking to stay low-key, with something black-on-black. Perhaps the phrase “six-and-three-quarter-liter V8” stokes a fire deep inside you. Well, this gleaming 2001 Bentley Arnage Red Label sold on Cars & Bids in December for just $15,000. At that sort of price, it’s easy to excuse the piano black wood as whoever bought this now has considerable headroom for maintenance before they catch up to new midsize Honda money.

Bentley Arnage Mulliner

If you’re exceptionally patient, you can even find exceptionally special Arnage models for borderline sensible money. Bentley only made 31 left-hand-drive Mulliner models in 2004, and this one sold on Bring A Trailer last year for $27,300. From the inlaid veneers to the fluted grille, there’s something truly special about this fine British automobile.

What Goes Wrong?

Bentley Arnage Green Label Engine

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The first thing you need to know is that in the beginning, there were two Bentley Arnage models: The Red Label and the Green Label. The latter used a Cosworth-fettled twin-turbocharged version of BMW’s M62 V8. Surprisingly, this is considered the more reliable of the early engines, having a reputation for feeling ordinary but returning decent economy. It’s worth noting that in BMWs, the M62 is known for timing guide wear, but this doesn’t seem to be an issue in the revised Arnage engine. Unfortunately, the Green Label is exceptionally rare, so it might take some time to find one.

Bentley Arnage Mulliner Engine

The Red Label cars, along with the Arnage R, Arnage T, and Arnage RL, came with a 6.75-liter Bentley V8, and while this turbocharged engine provides extra shove, there are a few issues worth noting. Pre-2002 examples of these engines can suffer from head gasket failure when not treated with care, and British car specialist JE Robison Service has a theory as to why:

When the car is new the head bolts are torqued to around 50 foot-pounds.  With 20 bolts per side, this adds up to many tons of clamping force on the gasket surface. This force is increased every time the engine gets hot, and it’s relaxed when the motor cools down. When the motor is overheated the pressures skyrocket.

After a few such cycles the gasket gets squeezed a tiny bit thinner, and the torque on the bolts starts to drop.  The result – lower clamping force on a cold engine.   When the motor heats up, all is still well because the thermal expansion tightens everything up.  But on a cold engine we have an incipient disaster.  When the low clamping forces of a cold engine with relaxed torque come up against the high cylinder pressures of a turbo engine under throttle the result may be a blowout.

Another potential issue is camshaft wear, which has been reported on pre-2007 6.75-liter engines. Fixing this can get quite expensive, as replacement camshafts and lifters are hard to come by. On the plus side, this is one of those issues that will be blatantly obvious in a pre-purchase inspection, as worn valvetrain components create a horrendous racket.

Arnage Cam Wear

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Thankfully, other than issues with the 6.75-liter V8 which may be mitigated with proper warm-up and heavier oil, the Arnage is a rather robust car. It doesn’t use the same hideously expensive oleopneumatic braking and suspension system found in the older Turbo R, most vehicle systems seem fairly robust, and the rear suspension spheres are remarkably easy to replace when they wear out, requiring just 1.1 hours of book labor.

Should You Buy A Bentley Arnage?

Bentley Arnage 3

In case it wasn’t blatantly obvious, buying a Bentley Arnage instead of a new Honda Accord is a bad idea. From fuel to parts costs to oil changes, everything for the Bentley will be substantially more expensive, and trustworthy service specialists for these hand-built British cars aren’t on every corner.

However, if you can afford to buy the car outright and budget $5,000 a year in maintenance and repairs, absolutely go for it. These are spectacular, beautifully crafted cars that are certainly worth experiencing. They’re right at the intersection between charmingly antiquated and surprisingly modern, and carry a roguish charm and a sense of solidity that’s enough to fall in love. The Bentley Boys may have left Le Mans, but the hum goes on forever.

(Photo credits: Bring A Trailer, Cars & Bids, Rolls-Royce Forum)

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Ward William
Ward William
1 month ago

After watching The Car Wizard’s exp with this vintage of Bentley, that’s a strong no way Jose or Hose B from me Captain Kirk. Scotty beam my ass out of this Bentley and into something cheaper to maintain.

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
1 month ago

Jason: the Krueger – Mr Rogers goes like this. The maintenance costs are so murderous on your wallet they make Freddie Krueger look friendly and tame.

Mthew_M
Mthew_M
1 month ago

A discussion on the Arnage, and no mention whatsoever of the ‘T’?!

While they hastily plopped the old 6.75 in for the Red Label, VW also set out to thoroughly revise both the engine and the car itself, culminating in the ‘Series 2’ for 2002 – The Arnage R and Arnage T. The R is the sedate one, with the T being more sporty. Most of the engine problems were done away with, a switch was made from single to twin turbos, and power was way up.

More difficult – but not impossible – to find for the prescribed budget, the T is the one that you really want.

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
1 month ago

A great assessment. I like the first Continental GT, but most VW-era Bentleys feel tryhard, whereas the Arnage has a more confident presence on the road. I’d still be too scared to drive one in traffic.

The Dude
The Dude
1 month ago

Maybe a more accurate headline is “You Can Buy A Baller Bentley Arnage For The Price Of A New Accord With Repair Bills That Will Make An Alfa Blush”

(These are great cars and I would so be down for owning one but I’m used to Toyota and Honda cost of running)

Last edited 1 month ago by The Dude
Totally not a robot
Totally not a robot
1 month ago

Thomas, you’ve done a horrible job convincing me to not buy a used Bentley. So when I get in trouble for bringing a Bentley home one day, I’m totally throwing you under the bus for making a weak case at dissuading me from being a baller on a budget.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
1 month ago

> Perhaps the phrase “six-and-three-quarter-liter V8” stokes a fire deep inside you.

You don’t know me!!

.. Okay maybe you do. The absurdity of a traditionally standard (as in imperial) fraction designation of an SI unit has always delighted the hell out of me. It’s so arrogant, so far extra, that it comes full circle to baller as hell.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
1 month ago

Back when Bentley was just a sporty Rolls Royce

I agree with the BMW Rolls models. They look tasteless and remind me of pimps and drug dealers.

Does the Arnage still use a GM automatic transmission? If so, an LS swap is easy 🙂

James Davidson
James Davidson
1 month ago
Reply to  Dogisbadob

If not LS swap, then a Tesla swap performed by Electrified Garage. The fit and finish will put any Tesla to shame.

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
1 month ago

I love these and I’ve thought more than I should about picking up a British luxobarge. I’m sure they’d be an absolute nightmare to own but there are a fair amount of British specialty shops around me that I’m sure would be happy to help me and eviscerate my wallet.

Nic Periton
Nic Periton
1 month ago

The gasket problem is an easy fix (not cheap bits, but OEM are not insanely costly), the cam/ follower thing is doable (ask me, somewhere I have names). Think somewhere around £ 6000 for a full engine rebuild, or check the service history carefully, if the work has been done I have seen these with very high mileages, still not cheap things to run though, they drink petrol and eat tires and brake components in ways that are easily explained by physics but less easily too loved ones and bank officials. The Green Label ones are an abomination,the compromises are too many.
An Arnage T can be had for almost sensible money, however, they are not sensible cars. Nothing that big and comfortable should be allowed to go that fast that quickly.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 month ago

I instantly thought of this series when I saw a beautiful blue Maserati 2-door at the manufacturing facility I’ve been at all week—on 3 separate days. I salute whoever it is: the fancy cars in the lot are overwhelmingly American Iron—I just hope they planned for the expected unexpected costs.

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
1 month ago

I so desperately wanted a Bentley and I had to come to the difficult conclusion that I could easily afford to buy a used Bentley but I could not afford to own one and stay married. So instead I bought a beautifully pristine 1988 Jaguar XJ6 Vanden Plas for $5600. All in on costs for various parts replacements and repairs I’m in for no more than three grand over the last six years. I have never regretted the decision to have 80 or 90 percent of the fun for twenty percent of the cost.

I still want a Bentley, though.

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
1 month ago
Reply to  OrigamiSensei

What about a used Arnage with an LS swap? They used GM automatic transmissions so the swap should be relatively easy. Then only the fuel, brakes, and tires + whatever luxurious stuff goes wrong will be expensive.

Rollin Hand
Rollin Hand
1 month ago

I would love to roll up to a gas station in one of these, early Van Halen blasting, while I am wearing sandals, cargo shorts and a t-shirt. People would stare, and I would love it

Protodite
Protodite
1 month ago

God I think about these a lot

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
1 month ago

and budget $5,000 a year in maintenance and repairs, absolutely go for it.

And at 11/13/15 MPG make sure to budget a bit more.

James Davidson
James Davidson
1 month ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Easily over $100 for every tankful. Super!

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