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The Azure debuted for 1995 on the then-current version of the company's aging Continental platform. At 210 inches in length and 5,750 pounds in weight, the Azure often surprised onlookers with its size and bulk, intended to both convey a sense of "presence" and allow for comfortable seating of four adult passengers.
Power came from the company's stalwart 6.75 Liter V8, featuring a single, intercooled Garrett turbocharger and producing 400 horsepower (298 kW) and 645 ft·lbf (875 N·m) of torque; power was routed to the rear wheels via a modified, General Motors sourced 4-speed automatic transmission. With a 0 to 60 miles per hour time of 6.1 seconds, the Azure was very fast for a car of it's size, weight and poor aerodynamic profile.
Owing to the limited space and workforce at Bentley's Crewe factory, the Azure's thick, powered convertible top was designed and manufactured by Pininfarina, which significantly added to the vehicle's cost. New in 1995, the Azure was priced at $347,645; $36,355 more than the Continental on which it was based, despite the Continental being a much larger, more practical car with four doors.
From 1999 through the end of production, the Azure was also available in "Mulliner" trim, which added special bespoke trim and additional equipment and allowed the buyer the option for further customization during the build-process; pricing varied by car, as equipment could be significantly different from one to the next depending on customer requests.
Volkswagen purchased Bentley from Vickers in 1998; already three years into production, Volkswagen executives decided to keep the then-current Azure in production through 2003, then release it's successor at a later date, when other model updates had already been dealt with; production of the updated Azure began for the 2006 model year.
Now based on the Arnage, power comes from the current variant of the Bentley turbocharged V8 making 450 hp (340 kW) and 645 ft·lbf (875 N·m) of torque. Volkswagen funded a significant re-working of the engine in 2001 to moderized it, which included a switch from the old single-turbo system to a modern twin-turbocharger setup, reducing turbo-lag and increasing horsepower output; a new, model-specific 6-speed automatic transmission feeds power to the rear wheels.
Bentley claims a 0 to 60 mile-per-hour time of 5.6 seconds and a top speed of 168 mph (270 km/h) , slightly faster than the previous edition and still very good for a vehicle of this size and weight.
The United States Department of Energy lists Bentley Azure as the least fuel-efficient car in its class with only 9 mpg–U.S. (26.13 L/100 km / 10.8 mpg–imp) city and 15 mpg–U.S. (15.68 L/100 km / 18 mpg–imp) highway rates.
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Check out the Bentley Azure wallpapers and Bentley Azure Pictures (pics) collection below: