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Bentley Arnage

Bentley Arnage Published: 7th Mar 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

What The Experts Say...

These modern Rollers and Bentleys seem to split opinion among the marque specialists but all agree they are great value thanks to some hefty depreciation. RB&B Garages rates them highly as contemporary classics, especially the Red Label where the reverting back to the Bentley engine made the car more traditional in character; it’s why the car scores over the Green Label and the GT coupé for the same money. Ghost Motors takes a less charitable view and is not a particular fan of any of them, regarding the ‘English’ Mulsanne as a better, more traditional buy that will surely become a classic. But, if you want one then go for the Red Label. However, according to Silver Lady Services, the Seraph can command the best residuals and says this terrific trio are generally bought by motorists new to the brands.

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Massive depreciation makes modern prestige cars spectacular value as this terrific trio testifies but are they contemporary classics to collect now?

Say what you like about crystal ball classics but you can’t knock their sheer value. Take this trio on test this month, the Rolls- Royce Seraph, Bentley’s Arnage and Jaguar’s X350 generation XJ saloon. Launched around the same time, at the start of the New Millennium, these majestic moderns carried price tags as high as £160,000 (in the case of the Bentley) yet now can be purchased for a little over a tenth of this or just £5000 in the case of the Jag.

Apart from offering such a lot of metal for your money, contemporary cars such as this Brit pack provide modern comfort and conveniences along with surprising economy. Buy a good one, look after it and you could be quids in if you keep the vehicle for a decade to ride out what’s left of the steep depreciation curve that these vehicles inherently suffer from. A bit of posh for pennies – but what one has you laughing all the way to the bank?

WHICH ONE TO BUY?

CLASS APART, OR CLASS WAR?

Each have their merits and there’s no wooden spoon. The Rolls and Bentley models might look the same but they were launched just when the Crewe company was sold off to be carved up by BMW and Volkswagen at the tail end of the last century. Their chief differences lurk under the skin. The Silver Seraph was produced for less than four years and came only with a BMW-built V12, whereas the Bentley was offered with either a BMW-sourced 4.4-litre V8 (in the Arnage Green Label) or a revitalised old school R-R 6.75-litre V8 (in the Arnage Red Label) once the BMW powerplant had to be quietly ditched in 2000. So while on the face of it these cars are all the same, there are actually three quite distinct variations on the theme and they’re all very different to drive, the Rolls perhaps the sweetest performer care of that BMW V12 although the Red Label is the fastest and sportiest pick.

Despite the different generations of XJs over the decades, there’s no mistaking this Jaguar which is the bridge between traditional styling, that’s reminiscent of the S1, and the swanky XF corporate look that’s now the hallmark of today’s Jags. The X350 (and the 358 facelift) is a much larger and substantial car than the X300 it replaced providing much more interior space and, for a Jaguar anyway, a bountiful boot.

Unlike the Rolls and Bentley, there’s a much wider selection of models offering different engine sizes and trims including diesels, a scorching XJR flagship and a luxury Daimler. Engines range from a 240bhp 3-litre V6 (a derivative of the unit used in the X-type and S-types) right up to a superb 4.2-litre 400bhp V8 (XJR), while the diesel is the muscular 2.7-litre V6 as found in the Range Rover Sport.

Sport, SE, Executive and Luxury are the trim options while if you find the XJR too aggressive looking go for Super V8 instead as it’s fundamentally all XJR but more discreet looking… The revised X358 is more a facelift than a replacement but has some welcome improvements.

WHAT’S BEST TO DRIVE?

JAG FOLLOWED BY RED LABEL

Ever since the XJ6 was launched back in 1968, it set the benchmark for refinement irrespective of price and surpassed even Rolls-Royce standards. Successive models have only raised the bar further and a good X350 simply wafts along yet, thanks in part to its aluminium build, is amazingly lightweight for its bulk and therefore surprisingly agile for such a large limo. In short, like the original XJ6, you get the best of both worlds.

The Arnage/Seraph is a world away from the old Silver Spirit/Mulsanne and not before time too as the Shadow was well and truly past it even back in 1980. The Bentley remains still the sportier drive of the pair, in fact, the Arnage and Seraph can almost be treated as two distinct cars because the buyer who wants one of them probably won’t want the other. Bentley made a raft of changes in 2002 to improve the chassis, resulting in a big improvement for the driver who prefers a sports saloon than a cruiser.

The Arnage T is noisy, aggressive and powerful with a sharp throttle response, while the Arnage R is the more refined. The key is to try before you buy, “to make sure you like the driving characteristics,” advises Paul Brightman of Surrey-based Royce Service & Engineering (www. royceservice.co.uk) but overall it’s the Jaguar that still wears the crown. Most R-R independents go for the Bentleys over the Rolls which one specialist reckoned “couldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding” despite its V12!

Power-wise, all three are fairly similar and 400-500bhp is there for the taking depending upon models. But where the XJ scores is its better power to weight ratio care of its lighter construction which is considerably less than both the smaller X-Type and S-Type. There’s a trio of V8s, one (262bhp) 3.5-litre with the other pair being the XK8’s 4.2-litre engine. To be perfectly honest, unless you’re particularly power crazy, you’ll find the regular 3.5 and 4.2 versions quite fast enough already, thank you, not to bother at all with the supercharged XJR although this model will hold the best chance of future classic status. The twin turbo TD is pretty refined and will always sell well due to its 35mpg economy and impressive performance that’s faster than the old 4.2 XJ6.

OWNING AND RUNNING

HARDLY DIY PROPOSITIONS…

Like all nicely maturing prestige cars, buying one is the easy bit because they look amazing bargains – the real worry is keeping one in the style it’s been accustomed to! Make no mistake although independents can contain costs to surprisingly sane levels, servicing and repairs can still work out very expensive if you’re unlucky; a Seraph will cost much more to repair than a Shadow or Silver Spirit with brake pads alone costing £140, for example and a new exhaust, including catalyst, not far short of four grand. And you may as well throw away your tool box as none are DIY friendly…

The XJ will work out cheaper to own but not by much. This acclaimed Jaguar saloon has historically endured an indifferent reputation for reliability over the decades but the good news is that despite the X350’s complexity, this generation of XJs appears to be one of Browns Lane’s more durable designs if looked after by an expert.

The V8s (timing gear excepted) are trustworthy and the V6 especially so. With the Jaguar, the main concern is the car’s electronics and electrics.

See that everything works as it should (especially the touch screen dash). This XJ rides serenely on air suspension and this can fail but it’s usually just the compressor at fault; failed air suspension bags cost around £200 each on the other hand. Another item to watch for is the electronic handbrake which requires special tools. On the diesel, a special engine Dual Particulate Filter can become clogged meaning a £1000 repair bill to ‘reboot’.

The XJ’s alloy body should be carefully inspected and treated in a similar way as repairs are specialist. Rust can strangely affect early Rollers and Bentleys in the wheelarches and sills but it shouldn’t have spread though.

Be wary of wacky colour schemes specified by first owners with more money than taste however. Buyers like subdued shades best such as dark exterior colours and light interiors and this means that the wrong scheme can knock thousands off values – which could be turned to your advantage of course!

Increasingly but not surprisingly, such high class cars are used only on an occasional basis. And here’s the rub that affects all three; those made after March 2006 fall into the highest tax brackets meaning if you also intend to use yours sparingly doesn’t it seem a bit like throwing money down the drain?

How much to pay? You see early XJs sell for under £5000 but hold your horses – and your cheque book – because you’ll sleep a lot easier by spending £7-10K and buying from a Jag specialist offering a worthy warranty.

The X358 facelift range starts from under £8000 on the forecourts and you can pick up an XKR for £11,500 but with depreciation so heavy, and with more still to come, we’d tend to look at an older car where most of its money losing ways are thankfully in the past.

Prices for the Arnage and Silver Seraph typically start from around £20,000 at a respected specialist (which is the best place to buy one) but if you’re lucky enough to hone in on a late, low-mileage car (a Last of Line) you may need to pay up to £60,000, although £40,000 seems the usual upper limit.

Bentley purists are only interested in the Red Label, better still if it’s one of the sought-after Le Mans or Final Series cars as they are likely to be worth the most in the future. It will be interesting to see how these cars fare in the future and whether they’ll go the same route as the Silver Spirit and Mulsanne and slip to Triumph Spitfire money…

And The Winner Is...

If it’s purely down to obtaining the most metal for your money then it has to be the Jaguar. The X350 and the 358 facelift carries on the XJ’s tradition by offering not only astonishing value but also a driving experience that few others can match let alone surpass. That said, for sheer fun as well as future financial gain we’d perhaps look to Jaguar’s S-Type R but the larger saloon offers an awful lot for so little. The Rolls Seraph and Bentley’s Arnage are delightful devices which are both in a different league to Crewe’s earlier offerings. They represent strong value perhaps with the best yet to come as values fall, and craftsmanship is what you’d expect from such badges. Compared to the brash if brilliant WAG Bentley GT, which suffers more due to its owners than the excellent design, these classier saloons offer a more tasteful, roomier and yet equally satisfying choice.



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