Is this really “the pinnacle in a line of convertibles that stretches back to the very earliest days of the Bentley legend”? This haughty claim from the English marque at first sight seems to be just another case of marketing hype. But then you look at this new Azure which, in essence, is an open-topped, sports version of the Arnage, and you truly get a sense of grandeur and the marque’s traditions, founded on luxury and refinement, but now associated with simpler design. Bentley hasn’t forgotten its past, however: “In the side view in particular”, explains Raul Pires, head of exterior design, “the car is inspired by the classic S1 DHC from 1957 with coachwork by Park Ward, with that strong line rising over the rear wing and then descending towards the tail.”

Together with Pires, directed in the project by Dirk van Braeckel and assisted for the interiors by Robin Page, Fabio Galvano takes us through all the stages in the design of the new Bentley, a team effort based on what is already an outstanding product, the Arnage, of which the Azure retains the mechanicals.

The first sketches were made in November 2003, and these were immediately followed by the virtual model. By January 2004, the clay model was already under way, and was revised and refined up to the final presentation – in roof-up and roof-down configuration – in July 2004. The entire project was conducted in Bentley’s historical Crewe factory in England. The Azure was presented as a concept car at Los Angeles in January 2005, and in its definitive guise in September the same year at Frankfurt.

The interior, which is so important in a car of this kind, is dominated by the use of top quality materials such as leather, metal and wood which take the hand-crafting tradition, so bound up with the Bentley name, back to the very highest levels.

The article continues in Auto & Design no. 160

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