History in the making (up)

By Guy Bird for Intersection, Sep 2006

Why confusing the Bentley Azure with a boat is a good thing

A new page in history may have just been written. Joining key skiing ‘firsts’ like first ever skis invented (2500BC, Sweden), first skis on water (1922, Lake Pepin, Minnesota, USA), first grass skiing with caterpiller tracks (1966, Germany) comes the inspired (we think) debut of a new hybrid. Skiing on grass with water skies. As skiing inventions go, we’ve got a hunch this could be the big one.

All you need is a short rope, two taped up water skies to deter under ski damage, a willing and preferably well-dressed stuntman, a flat stretch of long-ish grass and a suitable steed to pull you along. The new Bentley Azure fits the latter bill perfectly due to a boat-like air when its top is dropped, manifested in details like a high body waistline, smooth side panels and grooved roof cover – echoing those of a luxury deck. You almost feel the need for a sea captain’s hat when driving it, although we think the 1920s ‘Bentley Boy’ look – shirt and tie inside cream boiler suit with soft leather flying helmet and goggles – works better.

Skiing on grass with water skies. As skiing inventions go, we’ve got a hunch this could be the big one

The Azure’s 450bhp 6.75-litre twin-tubocharged intercooled V8 engine wafts along perfectly at the 20-30mph required to get the water skis to glide along the grass effectively. You won’t hear much more noise from the engine with top up or down cruising at 100mph on a normal road (and the Azure will nudge on to 168mph if needs be – although this is not really a car to drive fast or nervously). Wind noise and some light buffeting top-down is noticeable, but due to the high windscreen and driving position, Panama hats can be worn jauntily sans chinstrap and without fear of blowing off.

Roof-up, the Azure looks just as good – our dark blue fabric version rocked particularly well with its porcelain cream metallic paint job. Bentley reckons the seven bows that make up the structure are key to the roof’s taut lines and says most other drop-tops with less framing struts suffer from the ‘starved cow effect’ – all ribs showing and sag between. Either way, when the heavens do look like they are about to open, the luxurious three-layer fabric roof (lined with a great faux suede material) can be put back up in a fittingly sedate 30 seconds – and more crucially – while on the move at speeds of up to 20mph. We made one such manoeuvre by driving off the motorway top-down, flicking the switch to work the balletic mechanicals as we cruised through the service lane, and then rejoined the fast lane with the top up and the sumptious leather and wood interior intact. Perfect. Oh and If the water skier is still holding on at this point – don’t forget to fling him an umbrella.

Do

  • Attach a water ski to the back – it’s a great look – but make sure the grass is smooth and your skis are taped up to avoid scuffs
  • Dress in a 1920s Bentley boy style behind the wheel. A jump suit, goggles and leather flying helmet always trump chinos and corporate baseball hats
  • Drop the luxurious top on the move – up to 20mph – it’s all good
  • Give tall friends a lift – there’s room for four 6ft adults

 

Don’t

  • Confuse it with the forthcoming GTC. That smaller £100k+ Bentley is strictly a 2+2 convertible and less hand-made. The £200k+ flagship Azure is more woody, leathery and slickly finished in all areas. Feel the quality
  • Attempt tight hairpins in narrow streets – the Azure needs room to manoeuvre
  • Worry about any neighbourly one-upmanship – the Azure is safely the ultimate four-seat production convertible in the world (the new Rolls-Royce convertible isn’t due until mid-2007)

 


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