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Bentley is a car with a history, albeit a somewhat perplexing one, so closely intertwined is it with that of Rolls-Royce. To begin with, there’s the common misconception that Bentley is somehow the “budget” version of Rolls-Royce. If so, your definition of “budget” is not exactly mine, not with the cost of a Bentley pegged at over $200,000. Lately, though, the tale of these formerly sibling marques has become even more confusing. Volkswagen recently purchased Bentley, while BMW now owns Rolls-Royce. And BMW engines power various models in both product lines. The Arnage Red Label, though, is pure Bentley. Beneath its hood lies a 400 horsepower turbo-charged V-8 engine — the great-grandson of the Rolls-Royce Spitfire engine that won the Battle of Britain. It’s this dynamo that rockets the 6,500-pound Arnage from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.7 seconds — and in virtual silence. Zooming along through noontime interstate traffic, I had the feeling of complete command. Handling (both on the interstate and, later, on city streets gaping with potholes) was smooth, stable, and quiet. In the cockpit, only the much ballyhooed pop-up dashboard navigation screen disappointed. The Arnage Red Label will impress most drivers as the ultimate luxury automobile. It has the brute strength and much of the breathtaking performance of a Ferrari or Lamborghini, along with a wealth of creature comforts: heated front seats, a multizone air comfort system, and an Alpine four-channel AM/FM/cassette player with six-disc CD changer mounted in the front armrest. Bentley sales were up 39 percent in 1999, with many new buyers trading in their low-slung jets for something a little easier on the knees. Most buyers, however, are serial Bentley owners, deep-pocket motoring enthusiasts adding to their stables, or those who have chosen the Bentley over a yacht or another home. What you get for your earned or inherited coin is a no-holds-barred statement of power and superiority. The Arnage Red Label is all steel, leather, and lacquer. The heavy chrome door handles alone are better made than the entirety of most luxury cars. And although 65 percent of Arnage Red Labels are custom orders, the “standard” fitting and trim choices include four types of mirror-finished, grain-matched burr veneers; 23 shades of leather upholstery (which even lines the roof); and 27 exterior colors. In case you have trouble with all those choices, the model I drove was the Silver Tempest with dark walnut trim and spruce leather interior. Dashing. MSRP: $209,900 (and up, with additional charges for custom requirements) Mileage: 12.5 city/20.5 highway Servicing: Every 10,000 miles

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