Avant-garde Open Grand Tourers

The Corniche and the Azure are the ultimate…

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The last bodyshell RR and Bentley would share as cabrio models

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Rolls Royce Corniche

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Bentley Azure

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The Bentley Azure is one of the world’s most elegant open grand tourers. The Rolls Royce Corniche has the distinction of being the only Rolls Royce model in the brand’s history to be based upon a Bentley platform. Open air motoring has never been more rewarding. They both are potent performers with Bentley being the more spirited of the two.

They also have the exclusivity of being the last Rolls Royce/Bentley models to share a bodyshell. The Rolls Royce Corniche was built from 2000 until 2002. The Bentley Azure was built from 2006 until 2009. A special performance version was available beginning the 2009 model year called the Azure T and was built for one year only ceasing production in 2010. Both are the quintessential Flagship drop head saloons and the epitome of luxury. This precluded 21st century designs.

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The luxurious Azure T

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Both Corniche and Azure are built on the Arnage platform. They are built as convertibles with a lower center of gravity. Rigid steel parts made into the sill section of the body extends into the “A” pillars that frame the windscreen. The entire bodyshell is braced by carbon fibre crossmembers to increase structural integrity.

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An advanced roll-over protection system is fitted into their cabins behind the rear seats. Should the system detect a roll-over two roll bar hoops pop up through the rear seat headrests. Combined with the front windscreen frame these automobiles are capable of supporting 2.5 times the entire weight of the over-turned vehicle. As convertibles, they need special attention to safety both active and passive, Rolls Royce and Bentley automobiles has always conformed 100% within the mandated set parameters.

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Their unique inward folding fabric hoods store themselves in less than 2.5 seconds within their own lockers. The convertible locker doesn’t intrude into the boot. With the hood raised it resembles a hardtop, the inside also mocks the hardtop look with a wool headliner that conceals all convertible hardware. The Corniche and the Azure are large and comfortable open saloons.

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The Corniche V is the fifth and final noble automobile to bear this distinction. It is the first and only Rolls Royce to receive its styling cues from a Bentley. Rolls Royce had the Phantom in the works, the Corniche V was built under the VW Group at Crewe. It was more cost efficient to construct the Corniche on the existing Bentley Azure platform.

The Corniche had previously been built offsite at Mulliner Park Ward who now was in-house at the Crewe facility since the mid-1990s. When the last Silver Seraph and the last Corniche rolled off the assembly line in Crewe in 2002, Bentley continued production. Rolls Royce relocated at its brand new HQ in Goodwood, England as Rolls Royce Motor Cars.

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It was Rolls Royce’s most expensive model of the day at $359,900…the Corniche only produced 374 vehicles during its production run from 2000 through 2002 which makes it an attractive vehicle to keep an eye out for in the future. The Corniche V was the finale of the legend.

The trusty 6.75 litre turbocharged V8 produces 325 hp with 738 Nm of peak torque @ 2,100 rpm. Its top speed is 135 mph. Performance is rated as 0-60 mph in 8 seconds, don’t scoff, it’s a luxury land yacht not a crotch rocket. Rolls Royce rarely gave out its specifications, when quizzed their response is “adequate.” The engine is mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission.

The Corniche V was the only new Rolls Royce developed by VW before the sale which makes this vehicle not only ‘odd’ but controversial, therefore it will appreciate positively when it properly ages. The last Rolls Royce Corniche V left the Crewe factory on August 30, 2002.

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The 2007 Bentley Azure is twin turbocharged. It is the high performance version of the 6.75 litre 412 CID 16-valve OHV V8 engine. Its block and cylinder heads are made from aluminium alloy. It is equipped with a Bosch Motronic ME 7.1 engine management system with two Mitsubishi TD 04 turbochargers and intercooler.

The engine produces 451 hp @ 4,100 rpm with 875 Nm or peak torque @ 1,800 rpm. It is mated to a ZF 6HP Series 6-speed automatic transmission. The 2007 Bentley Azure had a top speed of 170 mph. Performance is rated as 0-60 mph in 6.1 seconds, 0-100 mph in 14.8 seconds, and it could do the ¼ mile @ 98 mph in 14.3 seconds. High revs at low rpm are Bentley hallmarks.

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The new Bentley Azure became the Flagship of the Bentley range. Unveiled on September 12, 2005 at the Frankfort IAA Motor Show. The cabin is highly bespoke with the object of creating an elegant cabrio that would be equally at home in the Hamptons or on the French Riviera. Its bodyshell shares Arnage DNA. The Azure is a production specification model, it had a history book following it throughout its build assuring it met the owner’s requirements. It is powered by “old faithful” the modified 6.75 litre aluminium alloy V8. It was built from 2006 until 2009.

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A Bentley Azure is one of the world’s most elegant open grand tourers…the other is the Rolls Royce Corniche V, the last in the impressive series of coachbuilt two-door saloons to come out of Crewe. It is the first and only Rolls Royce in history to be spawn from its Bentley counterpart, it had always been the other way around. The Corniche is built on the Azure platform which is basically the Arnage version.

The Corniche wasn’t as curvy and gracefully sculpted as the Azure. It appeared slab-sided when opposite the Azure, the Corniche V was built from 2000 until 2002 yielding 374 vehicles. It just wasn’t the iconic Corniche the world had fallen in love with…it lacks a somewhat poised dignity and it assumes a generic appearance, almost as if the styling was an afterthought. The Bentley Azure and the Arnage were the best looking models from this era, however…the RR Phantom which came next is a different story…

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These are the most elegant open grand tourers in the world

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