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2003 Bentley Arnage T

Stapleford Park, England - There's a new lord and master among Bentley's Arnage mega-sedans. Not only is the Arnage T more expensive and more powerful than the Arnage Green Label and Red Label models, but it also claims the title of world's fastest sedan, as it needs all but the last two spots on its 170-mph speedometer.

The Arnage T is powered by yet another version of ye olde 6.75-liter pushrod V-8, whose roots go back to 1959. Treated to what Bentley describes as "the most thorough reengineering of its life," it produces 450 horsepower and a stupendous 645 pound-feet of torque (as compared with 400 horsepower and 619 pound-feet in the Arnage Red Label). This prodigious output, besides enabling the English-manor-house-on-wheels to reach 168 mph, also will send it from 0 to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds and to 100 mph a mere eight seconds later.

The engine's most significant change is the switch from a single turbocharger to one for each bank of cylinders. This makes the engine more responsive in most situations, because the smaller turbos spool up faster. Other changes include the adoption of a "drive-by-wire" throttle, which goes hand-in-glove with Bosch's Electronic Stability Program, in place of the Red Label's traction control.

A subtle rear spoiler at the trunk lid's trailing edge also enhances high-speed stability, but what really gives this nearly three-ton automobile its immense poise is a revised suspension that features 57 percent more roll stiffness than the Red Label. The car's basic structure also is 10 percent stiffer, which means there are no creaks and squeaks of the sort that distinguished previous generations of Bentleys.

Our only real quibble--this despite the twin turbos--is the slight but irritating delay that's experienced when the powertrain gets the message to go from trickle to charge. The Bentley pauses, as if considering how best to respond to the spur . . . and then you're away. After that, tapping the mighty V-8's vast reservoir of midrange torque requires little more than telepathy.