A cheap used luxury car, like a Bentley, can be enticing—until the repair bills roll in. But just because brands like Rolls-Royce or Bentley’s corporate cousin, Audi, use pricey parts doesn’t necessarily make them unreliable. With a bit of planning and a sharp eye, it’s possible to find a used Bentley that won’t drain its fluids or your bank account.
Tips on buying a used Bentley
Before you consider getting a used Bentley, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, as Drive.com recommends, try to find a used Bentley with a known service history. One of the reasons why luxury marques like Aston Martin have a reputation for unreliability is the lack of proper care. Whether it’s due to insufficient mileage, not respecting timing belt or oil change schedules, or lack of funds, some cars weren’t maintained well. Which means you pay for any deferred maintenance costs.
Secondly, a used Bentley, much like any used high-end vehicle, uses higher-price parts. That’s not to say every single part is some bespoke work of art. Because Volkswagen owns Bentley, its cars use a few parts found in cheaper VW products. That’s also the case with a few Aston Martins, even the high-end Vanquish.
But even so, Car and Driver reports it’s not unusual for a used Bentley’s annual maintenance costs to reach into four-figure territory. Plus, some parts are indeed brand-specific, and therefore expensive. And it doesn’t help that W12-engine Bentley Continental GTs require about 3 gallons of synthetic oil, Robison Service reports.
So, even if you buy a used Bentley for relatively cheap, it won’t ever be as cheap to run as, say, a Genesis. But if you keep that, and the maintenance requirements in mind, it’s possible to find a reliable used Bentley.
Bentley Continental GT: specs and features
The Bentley Continental GT is still the least-expensive car the British automaker offers. And used models are even cheaper. It’s possible to find examples on Bring a Trailer for less than $40k, though the average price is closer to $60,000.
Released in 2003, the first-gen Bentley Continental GT comes exclusively with a 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged W12 engine, Autocar reports. Linked to a 6-speed automatic and all-wheel drive, it initially made 552 hp and 479 lb-ft, Evo reports. The later Speed model boosted that to 602 hp and 553 lb-ft and featured stiffer suspension and larger anti-roll bars.
The 2011 second-gen model, Car and Driver reports, also offers a 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged W12, upgraded to 567 hp and 516 lb-ft. But in 2012, another engine joined the Bentley Continental GT lineup: a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8. With 500 hp and 487 lb-ft, it gives up a little output to the W12, Autoweek reports. However, in addition to AWD, it has an 8-speed automatic, weighs less, and has better handling.
Regardless of the engine, though, the Bentley Continental GT offers many luxury features. It has GPS navigation, hand-stitched leather upholstery, and real wood and metal trim pieces. And every version offered heated and power-adjustable seats, as well as quite a few customization options.
Continental common problems
The V8-engine Bentley Continental GT is also arguably the better, if not exactly cheaper, used buy. The contemporary Audi S8 and RS6 also used that engine, 6SpeedOnline forum users report. The turbos can fail, but only if the oil and filters aren’t regularly changed. However, V8 models are also noticeably more expensive, with average prices closer to $100,000.
The W12 isn’t necessarily less reliable, RAC reports, provided it’s been properly maintained. It doesn’t have any cam belts, for example, and Evo reports the spark plugs to have a 4-year replacement schedule. However, if something does go wrong, you may be looking at a new engine, Autotrader reports. The W12’s size means many repairs require removing it from the car completely. And without regular oil changes, Autocar reports, the head gasket can fail, leading to extensive engine damage.
In addition, 2003-2007 Continental GTs can suffer vacuum line failure, 6SpeedOnline forum users report. The issue appears to have been resolved in post-2007 models, 6SpeedOnline forum users report, by replacing the original rubber part with a metal one.
Apart from that, the biggest headaches and expenses come from the electronics, Euromotive Performance reports. Complicating this is the GT’s 2 batteries, which can drain relatively quickly. The air suspension on early models can fail over time, especially without regular adjustment, Masterclass Automotive reports. And without timely repair, the compressor is damaged, too. The window motors and brake lights can also fail, Pro Car Mechanics reports, as can the TPMS. In addition, you have to change the brake lines every 5-10 years.
Bentley Arnage: specs
If you can’t swing for a V8 Bentley Continental GT or don’t want the potential W12 headaches, there is another used Bentley worth considering. For less than the cost of a new BMW 3-Series, you can get a Bentley Arnage.
The first post-Volkswagen-purchase Bentley, Arnage production started in 1998, Autocar reports. Initially, the sedan had a BMW-sourced 4.4-liter turbocharged V8. However, we recommend looking past it, due to its issues, BMW Tuning reports. It’s also best to look past the 1999-2001 models, 6SpeedOnline forum users report, due to their 6.75-liter V8s’ head gasket issues.
A 2002 or later Bentley Arnage, though, has a lot to offer from a luxury perspective. The regular ‘Red Label’ sedan’s 6.75-liter turbocharged V8 develops 400 hp and 619 lb-ft, Cars.com reports. At the time, that was more torque than any other production sedan. Although it only has a 4-speed automatic and weighs over 3 tons, it can go 0-60 in 5.9 seconds. Plus, getting a 2002 or later Arnage gets you stability control and more airbags, in addition to ABS and traction control. And in 2007, the Arnage received a 6-speed automatic.
But, for those wanting a little bit more, there’s the Bentley Arnage T. The 2002 model was the fastest production sedan in the world, Car and Driver reports. Its 6.75-liter twin-turbocharged V8 developed 450 hp and 645 lb-ft, netting a 0-60 time of 5.5 seconds.
But the 2007-2009 models are the ones to buy, PistonHeads reports. Firstly, because they don’t suffer the camshaft issues which plague earlier ones. And secondly, because they’re even more powerful, developing 500 hp and 737 lb-ft.
Other common Arnage problems
Although they’re fairly robust, the Arnage can suffer from a few additional issues. It was recalled in 2005 and 2006 for suspension-related problems, WhatCar reports. And as with the Bentley Continental GT, suspension and electronics can wear and fail over time.
In addition, the V8 engine requires a bit more maintenance than just regular fluid changes. It has a secondary air injection system, the repair of which requires dropping the transmission. And it has several bolts which must be regularly tightened at specific intervals.
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