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2003 Bentley Azure Final Series:

Over generations the convertible Bentley has evolved from the highly individual coach built cars of the marque's early years; through the glamorous, high performance Continentals of the 1950s and early 1960s to the highly successful Mulliner Park Ward built cars of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s; but it was with the arrival of the Azure in the 1990s that the convertible Bentley reached its apotheosis.

In the Azure the sleek, sculptural glamour of the early coachbuilt convertibles is paired perfectly with the thrilling performance and long-legged, continent-crossing capabilities of a modern sporting Bentley.

Combining grace with a commanding presence; and in a world of mass-produced mundane modernity it is a statement of true individuality. There is a sheer wanton glamour about the Azure that for those with the time, the inclination, the money and the lust for life find impossible to resist.

The Bentley Azure is an example of British craftsmanship and engineering at its most enjoyable. Based on the highly successful Continental R and introduced in the mid-1990s it offers the demanding driver the charm of open topped motoring allied to out-and-out supercar performance. But much more than that, it offers a unique feeling, a life-enhancing experience, that no list of figures relating to torque (more Newton Metres than an entire college of physics professors could use), horsepower (400 plus) and top speed (illegal almost everywhere in the world) could ever convey.

The Bentley Azure is entirely beyond any form of practical justification. Nobody can possibly claim to need one of these cars and yet, paradoxically, we all need the Bentley Azure. After all what would life be without its dreams and fantasies?

Capable of cruising effortlessly at speeds of up to 150 mph, with barely a ripple on a glass of champagne, stopping only when the driver or passengers need to apply more sunscreen - for Azure drivers every day is a sunny one - this is distance-devouring motoring at its most decadent and delightful.

Driver, co-driver and passengers enjoy the unique cosseting and cocooning environment that only a thoroughbred Crewe-built Bentley can deliver. The ergonomically shaped rear seats topped with the rounded waist rail that blends seamlessly into the sinuous lines of the Azure's muscular haunches, seem to hold passengers in an embrace. In the front, if the co-driver tires of scenery flitting by in a blur, he or she can sate the senses; luxuriating in the lush lambs wool rugs, the hand stitched hide, and the rich polished wood veneer.

The Final Series Azure is the apogee of the convertible Bentley; a mighty technical and artistic achievement that is the true heir of great open Bentleys that conveyed the playboys and pleasure seekers of generations past to their sun-soaked villas. This is the car to take you to Palm Beach or St Tropez, Monte Carlo or Portofino; this is the car with which to soak up the seemingly endless coastal roads of California or savour the Corniches of the Cote d'Azur. The Azure is a car equally at home purring along the Croisette of Cannes as it is thundering along the Autoroute du Soleil; or taking its owner shopping in Milan and then snaking round the sinuous Alpine passes of Northern Italy and Switzerland.

The Bentley Azure Final Series is arguably the ultimate expression of the Bentley marque: a potent intoxicating cocktail of exhilaration, elegance and eccentricity. As the stunning new Bentley Continental GT prepares to take centre stage, the alluring Azure is poised to make its exit. As the Final Series of this remarkable car will soon leave Bentley's Crewe factory, now is the time to purchase both an ultimate Valentine's Day gift and the ultimate in convertible chic.

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