The Azure debuted in March 1995 at the Geneva Motor Show on the platform of the Continental R model, which had been originally launched in 1991. Production only crept to a start, with a mere nine examples finished in the first year – in 1996, after full production had started, no less than 251 Azures were finished. Pininfarina assisted in the two-year process of turning the Continental R into a full four-seater convertible, and also built the shell and soft-top at their factory in Italy, largely from parts sourced in the UK. Final assembly was then carried out at Crewe. A roll-bar was never considered, which necessitated extensive reinforcing of the chassis. At 210 in (5,340 mm) in length and 5,750 lb (2,608 kg) in weight, the Azure often surprised onlookers with its size and bulk, intended to both convey a sense of "presence" and allow for comfortable seating of four adult passengers.
Power came from the company's stalwart 6.75-litre V8, featuring a single, intercooled Garrett turbocharger and producing in the region of 360 hp – Rolls-Royce and Bentley did not yet give official power numbers at the time of the Azure's introduction. By the time production began in earnest, new engine management from Zytek meant a slight power increase to 385 hp (287 kW; 390 PS) at 4,000 rpm and 750 N⋅m (553 lb⋅ft) of torque at 2,000 rpm; power was routed to the rear wheels via a modified, General Motors sourced, four-speed automatic transmission. With a zero to sixty miles per hour time of 6.3 seconds (0–100 km/h in 6.5 s) and a top speed of 241 km/h (150 mph), the Azure was very fast for a car of its size, weight and poor aerodynamic profile.