It’s the perfect amalgamation of great talents. The quality and luxury of a Rolls-Royce fused with a superlative power unit. In 1998, the Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit was superseded by the Silver Seraph – with the majestic V12 from the BMW 750iL under its bonnet. Its design succeeded in bridging the divide between the past and the new millennium. The newcomer had a sophisticated look yet was still instantly recognisable as a Rolls-Royce, and not just courtesy of its imposing radiator grille crowned by the famous Spirit of Ecstasy figurine.
“An all-new motor car for the next millennium,” proclaimed the first brochure for the Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph in 1998. And it was no exaggeration either, as a veritable revolution had also taken place behind the scenes of the new-look exterior. The first ever Rolls-Royce to be powered by an exquisitely refined 12-cylinder engine purred past a spellbound audience. Boasting a capacity of 5.4 litres and two banks of cylinders arranged in a V formation, the V12 was a magnificent sight. And allied to a silky smooth automatic transmission, it produced that inimitable Rolls-Royce sensation – a mixture of wafting and gliding and the feeling of being gloriously detached from the world outside.
Siblings with a shared technical DNA.
For the first time, the engine and drivetrain of the new Silver Seraph were Bavarian in origin, donated as they were by the high-tech BMW 750iL. The odd switch and instrument provide further indications of technical common ground with Munich’s flagship model. But that is soon forgotten upon opening the door of the Silver Seraph.
Wondrous gazes are instantly drawn to the peerless walnut veneer, the product of 150 hours of meticulous craftsmanship. Needless to say, the delightful scent of leather pervades the vehicle’s interior. A total of eleven Connolly cowhides were masterfully pieced together with double seams to make them extremely durable and hard-wearing. It is precisely this painstaking attention to detail that gave rise to the boast that a single Rolls-Royce will last a lifetime. Assuming diligent maintenance, it’s a claim that is within the realms of possibility.
The art of wafting.
The Silver Seraph is a driver’s car, meaning it is not one of those Rolls-Royce models that you almost automatically assume to be chauffeur-driven. It could be, of course – a Silver Seraph is without doubt eminently suited to drawing up at red carpets in impeccable style, and the rear compartment is ideally equipped for covering long distances in tremendous comfort. But the best seats are definitely in the front. Piloting this 5.39-metre-long, 2.4-tonne machine while watching the famous bonnet ornament speed ahead is simply an immense pleasure. The precise steering responds just as effortlessly to the driver’s command as the slender stalk on the steering wheel when another gear requires selection.
It is on minor roads that the car works its greatest wonders, though. You see an uneven section approaching in the road ahead, wait for the reaction from the suspension and then… notice it far less than expected. No bumping, no noise, at most a gentle rocking. The Silver Seraph simply irons everything out. The manner in which it does so is utterly beguiling and soon you will never want to travel any other way: profoundly relaxed, just a little enraptured and, above all, freed from the shackles of false ambition.
Should an occasion arise when one needs to do things differently, both the engine and suspension offering astonishing reserves of performance capability. Although Rolls-Royce always prefers to use the perfunctory description of “adequate” in reference to this aspect of performance (rather than spelling it out in figures), it is perhaps worth quoting the readings measured for the Silver Seraph by German motoring magazine auto motor und sport. In its road test conducted in July 1998, the Silver Seraph recorded acceleration times of 0 – 100 km/h (62 mph) in eight seconds and 0 – 160 km/h (99 mph) in 18 seconds. The test team clocked a top speed of 225 km/h (140 mph) and were charmed by the smoothness of the powertrain: “The Spirit of Ecstasy has never been propelled through the air so briskly and yet so gently,” the beamed.
The Silver Seraph was only in production for four years (until 2002) and just 1,570 were made. Well-maintained models – and you seldom find one that isn’t – are becoming increasingly popular, even though the car still has a very contemporary design that seems in touch with the new millennium. In 1998, it commanded a price of 444,000 marks, more than double that of its technology donor, the BMW 750iL. Those original buyers of a new Silver Seraph may have long since forgotten its price tag, but their car will be offering them great pleasure for many years to come.
Of course, they could instead have invested their money in the dot-com shares that were such a hot tip at the time. And when you look at it that way, the Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph almost seems like a bargain.
A wealth of entertaining videos on the Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph can be found on YouTube. Here are two recommendations:
From the British cult car show Top Gear:
A glorious test drive on the Isle of Wight and a comparison with the first Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost: