Doug DeMuro finds out what a Rolls Royce was like before BMW’s influenceMay 11, 2017
Rolls Royce wasn’t always owned by BMW, of course. The double “R” logo has been one of the most prestigious and well-known automotive logos in the world for over 100 years. In its history, it’s gone through some financial troubles, with ownership changing hands a couple of times. Most recently, though, it was bought by BMW, after a lengthy and complicated exchange with Volkswagen. Before BMW’s acquiring Rolls Royce, it was actually combined with its other famous British luxury brand, Bentley. During its time with Bentley, the Rolls Royce Silver Spur was one of the brand’s most prestigious cars and, in 1996, the Silver Spur was the epitome of automotive luxury. This was back before BMW’s ownership and the Phantom, Ghost and Wraith we know today. So what was the brand like before any German intervention? Doug DeMuro finds out in this new video.
Firstly, just look at it. It has the ’80/’90s boxy luxury car styling and looks like something Michael Douglas would drive in Wall Street. It’s also massive and contains some of the same design staples we know Rolls Royce for today, such as the same grille, Spirit of Ecstasy on the hood and even eerily similar wheels. Though, it’s nowhere near as large or as imposing as the modern Rolls Royces.
Inside, though, things are vastly different from today. While very nice for 1996, the Silver Spur’s cabin has not aged well. There’s enough wood in there to piss off environmentalists but it just doesn’t look very good. That style of wood paneling just doesn’t look good anymore, like basically no other styles from the ’90s have. Then there’s the plasticky column-shifter that looks like it came off any generic GM product. Though, that shift lever is fully electronic which was ahead of its time. However, the one thing that this old Silver Spur has in common with modern a modern Rolls is the impressive build quality. There’s leather and metal everywhere and a strong feeling of solidity. Even watch the electric windows go up and down with surprising speed and force. This is a 21 year old car and its window regulators still work perfectly and faster than on modern cars. That’s impressive.
In the back seat, there is an enormous amount of knee, leg and headroom, proving that Rolls Royce has always known how to make a great back seat. There are even little tray tables on the front seatbacks and little foot rests that are stored in the map pockets. It’s nowhere near the sort of luxury you’ll find in the back of a modern Rolls but, for 1996, this car must have felt like the most opulent thing on Earth.
When it comes to driving it, it seems as if Rolls Royce hasn’t changed its mission much. The ride is incredibly supple but superbly stable. What’s really surprising is that this car has been sitting on the same shocks for 21 years and still rides beautifully. Again, that’s a testament to its build quality, which is impressive considering Rolls Royce was under tumultuous ownership at the time. It’s not as quiet as I’d imagined it to be, as there’s quite a bit of wind noise to be heard from the camera, but rubber seals and sound proofing materials tend to age quite poorly, especially considering this car lives in Philadelphia, where winters can be harsh and temperatures can ruin cars. So it’s not unheard of for an old car to suffer some NVH issues, especially on the east coast.
While the 1996 Rolls Royce Silver Spur was an impressive car for the time, the British brand must be thanking its lucky stars that BMW came along because the Bavarians have really allowed Rolls to flourish. Modern Rolls Royces are filled with some of the most impressive luxury the automotive world has ever seen, thanks to a better budget and BMW’s impressive technology. All the while, maintaining the classic Rolls Royce build quality that can even be seen on this Silver Spur.