Rolls Royce Silver Seraph (1998 – 2002)

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The Rolls Royce Silver Seraph, a car distinguishable for many different things in Rolls Royce’s motor history. Opinions are mixed with this mighty machine, with some considering it the ugliest Rolls Royce built, whilst others consider it the last ‘True’ Rolls Royce before BMW took over the company in 2003 and replaced it with the Bling-mobile (a.k.a: The Phantom).

To me, I consider the Silver Seraph the Rolls Royce for the every day man. The Silver Seraph consisted of all the modern features of contemporary luxury cars such as Central Locking, Anti-Lock Brakes, Airbags, 8-Track CD Changer and all the other comforts of home you might need in a car you’d drive to work. Indeed when it comes to looks the Seraph is not that stellar, especially when you compare it to the likes of the Silver Cloud and Silver Shadow that preceded it, but when you consider the modern safety features that its older brothers lack, you can understand that owning a Seraph is a much safer bet. My honest opinion on the looks by the way are that the Silver Seraph does look very nice, not as angular as the Spirit and with a bodyshape that seems to harp back to the original Silver Shadows of the 1960’s. Indeed its design is meant to be underplayed like most modern Rollers, but that doesn’t make it any less of a car to my mind, still dripping with chrome and sporting that magnificent Spirit.

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The rear styling of the Seraph was a somewhat polarising point among fans and critics.

The Rolls Royce Silver Seraph was first launched in 1998, but development originally began on the car in 1989! The initial intention was to replace the 10 year old Rolls Royce Silver Spirit/Spur range in 1991, but by 1994 it had only just been designed, and it wouldn’t be until 1997 that the first prototypes would hit the road.

The Silver Seraph is fitted with a 5.4L Aluminium Alloy BMW V12 with an Automatic 5-speed gearbox, the first Rolls Royce to feature a V12 engine since the 1936 Phantom III. Additionally, there were many computer features to the engine, including digital engine management and adaptive ride control. The body was also made 65% more rigid than the Silver Spirit for better crash resistance.

Simultaneously, the Bentley Arnage was also introduced, identical in every way to the Silver Seraph aside from the Twin-Turbocharged V8 engine, stiffer suspension and the Bentley Badge and Grill in place of the Rolls Royce markings. The Bentley Arnage was also the very last Bentley to be built based off a Rolls Royce product, their next new product being the Continental and Continental GT.

Although the Silver Seraph received critical acclaim from motoring journalists and press (even gaining a feature on Top Gear, not often for a Rolls Royce product), the views of Rolls Royce enthusiasts and the company’s usual customer base was mixed, and thus sales were lukewarm when compared to those of the earlier Shadow and Spirit. The Seraph did however find its way into the hands of many Government departments, with the Mayor of Westminster being the proud owner of a 1998 Silver Seraph. In the end though only 1,570 of these cars were built in its 5 year production life, one of the shortest production lives of a Rolls Royce. In addition to the standard Seraph, there was also the Park Ward Saloon, which was a rare Extended Wheelbase version of the standard car for more legroom, of which only 127 were built.

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This 2000 Silver Seraph, demonstrating the colourless indicator lights.

Eventually in 2002 the car was killed off as the last Rolls Royce to be built at the Crewe Works, and for a short while Rolls Royce didn’t make any cars until the introduction of the Rolls Royce Phantom a year later by new parent company BMW. The Phantom was not technically built to replace the Seraph directly, but has often been considered a spiritual successor. The Seraph design staple did continue to exist as the Bentley Arnage until that was killed off in 2009, with the Arnage being a far more popular machine with the best part of 10,000 members built.

Today the Silver Seraph is a very rare machine to come by. Although I know of one that I frequently come across, apart from that you’d be hard pressed to find them. The Bentley Arnage on the other hand you’d trip over every five minutes!