Rolls-Royce has been down this road before — at least twice. Fifty-five years ago, the firm responded to emerging concerns about economic austerity and oil shortages by rolling its mid-sized “Burma” and slightly-larger “Tibet” concepts into a single sensible luxury car called Silver Shadow. Intended to be driven by its owners where practical, the Silver Shadow’s only real shortcoming lay in Rolls-Royce’s inability to predict just how sybaritic and self-indulging its owner base would eventually become. In a very real way, it just wasn’t outrageous enough. Twenty-five years ago, the firm’s brand-new Silver Seraph received a last-minute reduction in size and specification due to similar concerns about conspicuous consumption. That, too, was probably a mistake, one eventually rectified by replacing the sensible-shoes Seraph with the velvet-slipper Phantom.
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Even with the prior BMW bones, Rolls-Royce seems to have been able to really engineer a Rolls-Royce. I was lucky enough to see a Silver Seraph at Hagerty HQ's drum along with an older Rolls-Royce, and was smitten by the Seraph. Here's a wonderful, short 5 minute video of a road test of the Seraph from 20 years ago. It's hard to believe the Seraph was introduced 22 years ago, "only the 9th new Rolls-Royce in its history."
BMW used to make such lovely cars. Then they listened to some dark voices from people who belonged at fashion week and decided that they didn't want to make 'sausages cut to different lengths,' or cars that had a brand identity built on grace, surface tension, and the 1960 Corvair. Because of creepy art school types, BMW made ugly the new black. I'm thankful that I rarely see recent or current BMW sedans and their CUVs are invisible in a sea of Kias and Fords. Meanwhile BMW is calling the shots at Rolls-Royce, where they have no problem at all making everything look enough like a 2003 Phantom that you'd need to park them all next to one another to even speculate as to which model is which.