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Here's What a $300,000 Rolls-Royce Was Like ... in 1996

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author photo by Doug DeMuro May 2017

The vehicle you see above is a luxurious, extravagant, highly comfortable Rolls-Royce ... that's worth roughly the same as a Honda Accord. But it wasn't always that way. When this Rolls-Royce Silver Spur was a new car back in 1996, it cost around $180,000 -- the equivalent of roughly $290,000 in today's money.

Upon hearing this, I think we all have approximately the same question: What exactly did $300,000 buy you back in 1996?

I set out to find out by borrowing this particular Silver Spur from my friends at Automobili Limited, a local high-end used car dealer here in the Philadelphia suburbs that managed to track down this gorgeous, mint, one-owner Silver Spur for its inventory. This car is the perfect picture of what you'd get from a new Silver Spur, right on down to the unopened package of automotive antenna cleaner in the glove box.

So I spent the day with this Silver Spur, and I started things off by driving it around for an hour or so. This is about the time when I started to realize why someone would spend so much money on this car.

Here's what I mean: The Silver Spur uses the tried-and-true Rolls-Royce 6.75-liter V8 -- whose horsepower rating was labeled merely "sufficient," though it's rumored to be around 300 horses -- mated to a General Motors 4-speed automatic. It isn't fast, or quick, or sporty, or enthusiastic. But then, it isn't supposed to be. Instead, this car is absolutely perfect at what it does, which is to make you feel like you're completely and totally insulated from all the problems facing everyone else on earth, with "everyone else on earth" being defined as "everyone outside your car."

You see, modern cars try to do it all. They're sporty and fast, but then you change a dial for steering, and a dial for suspension, and a dial for "drive mode," and suddenly they're luxurious and quiet. But they never really do a good job of being any one thing, just because they're trying to be so many things at once.

Not the Silver Spur.

With the Silver Spur, it's very clear that Rolls-Royce simply couldn't care less about sportiness, or high performance, or driving excitement. This is a car that has one job, and one job alone: to make you feel like you're riding in the most comfortable, most relaxing, most coddling environment in the history of wheeled transportation -- and it's so tremendously successful. You sit on the most wonderfully overstuffed seats, you dig your feet into the wildly thick lamb's wool carpeting, you relax and enjoy a pillowy-soft ride, and you hear virtually nothing of the outside world. Ever.

Rolls-Royce isn't pretending this car is sporty, or fast, or exciting. It is, instead, simply designed for one purpose: to be a luxury car. To be the luxury car. And it is oh, so successful: I honestly don't remember ever driving a car that was so relaxing, and comfortable, and quiet, in my entire life. Even the Bentley Mulsanne I drove a few months ago had far more of a sporty flair compared to this Rolls-Royce. The Silver Spur is designed to let you do one thing, and one thing only: relax.

Of course, this car isn't all about the driving experience. I was also stunned at just how many quirks and weird features I discovered in a couple hours spent pawing around this thing -- likely the result of an old design (the 1996 Silver Spur I drove is based on an original design that came out in 1980) and the wonders of limited production.

For example, in the middle of the Silver Spur, you'll notice two unlabeled silver levers. Those are the mirror controls: one for each mirror. Same goes with the two unlabeled black buttons in the center control area: They control the map lights, mounted above the driver and passenger windows. One button per light.

I was also amazed at the Silver Spur's oil fill gauge: Press the "oil" button in the center control stack, and the fuel gauge displays your oil level until you release the button. It's also hard not to be impressed with the car's sheer amount of interior wood; even the covers over the visor mirrors are finished in wood. And how about the fact that the ashtray is hidden until you reveal it by pressing the "Rolls-Royce" logo?

I know the Silver Spur isn't worth much anymore, but I was pretty impressed with it. No, it doesn't wow you with modern gadgets and features like today's Rolls-Royce models -- but it's so calm, it's so serene, and it's built with such an amazing eye for luxury and comfort. Plus, there's a benefit to it lacking all those "modern" screens and gadgets: Because its party trick is wood and leather, rather than new technology, it won't look as outdated as rapidly as a newer model.

So is this the ultimate bargain? A Rolls-Royce that offers the serenity, and the luxury, and the opulence of a $300,000 car ... for the price of a Honda Accord? It probably is -- until your mechanic hands you the bill for your very first repair.

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Here's What a $300,000 Rolls-Royce Was Like ... in 1996 - Autotrader