Maury Z. Levy

Playboy’s Rolls-Royce Test Drive

In Playboy magazine and the Playboy Guides (1979-1989) on September 12, 2009 at 6:20 pm


For those of you who are economy-minded, the new Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit, at $109,000, costs slightly less than the average major league baseball player. After our thorough testing of this zippy new sedan, we can heartily recommend that those of you with cash to spare should buy one of these babies. Either that, or 15 Plymouth Horizons.

Our first test of the Silver Spirit was one of acceleration. We took the car from zero to 60. It took 16.95 seconds. A New Zealand boy of 11 has mastered Rubik’s Cube faster. We should note, however, that we did not test the Rolls alone. We made a three-way race of it. And while the Rolls finished a distant second to a ’68 Chevy Nova, it did edge out a one-legged organ grinder drag­ging a dead monkey. So much for the technical stuff.

You obviously don’t buy a Rolls for speed. When you spend that much on a car, you want to go slow enough so people can gawk. Here, then, are some points about the Silver Spirit that we consider really important:

Eight full cattle hides are used to fashion the interior of every Rolls, with the leather coming from animals that graze inside electrified fences, rather than barbed wire, to prevent abrasions and scratches. You wouldn’t want those poor little suckers to get nicked, would you?

The veneer for an entire year’s production of Rolls instrument panels comes from the wood of a single Lombardian walnut tree, keeping the rest of the forest preserved for the animals who will later become bucket seats.

The look of silver on the Rolls grill (it’s really stainless steel) is obtained by five hours of hand polishing. (Now wouldn’t it be easier if they used a rag?) Only 13 men in the world can make the ’81 Rolls grill, which is crafted entirely by hand. (For you technical buffs, that would be 26 hands.)

The Rolls is perhaps the least stealable of all cars. It boasts pickproof electric door locks and an ignition system that locks electrically as soon as the key is removed. Which means the only way to steal the car is to raise it off its front wheels and tow it away. To test the Silver Spirit for stealability, we parked unattended in Central Park for two hours. In that time, 114 attempts were made to steal the car. All were unsuccessful. We were going to docu­ment this with photographs, but four minutes into our picture session, all our cameras were stolen.  

By the way, the Silver Spirit is the first new four-door vehicle to be built by Rolls-Royce in 15 years. Engineers worked for eight years on the car, developing a Rolls that would look more contemporary. Gone are the distinctive singular, round Rolls headlights, replaced instead by American-inspired dual horizontal lamps. And the car itself is less boxy. Its lines are curvier, its profile lower and longer. Simply put, it took the British eight years to build a Buick.

Our first real test of the Silver Spirit was for family practicality. Hey, anyone can look cool pulling up in a Rolls in front of The Plaza Hotel for some fancy shindig. But come on, how many times a day do you pull up in front of The Plaza? So we did what people really do with cars. We piled the whole family in and went to McDonald’s.

We found that the Silver Spirit, as advertised, was one roomy car. Like we fit 13 people in it. Now this is what cars are made for. You know, you blow that much on a car, you don’t put only two people in it. You show it off. You invite friends, you invite neighbors, you go to dinner. We found the Silver Spirit ideal for this. It even passed our McStickability test. That was when one of the kids dropped a quarter-pounder-with-cheese on the front seat. Cleaned up like a dream.

While the trunk is fine for Saks, the back seat is too small for sex.

Next we tried our Going-to-the-Super‑market – in – the – Shopping – Center – on ‑the – Highway test. The Silver Spirit held its own in this test too. We managed to get 12 full bags of groceries in the trunk without squashing a Twinkie. This com‑pared favorably to our City-Snobility test,82 where we fit 13 bags from Saks Fifth Avenue in the very same trunk. In accord­ance with the rules of City-Snob Shopping, we then returned the merchandise in 12 of them.

You should know that we are not insen­sitive to the fact that the Silver Spirit was designed to be one classy car. They told us it’s perfect if you’re going out in tails. Well, tails maybe, but not ears. You know how those other magazines (Road and Driver and Car and Track—or whatever they’re called) are always doing tests on headroom with people who never wear hats. Hey, get outta here. You go out for a drive on a Saturday, you put on a baseball hat, right? Sure. But we went even further than that. We gave the Rolls a real Playboy headroom test. We took along a bunny (we always take along a bunny) named Debi, and we tried out the car for Bunny Earability. El flunko. We ruined three perfectly good pairs of ears on this one. Forget it, this car

wasn’t built for bunnies. You got a costume party, Jack, take the Dodge.

Next, we performed a series of speed tests. It took 3.17 seconds for the power windows to go down. Not too shabby. Then we got the car up to speed. Smooth ride at 60, even past 70. But when we got it up to 80, the suspension, or whatever it is that keeps the car from going bumpety­bump, started going every which way but loose. It was at this point that our Bunny Debi, who was conducting the Nail­Polishability test, accidentally painted her arm red.

To further test the ride at high speeds, we proceeded to shave in the back seat. (Luckily, we decided to pass on the ritual circumcision test.) At 85 miles an hour, we can painfully report that blood stains leather.

Now, what other kind of technical infor­mation can we give you? Let’s see, the car has real thick cocoa lambswool rugs and a central ashtray that empties itself automatically. God knows where the ashes go, but you just can’t ask for much more than that in a car.

The drivetrain? Yeah, it’s got one of those. And the engine is like real big­humongous, to use the technical term. Is a big engine necessary in these days of fuel efficiency? Well, if you’re going to pay $109,000 for a car, what do you care if it gets only 10 miles per gallon? The impor­tant thing (other than out-and-out envy) is that once this baby gets going, it really moves. And that’s something to remember when you go chugging down the highway in your four-cylinder diesel and get blown off the road by a Rolls with a guy shaving in the back seat. Then it’s really going to hit you. Wow, you coulda had a V-8.

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