Attention to detail. That’s what you get when you fork out more than a quarter of a million pounds for the latest baby from Rolls-Royce, the drophead coupe, the Dawn.
Oh yes…and the very best of engineering and design excellence coupled with the latest technology from a team of skilled craftsmen in the finest tradition of British automotive history.
The Dawn follows in the tyre tracks of the Wraith coupe. But they haven’t just cut the roof off it. This is a completely new car with no fewer than 80 per cent newly-designed body panels.
I was the only Scottish motoring writer to be given the chance as one of the first in the world to experience the new car on the road in the fabulous surroundings of the winelands in the Western Cape of South Africa. That alone added immensely to the enjoyment of the occasion, but the car would have done that all on its own.
All it took was a push on the start button of this dreamy drophead coupe, a flick of the steering-mounted gearchange into ‘drive’ and about half a mile behind the wheel to completely win me over.
Rolls-Royce themselves don’t hang back on their labels for their new car. “Striking”, “seductive” and “the sexiest Rolls-Royce ever built” are just some of the terms I heard being used to describe the Dawn, which like the rest of the range is hand-built at the company’s base at Goodwood in West Sussex.
The Dawn has a great pedigree, taking its inspiration from the original 1952 Silver Dawn drophead of which only 28 were ever made.
The attention to detail in that masterpiece has been carried on in this latest beauty 64 years on. Apart from the iconic RR letters on each wheel hub, which are always upright regardless of the wheel position, and the leather cladding on the smallest of dashboard knobs, even the tyres have been specially developed to deliver the ‘magic carpet’ ride expected of every Rolls-Royce.
Specific attention has been paid to the Dawn’s six- layer fabric roof which, when up, is claimed to make it the quietest open-top car ever made and gives it the look of a stylish coupe. The canopy wraps around the rear seats and down over the window tops to lower the roofline to highlight the low-slung look.
It retracts silently in just over 20 seconds at a cruising speed of up to 30mph to transform the car into a sophisticated drophead, effectively creating two cars in one.
The classic powerful front end gives way to a ‘wake channel’ on the bonnet, from the Spirit of Ecstasy mascot’s wings and along the high shoulder line until it swells over the rear wheels.
At the back, it tapers in towards the rear to echo the design of the original ‘boat tail’ Rolls-Royce drophead coupés and the motor launches of the early 20th century that inspired them.
That’s repeated in the wood-panelled deck which covers the folded roof. The huge signature rear- opening coach doors are evocative of the classic sports car and make it easier for back seat passengers to get in and out. There’s a vast amount of space with four very full seats and a huge boot which has no encroachment from the folded roof.
The beating heart is a twin-turbo 6.6-litre V12 and there’s a host of the latest technology in automatic cruise control and Satellite Aided Transmission which uses GPS data to anticipate the driver’s next move based on location and driving style and then select the most appropriate gear from the eight-speed gearbox.
By the end of my drive we were working as a great partnership, totally in tune with each other.
Certainly the Dawn is big and expensive but it’s a superb example of British design and engineering excellence and would make any owner look forward to the start of a new day…..especially if it’s a sunny drop-top one.
PRICE: £264,000 (approx.)
ENGINE: 6.6-litre V12 producing 563bhp, 575lb/ft
PERFORMANCE: Top speed 155 mph (governed) 0-62mph 4.9 secs
ECONOMY: 19mpg combined
CO2 EMISSIONS: 330 g/km