Put simply, the Rolls-Royce Dawn is a Wraith with a removable roof. But putting things simply isn’t really fair to the Dawn. As we discovered on an earlier jaunt in South Africa, it’s a car fully deserving of its own identity.
In search of a slightly younger clientele, Rolls-Royce has created many new body panels for the Dawn. Changing the top one from metal to fabric is key to that.
The result is an exclusive and debonair carriage that subtly moves the Wraith’s pointer an inch or two along the scale from ‘sporting’ towards ‘refined’. It’s not quite as red-carpet as the enduringly stately Phantom. but the Dawn is every bit as well-bred and urbane as a Barbour-wearing, old-money aristo.
The entry price is around £264,000, but you’re unlikely to feel short-changed by the amount of car you receive in return. Two and a half tonnes includes 200kg of reinforcement for the loss of the roof, but that soft chassis and low driving effort quickly lull the driver into an entirely accurate sense of security. This is at least one definition of waft. If a bump is smaller than a badger, you’ll barely feel it.
The altiplano-sized bonnet will fool you into stopping well short of T-junctions, but you’ll soon get over that, comforted by the knowledge that the twin-turbo 6.6-litre V12 in its Ghost-spec tune (563bhp and 575lb ft of torque) will safely squirt you away from any rapidly approaching goods vehicle. The Dawn may not have gearbox paddles, but it does have a mighty set of sails to catch that V12 wind. The kickdown isn’t quite as urgent as it is in the Wraith, but the eight-speed automatic will respond with due deference to a captainly prod.
With the top down, you won’t notice much in the way of engine noise at higher speeds, though with all that extra space behind the driver – enough to make the Dawn a genuine and fabulously comfortable four-seater – there is inevitably more wind rush. Erect that huge cloth roof and you’re sealed away in your own rich world of beautiful timber and leather, an ambience only marginally blighted by the occasional appearance of a piece off the BMW 7 Series parts shelf.
The Wraith may be slightly more wieldy than its drophead sibling, but the Dawn is more swish, more smooth and an altogether excellent way to get around or indeed simply sit around in, roof up or down. The hood takes 21 seconds to deploy. It’s time you won’t mind wasting.
On sale: Now
Engine: V12, 6592cc, turbo, petrol
Power: 563bhp at 5250rpm
Torque: 575lb ft at 1500rpm
Gearbox: 8-spd automatic
Kerb weight: 2560kg
Top speed: 155mph
Economy: 19.9mpg (combined)
CO2/tax band: 330g/km, 37%