‘The sexiest Rolls-Royce ever built.’ Good grief, has it come to this?
Rolls-Royce calls the Dawn sexy. Which it may well be. But it doesn’t call it a soft-top version of the Wraith coupe, even though it has the same platform and, as much as makes no difference, the same mechanical make-up.
The Wraith, though, is the closest thing Rolls comes to making a sports car. The Dawn is not meant to share the athleticism of its tin-topped brother.
Instead, it’s a four-seater for people who ‘wish to bathe in the sunlight of the world’s most exclusive social hotspots.’ Which is possibly the floweriest way we can think of for saying it’s a car for rich poseurs.
So let’s not get hung up on the similarities between Dawn and Wraith. What we have here is the same 6.6-litre V12 biturbo engine, for example, but it’s tuned down to 563bhp and 575lb ft. The Dawn has its own unique suspension set-up, too, which among other things has to compensate for the lack of a solid roof to brace the body structure.
As always, being a convertible means carrying more weight than the nearest comparable hard-top. Piling on the most luxurious interior known to man tends to load the scales, too, so we’re looking at more than two and a half tonnes of Roller here.
So it’s not a performance vehicle as such, though it’s a vehicle with performance. At 5.2 seconds, it’s definitely quick, but what’s more relevant is the nonchalance with which it travels. It’s all about the power waiting in reserve – which, at cruising speeds, is more than 90% of the engine’s potential. So it barely matters how fast you’re going – kickdown will still be kickdown.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Rolls-Royce if this didn’t all happen in splendid silence. You want nothing to disturb the calm, and pretty much nothing does. The very worst pot holes can just about be heard in the distance, but almost never felt.
Yet despite removing you from all care, the air-sprung chassis is anything but numb. It’s plush and soothing, like walking barefoot on the deepest-pile carpet.
Its handling is similarly mellow, with body roll building early if you try to drive it in an unbecoming manner. Here’s where it’s most obviously different from the Wraith in dynamic terms; whereas that vehicle is up for fun in corners, the Dawn politely asks you to remember that the faster you go, the less time people will have to notice how much richer than them you are.
It steers with plenty of feel, though. And so long as you don’t commit the cardinal sin of hustling it into a corner, its has a poised blend of balance and stability that mean you can carry speed with you before calling up those vast reserves of power on the exit.
This is all starting to sound rather like the behaviour of common people, however. One prefers to enjoy one’s success is the provision of leather, woodwork and enough space for four well fed aristocrats to lounge in comfort without disturbing the nap on their thousand-guinea polo trousers.
One may also be pleased to enjoy the Bespoke Audio fitted to our test car, whose sixteen speakers are constantly adjusting themselves to compensate for ambient noise. Perfect for ensuring that bystanders can hear every lyric with perfect clarity as you stream your favourites from Lawnmower Deth or Attila the Stockbroker.
Beneath all this is an electronic architecture borrowed directly from the BMWs your servants drive. It’s presented in its own suit of clothes, of course, but that’s what it is – which is fine, because as your servants will know BMW does this kind of thing very well indeed.
And Rolls-Royce does this kind of thing very well indeed, too. This kind of thing being making peerless luxury cars.
If there is a problem, it’s that actually, the Dawn has peers. The Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe being the obvious one, and however sublime the Dawn may be it’s hard to establish a way in which, from a driver’s point of view, it has a character of its own.
As people who enjoy cars with great dynamics, too, we can’t help but lean towards the Wraith as a more enjoyable drive. But this proves Rolls-Royce correct: the Dawn is not just a drophead Wraith.
If you can afford one, anyway, you can almost certainly afford both.
Once again indulging our inner Le Mans wannabes, as convertibles go Aston Martin’s Vanquish Volante appeals more to our personal tastes. But no other car, anywhere, can match the Dawn’s supreme top-down presence. At £264,000 for the sexiest Rolls-Royce ever built, it almost looks cheap.
0-60 mph: 4.9sec
Top speed: 155mph