The Rolls-Royce Dawn is the convertible version of the Wraith – the oversized coupé launched with much fanfare in 2013.
The Wraith pointed at a new direction for the firm, or at the very least expanded its lineup to include an option slightly more sporting than the stately Phantom. The Dawn is the next step: a four-seat open-top in the Drophead tradition – with a price to match.
What's the 2016 Rolls-Royce Dawn like to drive?
The Dawn shares its running gear with the Wraith, but is intended to offer a more relaxed driving style (appropriate, when you consider that the coupé was the most overtly sporty car Rolls-Royce had produced in years). The consequence of that approach is that the Dawn feels more softly suspended, which makes the air-sprung cabriolet one of the most comfortable cars to drive on the road.
Rolls-Royce has had to significantly reinforce the roofless body underneath (and added around 200kg to an already portly kerb weight) but in doing so it has helped the Dawn achieve a serene and incredibly plush ride. It is all underwritten by the terrific power meted out by the same 6.6-litre turbocharged V12 that drives Rolls-Royce's Ghost but don’t expect to feel tempted to unleash the Dawn's 563bhp output very often; it's more about wafting leisurely from place to place, enjoying the sunshine.
That’s perfectly fine, and once you’ve got used to the sheer size of the car (it’s 5.3 metres long) its light steering and long, ingratiating pedal travel make it one of the easiest and most pleasant cars to drive along at the speed limit. Driven modestly, roof down, the airflow will only gently tickle a top hat – and with the roof up, supply the kind of silence that most people will only encounter in a vestry.
What's the 2016 Rolls Royce Dawn like inside?
Really quite lovely. Distantly, there’s BMW architecture somewhere under the fascia, but the top layer of the dashboard is so cleverly clad in wood and leather that it’s generally impossible to hold it against the car. The occasional use of plastic doesn’t quite hold true to Roll-Royce’s valuation, yet there’s no doubting that – along with Bentley - the Dawn’s interior sits in a rarefied class of specialness.
It’s also, for the most part, extremely practical. There are a number of mainstream convertibles which claim decent space for four adults – but none which offer the roominess of the Dawn. Six-footers won’t complain about being in the back seats, nor will the fabric roof trouble their hairline. The sacrifice for the cloth ceiling (which disappears silently in 21sec up to 30mph) is a reduction in boot space compared with the Wraith. A couple of small suitcases still fit, but a week’s luggage for four would not.
Should I buy one?
Few will have the opportunity to seriously entertain that question. The Dawn is priced from £264,000, and with options our test car cost in excess of £300k. It’ll be equally formidable to run. We await True MPG figures, but even Rolls-Royce’s own claim suggests you’d be lucky to get 20mpg from its V12.
That’s all by the by, of course, because even if strictly speaking cars such as Mercedes' S-Class Cabriolet and Bentley's GTC are rivals, neither comes anywhere near the Rolls for price - they're thousands of pounds cheaper. The daunting sums involved buying a Dawn will not concern its tiny pool of buyers one bit; they’ll simply be interested in its comfort, refinement and quality – and in that regard the Dawn sits in a class of one.
What Car? says...
Engine size 6.6-litre petrol
Price from £264,000
Torque 575lb ft
Top speed 155mph
Fuel economy 19.9mpg