Rolls-Royce Dawn: Review

"Quite simply it is the sexiest Rolls-Royce ever built," gushes the Rolls-Royce Dawn press pack, continuing, "the early-day chill of dawn provides an erotic tingle on the skin, awakening the senses and passions as the day begins."

Crikey. Whatever happened to British reserve? One wonders what's next - Savile Row tailored jock straps? Barbour bondage wear? It probably doesn't help that, viewed from the front, a Rolls-Royce Dawn with its coach doors spread wide has the stance of a flasher revealing the contents of his (in this case colourfully lined) overcoat. Possibly not the kind of 'erotic tingle' Rolls-Royce had in mind.

The interior of this particular car will already have drawn an involuntary gasp too. That's Mandarin leather in Rolls-Royce speak. Inspiration? Possibly the skin tone - and texture - of the kind of gold chained Costa Del Sol ex-pat who might drive such a vehicle to the yacht club for his morning g'n't.

And isn't that one of the amusing contradictions of the Rolls-Royce image? One imagines the branding experts sit about with images of stately homes, elegantly attired aristocrats, top-hatted concierges outside posh hotels and back-seat drivers with crowns on their heads. But there's another side of course, 70s Rollers in particular popular with brasher 'lad-done-good' light entertainers from Bernard Manning to, um, Jimmy Savile. We'll be guessing the latter's Corniche Convertible wasn't on the mood board when they were designing the Dawn...

A new dawn
As you'll probably know this is basically a convertible Wraith, despite official protestations of 80 per cent bespoke bodywork. Or, to put it another way, a BMW 7 Series in an expensively tailored suit.

It has to be said, the Ghost, Wraith and Dawn do a pretty good job of minimising the influence of said BMW parts, only the relocated handbrake control and infotainment really recognisable as Bavarian donations. That the latter is one of the better systems in the market and controlled by an eccentrically configured Rolls interpretation of an iDrive touch pad is no bad thing either.

The influence is greater under the skin of course, including the twin-turbo V12 motor. In the unlikely event a Dawn owner ever lifts the bonnet of their car they may be disappointed to see the brand name moulded into a plastic engine cover rather than cast into imposing cylinder heads. Credit where it is due though; from its whisper-quiet tickover to its cultivated whoosh under power, this V12 carries off the character required of a Rolls-Royce powerplant.

That's Mandarin leather darling
That's Mandarin leather darling
As per the Wraith, there's an elegance and simplicity about the driving experience that enables you to relish in the finer details and unabashed opulence. No driver modes, no shift paddles, no nonsense - simply slide the slender column shifter into D and extend foot closer to the thick lambswool carpet. Appropriately for a car so clearly influenced by Riva power boats the prow rises as the speed increases, leading you to adopt a natural head back, looking down your nose driving position. Careful when and where you deploy both with the roof down, mind.

It seems vulgar to describe the way the Dawn gathers pace as 'acceleration' but there's certainly a vigour about the way it motors on, to the extent you often arrive at situations pressing a little harder on the brake pedal than you might first have thought necessary. Power is down from the 632hp in the Wraith to a Ghost-matching 570hp but - to paraphrase traditional Rolls-Royce spec sheets - this is perfectly adequate and torque is just 15lb ft less at 575lb ft from only 1,500rpm. It never feels lacking, put it that way. And the amount of time you find yourself in the upper reaches of the 'power reserve' dial indicate just how under-stressed the engine - and indeed driver - are most of the time.

Credit for this also goes to the distinctively low-geared steering and large, thin-rimmed wheel. That these dictate a languid, premeditated driving style entirely appropriate to the Dawn's character. Do it properly and it's measured, elegant, restrained and a lovely way to make progress. Blissful ignorance about the mechanical stuff is a mindset encouraged by Rolls-Royce but, for the record, air suspension and active anti-roll bars do a sterling job of delivering waftability without too much wallow.

With the roof - cashmere lined in this instance - in place the Dawn is as relaxed and calming as you might hope, with just the merest rustle of wind noise from around the mirrors. Structural reinforcement will inevitably account for some of the additional 200kg carried over the Wraith but there are still the odd trembles through the coachwork, if not enough to be of significant concern.

Like iDrive, but posher
Like iDrive, but posher
Open to abuse
Lowering the roof to reveal an interior as lurid as this requires some bravery but the rewards are the ability to bask in the sunshine and - it turns out - pretty much unequivocal approval from onlookers. Much of the additional £55,000 lavished on this particular car is in the interior so you may as well show it off, though you wonder if things like the slightly meandering stitching along the dash top are 'character' features to emphasise the hand-crafted provenance. Or a surprising slip of the upholsterer's needle. It would be interesting to know how charitably your average Dawn buyer might be about such things; last time we borrowed a Wraith a piece of window trim fell off in our hands, suggesting even perfection has a little room for improvement.

Clearly a car as unapologetic as the Dawn is intended for people who have attained the necessaries to live the dream. A dream that probably doesn't include 'normal' stuff like parking spaces, confined garages and other such practical challenges for the driver of a 5.3-metre car with long, reverse-hinged doors. If you can find space to swing them fully open you'll find space aplenty for four - a key design goal for the Dawn from the start - and a sociable way in which to soak up the atmosphere. Drawing yet again from that rich seam of the press pack "rear passengers do not merely 'get out' of a Rolls-Royce Dawn, but rather stand and disembark as if from a Riva motor launch onto a glamorous private jetty in Monaco or on Lake Como."

For all the portentous posturing the Dawn really does carry that sense off too, ridiculous as it sounds. From blue-blooded aristocrats to blue comedians from Ancoats, if you're ready to flaunt your success there are few better ways of doing it. Perhaps a name change though, given the lascivious overtones of the publicity material. Less Rolls-Royce Dawn. More Rolls-Royce Morning Glory.

: 6,592cc V12, twin-turbo
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 570@5,250rpm
Torque (lb ft): 575@1,500rpm
0-62mph: 4.9sec
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
Weight: 2,560kg (DIN, unladen)
MPG: 20mpg (NEDC combined)
CO2: 330g/km
Price: £220,000 (£274,960 as tested, including Ambient Light; navy blue monogramming to headrests; Comfort Entry System; Camera System; ventilated/massage front seats; Driver Assistance Package 3; lambswool footmats; 'veneered deck'; 'wood panelling'; cashmere headlining; 21-inch forged wheels; Rolls­Royce Bespoke Audio*; contrast stitching and piping in navy blue*; Mandarin single coachline*; full natural grain leather*; 'Up-lit Spirit of Ecstasy'*; bespoke umbrella collection*;  additional top stitch*; 'Dawn' treadplates*; RR Inlay to monitor lid*)

*'Bespoke' options









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Comments (97) Join the discussion on the forum

  • smaybury 21 Jun 2016

    Can't believe they've called it the Dawn. It's about as Birds of a Feather as it gets.

  • Davey S2 21 Jun 2016

    Great on the French Riviera but I can't see the point in this country. In London you'd just get gassed by traffic fumes and in most other towns and cities you'd probably get gobbed on by the seething masses.

  • Ozzie Osmond 21 Jun 2016

    Looks like another one with interior colour-coded to the owner's fake-tan skin.

  • diluculophile 21 Jun 2016

    Like: The wood, the doors, the interior (assuming a more tasteful colour choice)
    Dislike: the front end styling, the rear end styling, the price

    Overall, if one has the wherewithal to purchase an extraordinarily special vehicle, you'd want it to look a bit more special.
    I bet it drives beautifully though.

  • Fetchez la vache 21 Jun 2016

    article said:
    you wonder if things like the slightly meandering stitching along the dash top are 'character' features to emphasise the hand-crafted provenance.
    article options section said:
    additional top stitch
    Looks like you had to pay extra for the meandering stitching?

    Not sure I could live with the interior colour. The rest though? Yes please - if I was abroad.

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