As the sun sets on the era of the Phantom, a new – though no less glamorous – Roller is born, writes Michael Stahl.
For all the precision engineering, well-conceived design and handcrafted materials, can any car truly be worth three-quarters of a million dollars? It’s a question never asked by those for whom the Rolls-Royce Dawn, a dashing four-seat convertible, will be merely one of several upper-luxury cars in the garage.
The Dawn continues the renaissance of Rolls-Royce, begun by new owner BMW in 2003 with an all-new flagship limousine, the Phantom, priced just shy of $1 million. The “Drophead”, a convertible version of that car, was released in 2007 with a price tag of $1.2 million.
Phantom production will cease later this year and it’s the Drophead version that the new Dawn will effectively replace. In that context, supposedly, $749,000 is a bargain.
The Dawn owes its existence to the Ghost, a slightly smaller sedan introduced in 2011 in a bid to appeal to younger customers and new markets. It was followed by the Wraith performance coupé, to which the Dawn, with its two rear-hinged (and electrically assisted) doors, is most closely related.
Power comes from a 6.6-litre, twin-turbocharged V12. Silken and near-silent, it drives through an almost imperceptible eight-speed automatic transmission that uses GPS location to anticipate hills and corners. Rolls-Royce’s description – “waftability” – somehow also accommodates acceleration that sees off most (affordable) sports cars.
The styling is a subtle but significant departure for the brand. The Dawn’s forward-leaning stance conveys more road-hugging intent – Rollers usually look like fast-accelerating armchairs – while interior designers have experimented with a bold palette of colours and unexpected timbers.
The ambience is uniquely Rolls-Royce, with trademark touches such as starkly simple instrumentation, an uncluttered driving position and chrome-plated vent controls.
It’s light and refreshing to drive on the open road – no mean feat given the almost 5.3-metre length and weight exceeding 2.5 tonnes. The roof, a masterpiece in six fabric layers, goes up or down in just 20 seconds and works at up to 55km/h. Roof up, it’s claimed to be the world’s quietest convertible.
With the roof down, rear-seat occupants will eventually wish for shelter from the wind as the speedo surpasses 80km/h – a third of the way to the Dawn’s maximum speed.
And therein lies the point of one of the world’s most elegant and perhaps most exclusive convertible cars: should you wish to go faster, there’s always the Ferrari. ￼