2016 Rolls-Royce Dawn convertible review

If your garage has room for an ultra-luxury, four-seat convertible, the Rolls-Royce Dawn is the new must-have

2016 Rolls-Royce Dawn convertible review

Rolls-Royce Dawn goes straight to the top of the ultra-luxury, four-seater convertible class.

A Rolls-Royce Wraith without the fastback roof or engine performance tweaks. Picture the twin-turbocharged, V12-powered, hand-crafted four-seat convertible you’d be driving on the Cote d’Azur, or in Santa Barbara, or on the shore of Lac Leman. Now transpose that to pollution-choked Beijing or Dubai. The Dawn is that car.

The Dawn fills the convertible role of the Phantom drophead coupe, which will vanish (along with the current-generation sedans) later this year. Dawn masterfully marries traditional Rolls-Royce grace with unexpected colours and materials and some of the up-for-it-ness of its naughty sister, the Wraith.

Bentley Continental GTC, Aston Martin DB9 Volante, Ferrari California T, Maserati Gran Cabrio, BMW M6 Convertible. Okay, none really.

Rolls -Royce -Dawn -converible -rearTHE WHEELS VERDICT
Probably the only true four-seater convertible, and one that magically elevates a top-down journey to something more than just driving

PLUS: unique ambience, majestic power, effortless but resolute handling
MINUS: unwieldy in town, blustery rear cabin, average roof-up vision, a touch pricey

“IN THE case of the new Rolls-Royce Dawn, 2+2 does not equal 4.” Thus quipped Rolls-Royce design director Giles Taylor of the convertible that shares many of its underpinnings with the brand-bending Wraith coupe.

He meant that “four-seater” convertibles usually aren’t. Having driven the Dawn at its launch in South Africa, we tend to agree that it’s one of only two cars deserving of the description – the other being the outbound Phantom Drophead Coupe, which the Dawn effectively replaces.

So here’s another catchphrase: “5.4 metres plus 2.56 tonnes plus $749,000 equals four.”

To those who can afford it, the Dawn will be worth every renminbi, riyal or dirham. It not only changes the game for Rolls-Royce’s interior and exterior design, but delivers a unique experience that transcends normal motoring.

Rolls -Royce -Dawn -converible -front -sideThe chassis strength engineered-in for Rolls-Royce’s characteristic rear-hinged doors supposedly gives Dawn a structural head-start, but extra sill reinforcement and the roof itself – impeccably tailored (German, not British) in six layers – still contributes to a whopping 200kg gain over the Wraith coupe.

Dawn eschews the more powerful Wraith version of the 6.6-litre, twin-turbo V12 for the Ghost II’s standard outputs of 420kW/780Nm. No complaints there: Dawn silently teleports itself to 100 km/h quicker than a new Mustang GT auto.

Anyway, if a Dawn owner wants to get somewhere faster – or slower – there’s almost certainly a Ferrari or Phantom in their typical seven-car collection.

No-one should be quick to dismiss it. Progress is majestic and spookily silent, helped by the GPS-linked eight-speed auto that anticipates hills and corners. Despite the light steering and controls, the sensation is more heavyweight sports-sedan than hi-po SUV, with a truly well-controlled body, masses of grip and a fast highway-hauling confidence bordering on arrogance.

Rolls -Royce -Dawn -converible -frontWith windows and roof down – a 20-second operation, at anything up to 55km/h – it gets a tad blustery in the front, though our car lacked the available wind-blocker screen.

In the spacious rear seat, which lacks any compromise in terms of backrest angle and legroom, the ‘high-collared’ seating position can’t diminish the buffeting that gets tiresome beyond about 80km/h.

For all its delights on the open road, you’d still prefer to pay someone to pilot it through inner-city streets and double-park in loading zones.

A much appreciated, if mysteriously unseen, feature of the cars on the launch was an ‘auto-180’ parking function. None of the dozen-odd Rolls-Royce staff standing sheepishly around after each restaurant stop was able to explain it.

There again, nor can anyone adequately explain the unique ambience when riding roof-down in the Dawn. The effortless ride, the bright leathers and the open-pore timber panelling make it feel like a recreational outing in a wooden speedboat, or a vintage aeroplane. Yet this is a hugely competent and comfortable motor car. Somehow, it doesn’t add up.

Model: Rolls-Royce Dawn
Engine: 6592cc V12, dohc, 48v, twin turbo
Max power: 420kW @ 5250rpm
Max torque: 780Nm @ 1500rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Weight: 2560kg
0-100km/h: 4.9sec
Fuel economy: 14.2 l/100km
Price: $749,000


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Michael Stahl

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