Cape Town – The caviar and Cartier brigade have a new super-luxury convertible car to swan around in.
Following its unveiling at the Frankfurt motor show in September, the international driving launch of the Rolls-Royce Dawn took place in Cape Town over the past couple of weeks where we, along with motoring journalists from all over the globe, got our first chance to experience some sunlight and messed-up hair Rolls-Royce style.
The four-seater drophead is the cousin of the Wraith coupé introduced in 2013, although 80% of its body panels are new. Inspired by the Silver Dawn drophead of the 1950s, the new Dawn has a soft roof that electrically folds up or down in just 22 seconds at driving speeds up to 50km/h.
ALL ABOUT STYLE
It’s all about style in a Rolls-Royce and dropping the top exposes an intricately crafted wooden deck which traces the horse-shoe shape of the rear cabin. This deck, along with many other trimmings in the car, can be personalised to one’s heart’s content.
Rolls-Royce says a soft top was chosen for the Dawn instead of a hard roof because “there is nothing more romantic than driving a convertible in the rain at night and hearing the drops pattering on the roof.”
I didn’t get to experience this particular romanticism during my drive which took place in the Cape’s sunniest weather, but I can confirm the company’s claim that this is the world’s quietest soft-top convertible when the roof’s up. Multiple noise-reducing layers in the canvas make this car as silent as a hard-top, allowing one to hold conversations with one’s fellow passengers without any vulgar raising of voices.
PLUSH RIDE, SPIRITED PERFORMANCE
Air suspension is standard in the Dawn and it gives the big car a ride as soft as the plush carpets covering the floor of its cabin. The suspension has active roll bars that stiffen up to reduce body roll during cornering, but the suspension can’t be set harder by the driver and at times the ride felt almost a little too floaty and may have contributed to one of my passengers experiencing a bout of car sickness.
The Dawn is ushered along by a twin-turbo 6.6-litre V12 with 420kW and 780Nm, which elicits a spirited burst of pace notwithstanding the car’s considerable 2.5-ton weight. The car has a governed 250km/h top speed and the claimed ability to whisk from 0-100km/h in a sportscar-like 4.9 seconds but the pace is delivered with a relaxed finesse, like a swan you see elegantly gliding across a lake while its furiously paddling legs are hidden out of sight.
It’s a very solid feeling car – the most rigid four-seater convertible in the world says Rolls-Royce – and on the Cape’s roads there was no sign of any body judder to betray the absence of a hard roof.
SEXIEST ROLLS EVER?
As part of its mission to attract younger customers Rolls-Royce calls this the sexiest car it’s ever built. Whether or not you agree, it is a decidedly theatrical design even with the top up. The canvas roof has the fastback curve of a coupé and it sits atop an elegantly muscular car that in profile has an almost hotrod-like attitude with its high shoulder line and small windows.
A hotrod in a tuxedo, one might say.
Inside, there are four separate bucket seats set in a roomy cabin of sumptuous wood and leather, with the trademark Rolls-Royce chromed air vents. Amongst the old-school charm is the modernity of a multimedia and navigation system displayed on a high-definition screen.
Standard features include automatic cruise control, adaptive cornering headlamps and Satellite Aided Transmission, a technology that uses GPS data to see beyond what the driver sees and preselects the most appropriate gear in the 8-speed auto transmission for upcoming corners.
NOT A TECH LEADER
That said, the Dawn isn’t overflowing with high-tech like the 7-Series made by its parent company BMW. Rolls-Royce offers more of an old-school luxury car where it’s all about that special feeling of peering over that Spirit of Ecstasy bonnet mascot as you waft along azure-tinted coastlines.
It’s about the rearwards-opening doors which allow a more elegant entrance and exit, and the doors have slots for stashing umbrellas. And it’s about passengers kicking off their shoes and snuggling their feet into those luxurious super-thick carpets.
If all this takes your fancy, head to the Sandton Rolls-Royce dealership and lay down R11.5-million, but be aware the price is subject to change at very short notice depending on the exchange rate.