From £264,0009
Rolls-Royce has bowed to customer demand and built a swift, silent Wraith-based convertible well worthy of its impressive coupé cousin

Our Verdict

Rolls-Royce Dawn

Rolls makes grand claims for its new four-seat soft-top. Rightly so?

  • First Drive

    2016 Rolls-Royce Dawn review

    Rolls-Royce has bowed to customer demand and built a swift, silent Wraith-based convertible well worthy of its impressive coupé cousin
15 March 2016

What is it?

Given the amount of new engineering the car contains, it seems too glib to call the new Rolls-Royce Dawn a mere Wraith Drophead.

True, it is closely related to the Wraith (and the 180mm-longer-wheelbase Ghost saloon that spawned it), but 80% of the car’s outer panels are new, and the underbody structural work that has gone into substantiating two eye-catching claims Rolls makes for it — that it is “the quietest open-top car ever made” and “the most rigid four-seater convertible available today” — speak of a separate, exhaustive engineering programme. So does the driving experience.

This is a big car, nearly 5.3m long, with the same four-seat accommodation package as the Wraith. No cabin space has been lost despite the fact that there is a very large, six-layer convertible roof in a large compartment behind the cabin. It intrudes instead into the boot space, although not disastrously. There is reasonable room for holiday luggage, although possibly not for all four occupants.

Entry is via front-opening 'coach' doors, hinged in the centre of the car, a layout that Dawn product manager Jonathan Shears, who's on hand for the car’s launch near Cape Town, South Africa, helps with the task of maintaining the roofless car’s rigidity. With conventional doors, it would have been necessary to greatly increase the size and bulk of the chassis structure around the firewall. As it is, the extra reinforcing (which, with the weight of the folding roof and its operating mechanism, makes up 200kg of the Dawn’s considerable kerb weight of 2560kg) maintains a weight distribution very similar to that of the Wraith.

The 6.6-litre twin turbo V12 engine is unchanged from the Wraith, barring some tuning of its drive-by-wire throttle. It still offers 563bhp at 5250rpm, while its peak torque of 575lb ft is developed at 1500rpm and drives the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox notable for its set-and-forget column lever selector.

The car’s major functions are controlled via a large central screen and Roll’s own version of BMW’s iDrive (they call it the Rotary Controller). Radar cruise and automatically dipping lights are standard and there is a luxurious covering, mostly of fine leather or wood veneer — available in a huge choice of colours and textures — for every interior surface, plus the rear deck behind the cockpit.

Small wonder that the price begins around £250,000 before you add any of the many bespoke trim items available, or even go up an inch from the standard 20in wheels (with run-flat tyres that allow a 100-mile trip at 50mph). Many owners, we are told, will pay £300,000-plus for their cars, the first of which will be delivered within a few weeks.

What's it like?

Well, it’s certainly luxurious. Our red car, with ivory upholstery, might have come straight from Hollywood and was perfectly suited to Cape Town’s strong but not searing sunshine. And we soon proved that the car is indeed a comfortable four-seater, with easy access front and rear. But you expect luxury and looks to be very well delivered in a Rolls-Royce at this price.

The stand-out is the car’s dynamics, especially its ride comfort. Over roads that alternated at times between smooth and abruptly rutted, the Dawn showed impressive body rigidity and control. Even over wracking railway crossings, it has the quietness and composure of a fine luxury saloon. The Dawn is deliberately made a little more relaxed in character than Wraith but there has been no need to give it different spring and damper rates. Instead, the well-distributed extra weight does the job admirably.

It’s a soft car but its suspension controls big body motions very well while ironing out ripples. And there’s never a tremor from the body. The steering is another fine feature, although the medium-lightness of its rim effort takes a few miles of acclimatisation, as does the fairly weak self-centring action and its refusal to load up as you corner harder.

But soon you learn to sit there, guiding it with your fingertips and enjoying its surprising accuracy, which makes manoeuvring a big car easy, even in fairly unruly traffic. The car can be dragged into understeer if you arrive at corners grossly too fast, but mostly it just goes where you point it — aided by the fact that Rolls-Royces always seem to have an effortlessly defined, moderately brisk cruising speed into which you soon settle.

Of course, there’s surprising pace if you demand it. This car will slingshot in near silence from 0-62mph in just under five seconds, and is limited at the usual 155mph. Better still, it cruises in amazing silence. There is very little wind noise from the raised hood; in fact, the car is “a couple of decibels” quieter across the cruising range than a Wraith, which is itself very refined. Rolls-Royce people make a big thing of the fact that this car conceded nothing in noise to its drop-top layout, and they’re right to do so.

Should I buy one?

If you’re in the bracket, and you like refinement in your big convertibles, this Rolls-Royce Dawn must be the ultimate choice. We have never ridden in a car of this layout that is so quiet or so smooth, or deals so brilliantly with the slings and arrows of difficult roads, with no handling compromises. In those respects, it simply sets a brand new standard.

Rolls-Royce Dawn

Location Cape Town, South Africa; On Sale Now; Price £250,000; Engine V12, 6592cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 563bhp at 5250rpm; Torque 575lb ft at 1500rpm; Gearbox 8-speed automatic; Kerb weight 2560kg; Top speed 155mph; 0-62mph 4.9sec; Economy 19.9mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 330g/km, 37%

Join the debate

Comments
23

15 March 2016

Doesn't anything get checked before placing it on your website? That article is riddled with missing words and, I am guessing, incorrect ones in places.

A bit shoddy

A34

15 March 2016
Paul73 wrote:

Doesn't anything get checked before placing it on your website? That article is riddled with missing words and, I am guessing, incorrect ones in places. A bit shoddy

You should ask for your money back! Welcome to crowdsourced editing...

15 March 2016

Can I just note there is no place called Capetown in South Africa. It is always Cape Town. :-)

15 March 2016
NeufNeuf wrote:

Can I just note there is no place called Capetown in South Africa. It is always Cape Town. :-)

Also, it's Rolls'. Not Roll's. Or are the makers of this fine car now known as Roll Royce?

15 March 2016

A successful interpretation of contemporary luxury, much preferable to Bentley's anachronistic efforts.

But the sat-nav seemingly forced into the centre of the dashboard doesn't quite work.

And why oh why do car companies send journalists 'eye-catching' cars to review? This time a bright red one with ivory upholstery !

15 March 2016

To look at it's not a patch on the old Corniche but nevertheless a gigantic improvement on the clumsy Wraith.

15 March 2016

All the Doctors and Dentists Lawyers and so on,will be getting one,cause they can afford it!,nice looking Car though.

Peter Cavellini.

15 March 2016

I think it looks lovely.

 

 

15 March 2016

I am with you, what a lovely looking car.

15 March 2016
Cheltenhamshire wrote:

I am with you, what a lovely looking car.

Me too. I really like this colour combo too, it looks just right.

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