The Rolls-Royce Dawn has been described as “the world’s only true modern four-seater super-luxury drop head” but how does it feel to get behind the wheel of one for the first time? Beyond Bespoke’s founder Lucie and her then fiancé Robin took the Dawn for a test drive through the streets of London – and found that it more than lived up to its reputation as the quietest open-top car ever made
My first impression of the Dawn is one of pleasant surprise. I’d been on a whirlwind trip around Europe ten years ago in the-then new generation Rolls-Royce Phantom and although it had been impressive, as a thirtysomething I remember at the time feeling as though I was in my Dad’s car. Standing beside the Dawn – huge, but not intimidatingly huge – I can instantly see myself driving one. My fortysomething self now finds that this one fits very nicely indeed.
I’ve heard people compare the Dawn to a yacht before and I get that, but I don’t think that is a reference to the design. It’s because of its size, its beauty and the emotion it stirs inside you. It is also challenging to compare this to any other car. Yes, compare a Range-Rover Vogue with a Mercedes S class and maybe a Bentley Mulsaine, but the Dawn is different. This is a Rolls-Royce, with the most beautifully ‘tailored’ cabin money can buy. The design references to the Art-Deco era fit perfectly in this state-of-the-art environment. Everything you touch feels quality. Everything you could wish for is here. The craftsmen who create this environment do so with great pride.
We pull away into the traffic, my future wife by my side. The engine noise is non-existent but there is a driving engagement with the car, and I’m impressed by how responsive the Dawn is. This shouldn’t be a surprise considering that it’s powered by BMW’s V12 6.6 litre twin turbo unit. Put your foot down from the lights and it’s fast too, if you ask it to be. Gentle and purposeful at the same time.
We head into Central London. First stop the jewellers Pragnell in Berkeley Square to collect the wedding ring I’ve commissioned for Lucie. The traffic is heavy and the sun is shining. Now feels like a good time to discuss when we might lower the roof. The Dawn is a ‘proper’ soft top from the outside but inside it’s easy to forget it’s not a hard top. There is certainly no noise when it’s up. Sitting on the Brompton Road, the lights on red, I decide now is the time, and press the button. The lowering of the roof possibly summarises the whole car perfectly – silent, effortless, graceful and surprisingly efficient. Drivers around us give the thumbs-up and exchange admiring glances.
The lowering of the roof possibly summarises the whole car perfectly – silent, effortless and surprisingly efficient. Drivers around us give the thumbs-up and exchange admiring glances
Within no time, it starts to become uncomfortably warm inside the open cabin with the sun beating down on us. I search for the air-con controls and find a button with the seat symbol. Air conditioned seats. Why, of course!
We arrive in Berkeley Square. Aware of the size of the car, the gorgeous highly polished alloy wheels and the hand-painted coach work, finding a space to accommodate all of the above safely on a Friday afternoon will be challenging. We do a lap, then another. Just as I am about to give up hope of ever finding a space, I spot a gentleman signalling ahead of us that a space is free and directs me in. I’m not suggesting the waves will part for you in a Dawn but it’s not far off.
Next stop: Gieves & Hawkes on Savile Row to collect morning tails for our forthcoming wedding, tailored and ready for collection, then off to Somerset. On a late Friday afternoon heading out of town towards the West Country would normally be a journey to dread but today, with the sun shining and my wife-to-be by my side in the best car in the world, I can’t help thinking that life doesn’t get much better than this. Out of London, I stop at a service station to hand over the wheel to Lucie.
By anyone’s standards, getting familiar with the controls of a car at a service station on the A303 isn’t exactly ideal, and although I’ve become accustomed to the car from a passenger’s point of view I am slightly apprehensive about how easy it will be for me to handle a car of this size. But I needn’t have worried. In no time I have adjusted the seat height and steering wheel and am in the perfect driving position. There’s something about having beautiful wool carpet beneath your feet and a silky soft leather steering wheel in your hands that makes you feel instantly at ease and relaxed.
With the silver lady flying up front the Dawn feels like the most feminine car I’ve ever driven – graceful and polite and made for quiet speed
So what’s to love about the Dawn? Well, for a start there’s the head-up display that projects all you need to know in mid-air at the end of the bonnet. With the silver lady flying up front the Dawn feels like the most feminine car I’ve ever driven, graceful and polite and made for quiet speed. The steering is responsive but effortless and the brakes inspire huge confidence. The mirrors are perfectly positioned too, and every detail has been considered, down to the full-size umbrella hidden cleverly in the door.
Above all, this is a car that is ultra-luxurious as well as practical (you can step out of it without first having had to attend a Lucie Clayton deportment class). School pick-up is going to be fun, I think to myself as we near home. After all, it’s not every day you get to see a brand-new Rolls-Royce on a Friday afternoon.
For more information about the Dawn, contact Alan Hind, Sytner Group at Rolls-Royce