Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Don Cheng / Calvin Chan
Published: September 25, 2017
How does one go about reviewing a Rolls-Royce Dawn? Sure, I could go on and on about how exquisite all the materials are, how many cows sacrificed themselves to make it all possible, its electrifying presence on the road, or perhaps I could drive it on some local back roads and report on how it handles twisty and undulating scenarios. But that would really be missing the point, wouldn’t it? You can look online and find a dozen reviews regurgitating the same fact, that the Rolls-Royce Dawn is a magnificent automobile that successfully marries art and engineering into one cohesive package.
But to the average Joe, what does all that really mean? Can you really quantify and put the Rolls-Royce experience into a two-dimensional document? Well, let me try my best to defy the norm and explain to you what it’s like to take a half a million dollar convertible home and live with it for a few days.
The specimen that showed up on my driveway was the 2017 Rolls Royce Dawn - Inspired By Fashion, and was part of the Spring/Summer 2017 Couture Collection of Rolls-Royce. As a demonstration of the automaker’s similarities to the world of fashion and haute couture, the Dawn is draped in Andalusian White, which serves as a blank canvas. Customers then have the choice of three vibrant paints to spruce up the overall look and give it a splash of colour: Mugello Red, Mandarin Orange, and Cobalto Blue. Ours was spec'd with the latter.
Now, my neighbours are aware at this point that I review cars and that my driveway changes tenants more often than some people change their clothes. It can be a Honda Civic one day and a BMW 7 Series the next. But a Rolls-Royce? That’s just begging for attention. So when I brought the Dawn back to my humble abode, I parked it into my townhouse garage. But guess what? It didn’t fit. I scrambled through the spec sheets and realized the Dawn is deceivingly longer than your average minivan.
But once you step inside - oomph, forgot the coach doors swung the other way - you discover where all the real estate went. The cabin is a massive cocoon and it defies the tradition of most convertibles: the two rear seats are alarmingly spacious and just as commodious as the front seats. Headroom and legroom is more than enough for my six-foot figure to sit comfortably on long journeys.
And it’s all the little details that kept me in that bespoke cave for more than half an hour, before emerging and debating how to best start a lottery pool at work. Every panel, every surface, every button is meticulously designed to feel classy and luxurious. The window switches are shaped like flute keys so that when you open the windows, it feels like you’re stroking the chords of wind and nature. The six-layer fabric top quietly retracts in 22 seconds in a gentle process that Rolls-Royce calls the “Silent Ballet”. The door inserts are layered with silk with the Spirit of Ecstasy emblem set at exactly 55 degrees to complement the lines of the door, and the Piano White dashboard is blanketed with aluminum particles to give off a flaky metallic look, a process that takes nine days to complete. How does one even begin to appreciate all these scrupulous details?
Defying another sin of convertibles is the fact that with the roof up, the Dawn is just as quiet as the Wraith. When I read that in the press release, I said to myself, “what a load of crap.” Every convertible I’ve been in has been louder, less rigid, and less comfortable in one degree or another. But they weren’t kidding - the engineers at Goodwood don’t joke around. Whenever I rolled the windows up, it’s like the cabin suddenly became pressurized. I could feel my ears pop as the Dawn seemingly pushed out all the air and sealed itself in like a high-tech Ziploc bag. I’ve never heard my own thoughts so clearly. “I could sleep in here,” I thought to myself. And it didn’t matter if you were idling in your garage or barreling down the highway at triple digit speeds, this airtight chamber prevents any unwanted noise from disturbing your cochlea.
One thing I’ve learned that you can never say to someone at Rolls-Royce, is that the Dawn is “just” a Wraith Convertible. That will earn you a spot on the no-fly list. And that’s because the Dawn isn’t simply a Wraith with a severed head. In order to make a solid, rigid, and encapsulating drophead up to Rolls-Royce standards, 80% of the Dawn’s body panels are brand new and the suspension has been redesigned to accommodate the change in structure.
And I’m not exaggerating when I say that the Dawn’s ride quality is equal to the Wraith’s. This is beyond a doubt the most comfortable convertible I’ve ever been in. Forget about scuttle shake, noise coming through the roof seals, or messy suspension settings. The Dawn rides with a pillow-like quality, one that I’m actually having a hard time articulating into words. It’s like riding down a steep and rocky hill on top of a mattress. Sure you’ll feel the gravel and uneven patches, but that doesn’t ruin the fact that you’re lounging on a mattress. Bumps and potholes are noticeable but the apathetic Dawn just shrugs them off without a care in the world.
The driving experience is a confusing ordeal. You see, despite having a mammoth 6.6-litre twin-turbo V12 under the hood producing 563 horsepower, the same engine you find in the performance-oriented BMW M760Li, you want to do nothing but cruise at a slow, controlled, and steady pace. The Dawn is more rewarding when you drive it leisurely.
In the pilot’s seat, traffic gives you an excuse to sit inside your Rolls just a little longer. Your sense of urgency declines, your blood pressure drops, and road rage dissipates because weirdly enough, people drive cautiously and respectfully around you. Nobody ever tries to cut you off or tailgate you - maybe they’re just too busy ogling the sheetmetal, or are caught off guard by the sheer size of this land yacht. Whatever it may be, the Dawn commands some serious respect on the road.
But when it comes down to brass tacks, the Rolls-Royce Dawn is not a fun car to drive. It’s not a dynamic sports car you’d want to take to the track, or a nimble city car that will scamper and squeeze its way through urban city traffic. You can’t even control the 8-speed gearbox because it is linked to the navigation, which predicts and calculates the best gear ratio to be in. It’s less about driving and more about making a statement. The Dawn is a rolling obelisk that tells everyone else on the road that you own the tarmac. So forget about trying to keep yourself on the down low. The Dawn is as inconspicuous as a tarantula on angel cake. If you were to compare driving to singing, the Dawn is howling in the seventh octave.
Don’t get me wrong, I love driving the Dawn. You don’t get the feeling of grandeur with any other convertible out there. The steering is featherweight, light enough for you to steer with just your pinky finger, and the Spirit of Ecstasy always leads the way, playing the role of both a yardstick and a projector of wealth. Stripped to its core, the Dawn still lacks features that other premium automobiles offer like a heated steering wheel, Apple CarPlay, or blind spot monitoring. The seats could also benefit from more adjustable options, like the multi-functional seats from the familial BMW lineup.
In the end, I spent three days with a half a million dollar car under my helm. I expected it to overload my senses and encapsulate me in a regal bubble of luxury and extravagance, and in many ways the Dawn fulfilled that goal. With old-money charm, unrivaled craftsmanship, and unlimited customizability, Rolls-Royce makes the world your oyster. There’s never a dull moment and its church-silent interior, harmonious powertrain, and majestic road presence provide an open-top paradise that few will ever get to experience. You almost have to feel sorry for whatever test car I bring home next. It’s got some pretty big shoes to fill.
型号 Model: 2017 Rolls Royce Dawn - Inspired By Fashion
顏色 Paint Type: Andalusian White
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 3,112
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 5,285 / 1,947 / 1,502
車重 Unladen weight (kg): 2,560
引擎 Engine: 6.6-litre twin-turbo V12
最大馬力 Horsepower: 563 hp @ 5,250 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 575 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 8-speed ZF automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, RWD
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 16.2
輪胎尺碼 Tires: Continental ContiSportContact5; 21-inch wheels