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Rolls-Royce Dawn 2016 Review

2016 Rolls-Royce Dawn
EXPERT RATING
8
Damien Reid road tests and reviews the Rolls-Royce Dawn with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its international launch in South Africa

The opulent drop-top, a long-distance tourer, is as quiet as its roofed siblings.

When you're Rolls-Royce, you can choose any place in the world to launch a car.

For the launch of the $750,000 Dawn convertible, Rolls chose South Africa, the carjacking capital of the world.

The secret to not getting rolled when behind the wheel is to remain below the radar, slip quietly and avoid attention.

That's a bit hard when our flotilla of seven, combined value nudging $5.5 million, cruises through Cape Town with roofs down and bearing not-so-subtle, silver-on-black RR vanity plates.

This confuses at least one policeman who pulls over a colleague to query the lack of licence plates. An official letter, thoughtfully furnished by Rolls, confirms we have permission.

Admittedly Cape Town is safer than the capital Johannesburg but we're still warned to store bags and personal items in the locked boot, not in the car.

I also have it on good authority that plainclothes security, driving unmarked cars ranging from old VWs to modern family hacks, silently shadow our convoy should street hawkers or undesirables dare to approach.

It's not often that Rolls-Royce releases a new model, so the arrival of the Dawn is something the whole company has anticipated. CEO Torsten Muller-Otvos joins us from the UK and BMW's Peter Schwarzenbauer, the director responsible for Rolls-Royce, arrives from Munich HQ.

Dawn is based on the fastback Wraith, which was a breakaway model, being the most driver- focused car in many years using the BMW-derived 6.6-litre, twin-turbo V12 and eight-speed GPS-guided automatic transmission.

That's unchanged for the drop-top. Outputs of 420kW/ 780Nm propel it from rest to 100km/h in 4.9 seconds, on to a governed 250km/h.

However, Dawn is more than a chopped Wraith, as 70 per cent of its body panels are new. The grille has been recessed further and there's a 53mm extension in the front bumper. Rolls says only the doors and rear bumper carry over from the Wraith.

The convertible's lines are also more raked, giving its profile a pronounced nose forward, wedged look with the tail higher than the nose — at odds with all other models in the Rolls-Royce portfolio.

The company says it has worked hard to ensure the Dawn is as smooth and as quiet as the Wraith, Ghost or Phantom despite the absence of a fixed roof. I can confirm that it's eerily silent inside even under a sudden cloudburst.

Conversation continues despite heavy rain falling on the fabric hood, adding weight to the maker's claim that it's the quietest convertible on the market. The roof retracts in 21 seconds and operates at up to 50km/h.

Even when buffeted by strong winds during our drive, the Dawn never feels vulnerable. Our 180cm rear passenger has more than enough legroom and headroom with the roof up over 80 minutes to satisfy me that this is a proper long-distance tourer for four adults.

It may be the baby of the Rolls fleet but it's a big car and feels it from behind the wheel.

Yet it's incredibly flat and composed on turn-in. It steers more like a big modern grand tourer than a Rolls, allowing a brisk pace behind the wheel, even on wobbly B-roads.

The power surge is incredible, like a silent tidal wave. At idle, it feels like an electric car — you hear nothing.

The power surge is incredible, like a silent tidal wave.

Push it along through mountain roads, though, and the air suspension and GPS-aided gearbox make for rapid progress.

Brake for a corner and the transmission anticipates what gear you'll need on the way out. It accounts for the bend, the rate of speed on approach and other inputs such as steering angle, brake pressure and throttle position.

That means there's no real need for the transmission modes (sports or comfort) that you find on other cars.

The air springs, anti-roll bars and even the distance between the rear wheels have been revised from the Wraith to take into account the extra 250kg.

Verdict

Priced at about 20 per cent above Wraith, it's nearly in Phantom territory, which guarantees it will remain one of the most exclusive cars to carry the Spirit of Ecstasy bonnet mascot.

Click here to see more Rolls-Royce Dawn pricing and spec info.

Pricing Guides

$592,185
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$550,990
Highest Price
$633,380

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
(base) 6.6L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $550,990 – 633,380 2016 Rolls-Royce Dawn 2016 (base) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8