The engineering giant's latest two-door convertible is making a serious statement on the road
Words by Erin Baker, Editorial Director at Auto Trader
Rolls-Royce has pulled off what every other car company dreams of: it has lowered the average age of its global customer to just 40. This success has been due in part to the Dawn, a two-door convertible, and in part to the Black Badge sub brand, a punked-up, blinged-up design treatment which adds dark paint and smoked metalwork to Rolls-Royces to give them some attitude.
The Rolls-Royce Dawn Black Badge makes a serious statement on the road. Although the Dawn is the “baby” Roller, everything is relative. It still has a massive bonnet stretching towards the horizon, huge wheels and an elegant Spirit of Ecstasy, albeit in a smokey gunmetal grey for the Black Badge edition, which rises up when you unlock the car.
Our car came painted a matt black, with a startling bright red fabric roof, which had onlookers reaching for their phones.
Inside, the red and black theme continued, with a two-tone leather steering wheel, red leather piping on the black seats and doors, red stitched RR logos on the headrests and, of course, red and back umbrellas stowed inside the doors.
Rolls-Royce also offers a starlit ceiling in its cars which is a truly magic touch: hundreds of tiny white lights are set into the fabric, lighting up when you get into the car.
Rolls-Royce is owned by BMW, which means the communications system and infotainment are all powered by the BMW iDrive technology. This is no bad thing – it means it all works smoothly and the graphics are the latest generation in high definition. There is one screen showing all functions, and the dials for speed and “power reserve”, although styled as analogue needles, are in fact digital. It’s a great contemporary take on heritage. You get active cruise control, a head-up display, night vision and lane-departure warning.
You also get Rolls-Royce’s bespoke in-house audio system, played through minutely cut metal speakers in the doors.
A Rolls-Royce remains the most comfortable car to be driven in, and to drive. All models retain the company’s famous “waftability” – that sense that you are floating on air as you travel down the road. How they achieve this in cars that weigh over two tonnes remains a craftsman’s mystery, and rightly so: long may it continue. The result is that one feels one is travelling on a magic carpet, a hair’s breadth above the Earth, at all times. It is a taste of true luxury.
Other details that separate a Rolls-Royce passenger from hoi poloi include small buttons marked “door” which close the door on your behalf once you are seated inside.
There is a huge amount of room: this car might only have two doors but it has ample leg space for four adults to travel across continents in total relaxation. There is a large boot for luggage, too.
Finally, the Dawn remains silent at speed, despite being a convertible. There is no wind or road noise with the roof up, and little with it down. Remember the advert that said that, at 80mph, the loudest thing in a Roller is the ticking clock? Well, it remains true today.
The power is extreme, and sublime. One is ushered imperceptibly to one’s destination without realising how one arrived so quickly. The car has a massive V12 engine under that bonnet, with 593 horsepower (the Black Badge version gets an extra 30 horsepower over the standard), which means 0-62mph takes just 4.9 seconds. And that’s despite this car weighing as much as a bungalow.
You won’t want to know what that does to your fuel consumption, but if you have the money to buy this car, you won’t care much (certainly not financially – you might well care about the sustainability question, in which case you’ll have to wait for Rolls-Royce’s first electric car, which won’t be too far away).
Obviously, it’s extortionately expensive. The Dawn starts at £235,000 “excluding local taxes” as Rolls-Royce has it, but our car was £308,900 excluding VAT. Then there’s the fuel, the insurance… but who cares? You’re driving one of the world’s best cars, from the world’s most luxurious car brand. Most owners will buy this car as an addition to their collection, and the only question will be whether it’s the Dawn or the yacht that year. We’d take both.