Richard Webb was one of a select few South African motoring journalists to be invited to the global launch of the new Rolls-Royce Dawn. He explains why the luxury brand’s most recent convertible will draw in an ever-expanding ‘younger’ market.
Once you’ve experienced the huge expanse of ocean and sky that is the Cape, you’ll understand the thrill of arriving at a site of such finality you realise you can explore no further. The air of outer limits, the way the waves pound the obstacles in their path – a last gasp of land, framed by sea – calls for relaxed journeys along kilometres of impossibly beautiful scenery. There is probably no other car on earth better suited to explore the Fairest Cape than the Dawn, a Rolls-Royce like no other. That Cape Town ‘cracked the nod’ for the global launch of one of Rolls-Royce’s most striking and assertive luxury cars is heart-warming, yet an unsurprising perfect match.
From my first encounter with the awe-inspiring models lined up in the morning sunshine at Delaire Graff wine estate near Stellenbosch, the Dawn’s charm and charisma seduced me. Even with the top up, its mood is powerful – with a shape that is unmistakably Rolls-Royce.
“It will frequently be bought as a reward for its buyer. A wealthy entrepreneur buys one to celebrate a successful acquisition, or to mark an important birthday for a spouse,” says designer Alex Innes about future owners of the Dawn.
The Dawn is only the third convertible from the brand in 50 years. The 1966 Corniche was followed by the exclusive Phantom Drophead Coupe in 2007, which will end production by the end of this year. Alex says the Dawn will sit alongside the Phantom, Ghost and Wraith as the brand’s only cabriolet for the time being. “It’s more driver-focused than a Phantom, but its dynamic is also relaxed cruising,” he says.
The Dawn is certainly no slouch – 0-100kph wafts up effortlessly in just 4.9 seconds as it builds pace in a way that few other cars manage. Around the winelands’ sweeping black ribbons of tar, it felt incredibly composed, with the compliant suspension dealing with corners every bit as well as some cars half its weight.
With one touch, its sensuous appeal is unveiled as the roof silently folds away, revealing a seductive interior that seems to be crafted in anticipation of unforgettable moments between friends. Thanks to its full four-seater layout, it’s an experience designed for sharing. There’s something inviting about being open to the elements – to the unexpected sounds, smells and sensations not accessible to closed car occupants. Everything about the new Rolls-Royce Dawn is exceptionally crafted and remarkable – the engine is a gem of 6.6 litre twin-turbo V12. It’s quite simply in a class of its own. I also asked Richard Carter, Rolls-Royce’s South African-born head of global communications, about their customers: “Not long ago the average age of a Rolls-Royce buyer was 55. Now the age has dropped to 45. The smaller Ghost and Wraith have played a big part in attracting a newer, more youthful buyer. Models like the upcoming Cullinan SUV, on sale next year, will further cement that youthful trend, alongside the Dawn.”
Silence is part of the Dawn’s beauty, and at motorway speeds there is nothing but a hint of wind noise – road noise just doesn’t exist. Six-layers of fabric roof eliminate almost every unnecessary sound. Access to the hugely spacious interior is always an occasion, thanks to the stunning rear-hinged coach doors.
Nothing on the car feels out of place or unnecessarily forced, with many of the lines seemingly similar to those found in nature. Rolls-Royce motorcar design director Giles Taylor says the Dawn is a blend of Rolls-Royce’s unmistakable road presence and 21st Century style. “Our design vision was to bring an elegance of silhouette to the soft-top, and natural purity of line to the body that would be both sexy and captivating.
“The core line in Dawn’s design is the ‘attention-seeking’ centre line profile. It had to be low and fluid… from the low front screen flows a fast and sleek line that sweeps over the four seats and settles onto the neatly tapered tail.
“The key body line, which runs unbroken from the front wing rearwards along the waist of the car, complements the silhouette. Every new Rolls-Royce body style – and a drophead in particular – should always add an extra dimension and allure. Dawn has that magical sense of occasion that we, as designers, appreciate from Rolls-Royce’s wonderful design heritage.”
Cruising along the side of ancient, rocky cliffs above the crashing waves as the view across False Bay stretches south towards the boundary between the Indian and Atlantic oceans, hedonism has a new pinnacle – and it’s called Dawn.
NEED TO KNOW
Combined economy: 14.2 litres/100km
0 to 100 km/h: 4.9 seconds
Top speed: 250km/h
Engine: 6592cc Twin-Turbo V12
Transmission: Satellite aided 8-speed auto
CO2 emissions: 330g/K
Price: R10.5 million subject to prevailing exchange rate
SA orders: Pedro Carneiro at Daytona on 011 301 7000