“It expresses this notion of opening up and the light coming in.” Rolls-Royce officials said this of the new Dawn convertible during a private showing in Beverly Hills back in May. It was quite a coincidence, then, that the Friday I saw the Dawn in person was the first clear day in southern California after a stretch of unseasonable rain and clouds.
I already told you many details about Rolls-Royce’s new Drophead, but now, ahead of its official debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show next week, we have the official release. And while the Dawn shares its underpinnings with the Ghost sedan and Wraith coupe, Rolls sees this new model as different enough to warrant a separate name.”Given its character, [the Dawn] deserved a name that was not ethereal,” Rolls-Royce said. “It speaks of fabulous places and beautiful people. It’s a lot sexier [than the Phantom].” And while the design seems like a convertible Wraith at a glance, nearly 80 percent of the Dawn’s body panels are new.
The doors carry over, but the chin is pulled forward by 2.1 inches compared to the Wraith and the grille is recessed by 1.7 inches. The beltline arches up around the back of the cabin, “how you turn a collar up on a jacket,” according to one designer. The Dawn is a very pretty car, and the effect of the dark blue exterior contrasting with and orange interior stunning in person, if muted in the photos.
The six-layer canvas top retracts in a silent operation, stowing neatly behind the open-pore wood deck just aft of the rear seats. In yet another breathless passage, Rolls says passengers should not be “inconvenienced by noise.” With the top up, the profile of the Dawn is more three-box hot rod than the fastback look of the Wraith. A choice of 20- or 21-inch polished or painted wheels round out the exterior.
Inside, Dawn is fitted with the same luxurious appointments and technology as Wraith and Ghost, with seating for four. Accessing the rear seats is easy, and there’s ample legroom for tall passengers – I watched several six-foot-plus journalists nestle themselves back there without issue. That said, on planet Rolls-Royce the Dawn is not a 2+2. “In the world of Rolls-Royce, day-to-day mathematical norms don’t always apply. That’s why I say in the case of the new Rolls-Royce Dawn, 2+2 does not equal 4.” But it holds four people. So, yeah.
Mathematical norms still hold under the hood, where the twin-turbocharged, 6.6-liter V12 also found in the Ghost makes 563 horsepower and 575 pound-feet of torque. That’s enough power to move the 5,644-pound, rear-wheel-drive Dawn to 62 miles per hour in just under five seconds, in case you need to get to that champagne brunch in a hurry. The ZF eight-speed automatic transmission used here is the same as in the Dawn’s platform siblings, and based on my experiences with those, gearchanges in the new car will be imperceptible.
Rolls-Royce has already started taking orders for Dawn. Prior to our May preview current owners and prospective customers got to see the convertible. At the time the company was “taking orders beyond our expectations,” according to one official. In terms of customization, Rolls-Royce says the Dawn is the company’s “most versatile canvas.” In other words, expect to see some interesting color combinations moving forward.
Rolls-Royce enjoyed a sales uptick last year, and that only looks to continue with the pretty new Dawn that comes to market for the 2016 model year. But the company still wants to make cars that feel unique and bespoke – “our cars must be rare, a little difficult to get,” I was told. “One goes by, time stands still, and then you don’t see one for months again.” In the world of Rolls-Royce the space between doesn’t matter. But the Dawn does. So it goes.