Rolls-Royce Dawn Review – All Rolls-Royce Without the Phantom Price Tag
You’ve got to wonder if they’re big on scary stories at Rolls-Royce. Most cars that come from RR’s legendary Goodwood factory have spooky names like “Phantom,” “Ghost” and “Wraith.” Maybe Rolls is trying to suggest their cars float above the road. “Buttercream” just doesn’t demand respect the way undead spirits do.
Now, there’s a new Rolls, and no séance is required to summon it. All you need is $335,000. It’s called the Dawn, and it’s not a drop-top Wraith. Don’t say that or Daniel Craig will show up at your home and take your Rolls-Royce away. Then again, it would probably be Timothy Dalton, Rolls keeps it old-school.
A New Day for Rolls-Royce
Why isn’t the Dawn a drophead Wraith? A fair question. Both cars are built using the underpinnings from BMW’s latest 7 Series. Don’t worry, you won’t feel like the Dawn is demeaning you to BMWer levels of class. Despite being “entry-level,” the Dawn takes its place in the Rolls-Royce lineup seriously. That’s good because it will likely be the brand’s biggest seller.
Material differences between the Dawn and its ghostly sister include a less powerful version of Rolls’ boosted V12. This one provides a very adequate 563 horsepower and 575 ft. lbs., with only the faintest hint of effort betrayed when the top is down. Going fast isn’t really what a Rolls is about, but you won’t have any trouble with onramps.
The Dawn’s suspension arrangement is slightly different so that it can cope with the dynamic differences of a convertible, namely being less stiff, and give it a more laid-back demeanor. Rolls-Royce says the car uses 80 percent new body panels.
What Better Car to Be Seen in?
As the second option in the RR lineup to offer a folding top, the Dawn is smaller than the ultra-premium Phantom. However, at nearly 18 ft. long, it’s no small car. It seats four comfortably, and, yes, back seat passengers get their own bucket seats. As for presence, the slab-sided styling that debuted with the Phantom has aged well.
The car’s chrome slab of a grille is set further back than the Wraith’s, and the bumper gets a unique air damn. Though wheels come standard at 20-inch, you can have 21s if you prefer, and, despite low-profile tires, the air-ride suspension filters out any trace of all but the most treacherous crevasse in pavement from your ride. The Dawn offers a fresh take on the Rolls standard while maintaining its timelessness.
About that convertible top, it uses a six-layer construction to keep road noise to an absolute minimum when up. Dropping the top takes around 20 seconds and can be performed at up to 30 mph. Rear-seat passengers will appreciate the suicide doors, which RR cites as particularly tasty in a convertible package, granting supreme ease of access to both seats and an equally smooth departure.
Surrounded by Leather and Weather
Sitting onboard the Dawn, one is surrounded by world-class materials that, as you might expect from Rolls, can be any number of hides and veneers from their catalog — or your own for the right price. Carpet comes an inch thick in the form of lamb’s wool, and 16 individually tuned speakers collaborate with Rolls’ bespoke version of BMW iDrive, which front and rear passengers can access or hide beneath lovely wood covers should they prefer to just enjoy the ride.
What It’s Like to Drive
Drive, you say? Who does that? Kidding aside, one aspect of the BMW architecture Rolls has used in the modern era is its on-road manners. The Dawn behaves less assertively than the Wraith due to its lower power output and cushy ride. The transmission isn’t exactly timid, but understeer at the limit will provide an appropriate warning to drivers handling the Dawn with perhaps less class than expected.
Today’s Rolls has a new name, and while its game isn’t a complete reboot, the new-money crowd that this car is aimed for should be very happy with it. Then again, if only chilled Champagne in the back seat will do, you’ll have to pony up another six figures for the Phantom. Or, buy one of those Styrofoam coolers at 7-11, but that is so not in good taste.