Cape Town - After a century of creating ultra-luxury vehicles for an older generation, Rolls-Royce creates its 'sexiest' drophead yet aimed at attracting younger buyers - the new Dawn.
The new model is the next step in the renaissance of Rolls-Royce cars which began in 2003 with the launch of the Phantom and subsequent introductions of the Ghost and Wraith.
Wheels24's Sergio Davids gets a taste of 'dolce vita' behind the wheel of the new Rolls-Royce Dawn launched in Cape Town.
Dawn of a new era
Luxurious, exquisite, elite... pick a positive adjective for the stunning Dawn and any one of them will suffice.
Rolls engineers built on the architecture of the Wraith coupe and revived a classic Roll-Royce moniker from the golden era of automobiles - the Silver Dawn (of which only 28 were built). The Dawn measures 5.2m long, 1.9m wide, 1.5m tall with a wheelbase of 3.1m.
Given its large proportions it should be noted that this is a true four-seat convertible and unlike rival offerings, you won't have to rest your chin on your knees if seated at the rear.
Image gallery: 2016 Rolls-Royce Dawn in SA
The average age of a Rolls-Royce buyer has dropped from 55 to 45, perfect for a brand hoping to attract younger elites.
The Dawn isn't a supercar nor is it a limousine to be chauffeured in but rather a modern interpretation of a classic Rolls drophead revived for a modern era. Its larger Phantom drophead sibling is set to retire later in 2016 leaving it up to the Dawn to fill the gap.
'The sexiest Rolls-Royce ever built'
Svelte curves, aggressive profile, stunning rear... the Dawn, Rolls says, is the 'sexiest Rolly-Royce ever built' and judging from the new model's design, the automaker might be right.
I suppose it's fitting that Rolls chose the idyllic Cape Winelands for the launch of its latest model - like the landscape, it's hard not to be hypnotised by the Dawn.
Despite being built on the same architecture as the hardtop Wraith, the differences are fairly noticeable giving the Dawn a personality of its own. The Dawn exudes opulence from any angle perfect for the affluent, 'upper-crust' customers it hopes to attract.
Under the hood lies a 6.6-litre V12 twin-turbo capable of 420kW/780Nm making the Dawn the most powerful four-seat drophead vehicle yet. It uses the same 'GPS-guided' eight-speed auto borrowed from the Wraith. The system uses the satnav to detect upcoming hills and curves and selects gears accordingly.
Forget about shifting gears yourself as Dawn isn't equipped with a manual mode nor paddle shifts. Fuel consumption is rated at 14.2 litres/100km with emissions of 330g/km.
Which do you prefer? Top-up or top-down: Check out the pics below
The 'silent ballet'
Rolls-Royce says the roof can be lowered, or raised, in a leisurely 22 seconds at speeds up to 50km/h. The Dawn does so in complete silence. The absence of fabric squeaks or the hum of servos is unnerving.
Watch it below:
The engine belies the drophead's size as its V12 enables the Dawn to chase supercars, reaching 100km/h in 4.9 seconds albeit in near silence - sure there's power but I suspect the exhaust note is deliberately subdued.
I have an issue with the Dawn's thin-rimmed steering wheel, it's reminiscent of the type found in classic cars or a modern bus. Fortunately, steering is accurate and there's plenty of feedback. Sure, it has supercar-rivalling power but you have to be mindful of the Dawn's bulk during hard cornering.
It's a testament to the automaker's engineers for creating steering that's accurate and power that's readily available despite the massive steel body.
Not a supercar, not a supercar - you'll need to repeat this mantra when taking on hills such as Franschoek pass in the Western Cape. Despite the huge amount of technology keeping the Dawn on the tar, you're acutely aware of its proportions holding you back from pushing too hard through twists and turns.
With the top up and travelling at low speeds, the eerily quiet cabin combined with the supple suspension delivers a supremely comfortable ride. The caveat however is that it can border on monotonous. This is no supercar built for quick laptimes nor is it a 'barge on the road' like some of its rivals.
The Dawn promises comfortable cruising with power available when you need it most. Does it deliver? A resounding YES.
Think of the most opulent automotive interior you can imagine. Top that with even more luxury items, courtesy of Roll-Royce design studio extras, and you'll have an idea of just how ostentatiously decorated the Dawn's cabin truly is.
Watch: Inside the Rolls-Royce Dawn
Impossibly soft leather, plush wool carpets, wood veneers, the Dawn is the automotive approximation of a luxury yacht on wheels.
It's a space the upper-crusters will feel truly at home in.
Just because it’s accessible doesn’t make it affordable - though prices have yet to be finalised, Rolls-Royce SA says the Dawn will, "subject to currency fluctuations", retail from R10-million. Think its price is exorbitant? Add extras such as lambs-wool carpets, custom interior trim and bespoke tread plates and the pricetag can skyrocket.
Perhaps the price can be justified given that the Dawn is essentially two different vehicles in one svelte chassis - a drop-top cruiser that delivers all the joy of open-top driving and a classic Rolls coupe that taps into the heart of luxury driving.
First used in 1949
The new car has revived a famous and rare Rolls-Royce moniker first used in 1949 - Silver Dawn - but until now applied only to 28 very special drophead bodies assembled from 1950-54.
The original Silver Dawn was the first Rolls-Royce to be offered with a factory-built body.
The automaker said: "The drophead Rolls-Royces that carried the name Dawn continued to be coach-built for individual customers, ensuring their uniqueness and rarity.
"Like Eleanor Thornton, thought by many to be the inspiration behind the Spirit of Ecstasy bonnet adornment, the Rolls-Royce Dawn will also prove itself to be the muse that leads its owner to believe that at the start of the day, anything is possible."
The Dawn gives us a glimpse at a lifestyle (read: the wealthy) lesser mortals can only dream of. It's as much a mobile advertisement for luxury living as it is an impressive piece of automotive machinery.
It's equally at home snaking along a scenic country road or cruising along Camps Bay allowing onlookers to take in its sumptuous curves. It's a car that's designed to compliment its owner's leisure lifestyle.
Rolls-Royce is the epitome of luxury driving and the Dawn exemplifies the brand's character in a much more accessible, curvaceousness package.
More from Rolls-Royce
The Dawn represents a major shift for Rolls-Royce - where other automakers are building 'cheaper, more accessible' vehicles, Rolls is heading in the opposite direction.
Future Rolls-Royce models may be more exclusive than ever as the brand focuses on the hyper elite.
Vehicle length - 5.2m
Vehicle width - 1.9m
Vehicle height (unladen) - 1.5m
Wheelbase - 3.1m
Turning circle - 12.7m
Boot Volume 244 - 295 litre
Unladen Weight (DIN) - 2560kg
Engine/cylinders/valves - V12/48
Fuel management - Direct injection
Power - 420kW @ 5250rpm
Torque - 780Nm @ 1500rpm
Top speed - 250km/h
Acceleration - 0-100km/h in 4.9sec
Combined consumption - 14.2 litres/100km
CO2 emissions - 330g/km