Watch - Rolls-Royce's luxury drop-top Dawn examined at Frankfurt

With 80 per cent of the body all-new, this is much more than just a Wraith convertible. We take a close look

As soon as you set eyes on Rolls-Royce’s new Dawn it’s all too easy to imagine yourself cruising effortlessly down a sun-drenched coastal road. It might not be evo’s usual fare, but the Dawn is a rather seductive motor car and in the same way that you would a Land Rover Defender you’d definitely find a place for one alongside all the sports and super cars in a dream garage. The name Dawn was originally used on a post war car called the Silver Dawn. Just 28 of these voluptuous drophead coupes were made in the early fifties, all with coach built bodies by Park Ward. Rolls Royce will be hoping to produce rather more than that number with the new Dawn. 

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Engine and transmission

Under the considerable acreage of bonnet is the familiar but mighty twin-turbo 6.6-litre V12. In this application it’s putting out an ample 563bhp at 5250rpm and an even more impressive 575lb ft of torque at 1500rpm. A more dynamic accelerator mapping has apparently yielded up to a 30 per cent increase in response at medium throttle.

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The gearbox is ZF’s familiar 8-speed auto but, as with the Wraith, it is satellite aided. This means that the it can read the road ahead and, depending on current driving style and the severity of any upcoming corners, select the appropriate gear for the conditions. 

Design

Rolls-Royce says that the Dawn is much more than just a Wraith convertible and indeed 80 per cent of the body panels are new. The windscreen is lower and combined with the way the roof wraps over the sides it gives the car a very sleek look. Whether the roof is up or down the Dawn is beautifully proportioned.

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The more you walk around the car the more you notice beautiful details. For example, there is a deep translucent Bristol Blue colour in the headlights and the creases in the bonnet that stretch out behind the Spirit of Ecstasy make it look as though she is creating a wake as she flies.

Roof

Quietness is a defining theme of the roof. The claim that with the roof up the Dawn is as serene inside as a Wraith is something we’ll have to take on trust until we drive it, although with six layers of material it should certainly have enough sound insulation. The claim that the roof is silent as it’s being stowed or erected is slightly easier to verify as it was demonstrated when we saw the car. If you listen very carefully then you can just hear a subtle murmuring whirr from the motors but it is incredibly quiet and does nothing to dispel the air of serene elegance that the Dawn exudes.

The roof can be stowed or erected in just 21 seconds and at speeds up to 30mph. It also has French seams. Not being too handy with a needle and thread it had to be explained to us that this makes the seams smoother and neater (thus minimising wind noise) and this is something of a first in fabric roofs. It’s also worth mentioning the rear window, which is as small as practically possible while still providing the necessary sight lines. The result is very elegant and also gives a greater sense of privacy for those inside.

Chassis and suspension

According to Rolls-Royce, one of the benefits of the distinctive suicide doors is that they allow an uninterrupted A-pillar, which aids body strength and stiffness. Tens of thousands of miles have apparently also been completed on a range of rough road surfaces in order to assess and minimise scuttle shake. The end result is a car that Rolls-Royce claims is the most torsionally rigid four-seater on sale today.

It’s t be expected that the newly designed air springs and active rolls bars will still favour comfort over dynamism but Rolls-Royce is keen to portray the Dawn as something of driver’s car and not just a wallowy cruiser. 20inch wheels are standard, but the car we saw was on 21inch rims. All tyres are run flat.

Interior and technology

Although it is a 2+2, Rolls-Royce is keen to state that the Dawn is a proper four-seater. Indeed a six-footer will comfortably fit in the second row and thanks to the comfortable but almost bucket-like shape of the rear seats occupants don’t appear awkwardly positioned. From a pure engineering perspective the rear deck that sweeps around the rear passengers could have been made lower, but the designers kept it higher as they wanted the occupants to feel sufficiently cocooned – describing it as like shrugging a collar up on a jacket.

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Many big premium or luxury brands have brought in audio manufacturers to provide their stereos but Roll-Royce has kept it all in house. The main advantage to this is that something bespoke can be created rather than having to adapt an outside supplier’s existing hardware. The two men principally responsible are apparently very proud of the results. As you would expect, they have designed the 16-speaker hi-fi to cope with the differing conditions depending on whether the roof is up or down. The central controls for the infotainment are essentially BMW’s i-Drive, which is no bad thing. 

Price

The Dawn is expected to cost around £250,000 although this number will obviously rise depending on how you choose to spec your car. Plenty of customers will no doubt also wish to make full use of Rolls-Royce’s bespoke service.

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