THERE are cars and there are Rolls-Royces. And nothing currently exemplifies this difference better than the famous make’s new Dawn convertible – it’s simply magnificent.
One of six pre-pre-production Dawns made a quick visit to Queensland this week to tap potential buyers, before continuing on a tour of Asia Pacific markets.
But possibly that was sufficient time for a couple of smitten motorists to dash off cheques for $749,000 for this most glamorous of automobiles.
As most people would know, Rolls-Royce these days is owned by BMW. However, the cars are far from BMW 7 Series clones. They continue to be built in Britain with exquisite materials and craftsmanship, but also now with big doses of sophisticated German design and technology.
Forget any idea that a modern Rolls might be some anachronistic state carriage. It’s loaded with technology like satellite-controlled automatic transmission and voice-controlled navigation. Say, “navigate to St. Tropez” and the navigation system will plot the fastest route.
Styling is an impressively modern interpretation of what has always made Rolls-Royce special. It’s imposing, elegant, luxurious and very large but to my eye not the least ostentatious.
The Dawn is almost 5.3 metres long and weighs 2.56 tonnes, despite extensive use of lightweight materials.
Once upon a time, a person was not supposed to ask about the power or performance of a Rolls-Royce. “Sufficient” would be the answer, but competition is greater now and the maker reveals the Dawn’s twin-turbocharged 12-cylinder engine delivers 420 kiloWatts of power and 780 Newtonmetres of torque and drives this great ship to a governed, maximum clip of 250 kmh.
There can be no classier way to travel than in one of the Dawn’s deeply-upholstered seats.
Passengers enter via rear-hinged “suicide” doors, which are so big they have power assistance to close. Deep carpet and sumptuous leather embrace you and acres of timber panelling called Cannadel surrounds you on the doors, rear deck, fascia and centre console. We’re not talking about small trim pieces here, but whole sheets that create a nautical appearance.
The fabric roof in color matching the paintwork opens and closes noiselessly in 20 seconds without the Dawn even needing to stop.
There is an engine, somewhere under a vast prow topped by the Spirit of Ecstasy ornament. In this case the Ecstasy is made from an opaque glass-like material, but the buyer also can choose sterling silver or gold.
At this level a Rolls-Royce virtually sells itself. The salesman’s role is to guide the buyer through a complex myriad of personalisation options, including the choice of hood ornament. It seems no Rolls is sold in merely standard trim and every buyer wants his or her car, just so. Options mean a bonanza for the salesman, as it’s standard practice for all luxury car makers to charge like the bulls of Pamplona for any extra equipment and baubles they can devise.
The Dawn proves car making will never be about just utility and economy. Rich people can own it, the rest of us can be inspired by its beauty and quality.
Rolls-Royce is sold in Queensland by Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Queensland, at Southport. Production of Australian-specification Dawns is expected to start in April or May next year, so there’s still time to cash in those bottle-tops.