Rolls-Royce aims for a truly ethereal experience for its customers, and indeed there is simply nothing like riding behind the Spirit of Ecstasy, Rolls’ iconic mascot, floating along on a cloud of wood, leather, steel and, of course, money. While Rolls has given its newer models like the Wraith a bit of a sportier feel, it declines to engage in plebeian discussions of driving dynamics, road feel and other such matters. The machine performs as one expects it would; a gentleman needn’t be bothered with the technicalities. The experience is designed to be effortless.
To put it in suitable terms, in a Rolls you should never have to grip the steering wheel harder than you would a glass of champagne. Which by the way is chilling in a cooler in the rear console. And the car’s controls should never demand your attention to the extent that you’d be distracted from the lovely companion whom it must be assumed is reclining in the passenger seat.
These are the impressions we came away with after a weekend of putting the very latest Rolls-Royce, the Dawn, through its pedigreed paces in some of the poshest parts of New England. A regal four-seat, two-door convertible with a base price of $335,000, the Dawn has the kind of chops that would make most sports cars emerald with envy: 563 bhp and 605 lb ft of torque from its twin-turbo 6.6-litre V12 engine, and enough juice to accelerate from 0 to 100 kmh (62 mph) in 4.9 seconds with a top speed of 250 kmh (155 mph).
Once you’ve got past the basic, and rather idiotic, question of “Is it worth it?” – and here again obviously no one who buys these things is going to be much troubled by that—you can get on to the more important points such as which combination of paint, veneers, hide colors and stitching your particular cumulus cloud should be equipped with. Every Rolls-Royce is a bespoke commission, and with the truly stratospheric number of alternatives no two need ever be alike.
Most will, with the addition of a few essential options like an upgraded audio system, pure lambswool carpeting and a Sprit of Ecstasy that lights up, top out at over $400,000, and for that kind of cabbage Rolls delivers a suitably heavenly ride—what Rolls CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös calls the “sexiest Rolls-Royce ever built.”
With a real danger of veering into the vulgar, Rolls has done a bang-up job of making the Dawn extremely refined and nearly restrained in its elegance compared to the considerably larger Phantom Drophead Coupe. Of course its emphasis on complete customization can result in some rather unfortunate examples; not even a Rolls looks smart in bright purple paint. An orange leather interior on a gunmetal gray car, however? Rather spectacular.