By and large, automotive press releases are pretty stolid affairs. So when you encounter one spattered with words like “seductive” and “erotic tingle” to describe a new offering, you tend to sit up and take notice.
And when said release, from no less an august presence than Rolls-Royce, quotes the CEO — “Quite simply, it is the sexiest Rolls-Royce ever built” — you blurt out your own quote: “Whaaaaat?”
Clearly, Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, gets worked up about the Dawn, the company’s hot-off-the-line two-door, four-seat convertible.
It’s easy to see why he’s in such a lather. A flotilla of big media names, including Top Gear and the Robb Report, are frothing with superlatives that a CEO lives to hear: “bewitching,” “unquestionably a triumph,” “sets a brand new standard” and is “the most sensual and immersive luxury car experience available, bar none.”
So one recent sunny Saturday morning, we took the new Dawn out for a spin to see what all the fuss is about.
Oh-M-Gee. The new Dawn is bewitching, unquestionably a triumph, definitely sets a brand-new standard and is the most sensual and immersive luxury car experience available, bar none. So much for plagiarism ...
First, there’s the look. While similar to the dramatic Wraith, Rolls-Royce takes pains to note that 80 percent of Dawn’s body panels are newly designed and that it’s not, repeat NOT, just a convertible Wraith. However, with the top up, it’s as eerily quiet as its spooky sibling. Rolls says it’s the quietest convertible ever made. Not just its quietest, THE quietest. Ever.
The good folks at Rolls-Royce’s home in Goodwood, England, spent oodles of hours engineering the convertible top to shelter Dawn’s passengers from the outside world’s storms, as well as to rise and lower absolutely silently in 22 seconds at up to 30 mph. They call it “The Silent Ballet” and it’s a wonder to watch and hear (or not, as the case may be). A soft chord chime gracefully indicates all is battened down.
Gracefulness also defines your entrance and egress: Piling in and out would be a travesty. The massive (in both length and width) bank-vault doors are rear-hinged so you ease in and out dreamily, perfectly posed for the paparazzi. No need to slam — merely pull the doors near and they close automatically with a delicate “snick.” Push a button and they swing open languorously, because who can be bothered with pulling a latch?
The larger question: Once ensconced in the Dawn’s sumptuous cabin, why in heaven’s name would you want to leave? Acreage of the finest leather beckons you to wiggle around in any of the four superbly comfortable bucket seats and squeal in the embrace of ecstasy. On average, it takes 12 hides from Bavarian bulls (raised high in the mountains of Europe where few insects live to sully their skins) to complete the Dawn’s buttery, cosseting upholstery.
Bookmatched exotic woods, exactingly crafted to perfection, make the trim of other luxury cars look like epoxied tongue depressors. In particular, the boat-deck-style wood paneling on the rear deck tonneau is stunning and inspired.
Instrumentation is all glistening stainless steel and shimmering crystalline glass, emulating the exacting tolerances of fine timepieces. A 10.25-inch touchpad rather than a screen eliminates smudgy fingerprints and controls the Dawn’s dazzling array of electronic inputs, including the superb 18-speaker concert-hall audio system.
There’s also night vision, automatic cruise control that varies your speed with traffic and safety measures beyond imagining. There’s also a super-cool satellite-aided transmission that uses GPS data to see beyond what you see and, based on your location and driving style, chooses the appropriate gear from the 8-speed ZF transmission.
Which brings us to performance. On the road, the Dawn is untrammeled joy. Even though it’s nearly 17 1/2 feet long and about 6 1/2 feet wide, it’s never ponderous. Power comes from a twin-turbo 6.6-liter V12, quietly generating 563 hp and 575 lb.ft of torque, propelling the 5,600-pound-plus Dawn to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds. The company’s famous “Magic Carpet Ride” is fully in evidence even on our dreadful Texas pavement, and steering is precise and taut.
The Dawn starts at $339,850 but nobody buys a Rolls without dialing up the company’s vaunted Bespoke program, offering 44,000 color choices and endless scores of customization options. Exterior color to match your red Tibetan mastiff’s eyes? Leather the shade of exotic parrots or flamingos? Hand-embroidered headrests, customized treadplates, passenger panel inlays, hand-painted monogram? Sure, whatever you want and then some.
But back to Herr Müller-Ötvös. His obsession with the Dawn is right on target. A 20-year BMW AG veteran (Rolls is a subsidiary), he knows he has to appeal to a younger clientele. He’s got the chops: He relaunched the MINI brand as a premium marque by recapturing the brand’s essence of driving fun.
He’s doing the same thing with Rolls-Royce by reinvigorating its glorious past of traditional craftsmanship and merging it with tomorrow’s technology. It’s working: 2016 and 2017 allotments are already sold.
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