As I’m wafting along serenely in Rolls-Royce’s quite spectacular new Dawn drophead, Florida sunshine radiating my face, wind whipping around my ear lobes, the Teflon-smooth vocals of Canadian crooner Michael Bublé start playing in my head.
Scary, I know.
But here could be the new official anthem for this rolling masterpiece from Goodwood, England. So sing along if you feel the urge: “It’s a new dawn. It’s a new day. It’s a new life. And I’m feeling good.”
I’m definitely feeling rather good right now. In this new Dawn. Feeling more like a million bucks than its mere $356,000 starting price.
It’s what happens when you’re perched high above the hoi polloi in throne-like Barcaloungers, gazing across a “bonnet” that’s long enough to land a 747 on, a bonnet crowned with that trademark silvery Flying Lady gunsight.
Ahhhh, how the other half lives. Actually the other half of 1 per cent.
That’s because no one drives a Dawn for mere transportation, for daily rush-hour commutes, for runs to Publix. This is a high-days-and-holidays kinda car. A car to ferry friends for lunch at Bern’s. A car to head to Palm Beach for the weekend.
And what a truly spectacular way to travel. Gently toggle a switch and the Dawn’s massive six-layer-thick cloth top performs this whisper-quiet ballet of unlatching and motoring majestically rearwards in just 22 seconds.
There’s no need to pull over, either; going topless can be accomplished while purring along at velocities up to 31 mph. Which is key when you feel the urge to lower the roof at a red light. Which then turns green.
As you’d expect, this new Dawn is descended from Rolls’s rakish Wraith two-door coupé. That said, 80 per cent of the Dawn’s body bits are unique, including a windshield that’s slightly lower, and a nose that’s re-shaped with a more recessed grille and more thrusting front bumper.
But thankfully the imposing rear-hinged coach doors remain. Trust me, there’s no more theatrical a way to exit a car than swinging open these barn doors and stepping out. Hopefully on to a red carpet. The Dawn also comes with the Wraith’s glorious 6.6-liter twin-turbo V12 nuclear reactor delivering its 563 horseys and a stupendous 575 lb-ft of turbine-smooth thrust. Squeeze the throttle and this 5,644-pound heavyweight will lunge forward with the building surge of a Gulfstream on takeoff.
And what’s truly remarkable about the Dawn’s performance is the utter silence of that big V12 as it goes about its business. Even under hard, zero-to-60-in-five-seconds acceleration, there’s hardly a murmur from up front. Sleeping babies, purring kittens, circus mimes make more of a racket.
A combination of air springs, active roll bars and deep side-walled 20-inch tires also help deliver that trademark Rolls magic-carpet ride comfort. Yet, amazingly, the car can be hustled through curves or tightening on-ramps with surprising verve. Like the Wraith, it’s an accomplished driver’s car.
What also makes this new Dawn pretty special is its ability to accommodate four passengers in hedonistic comfort. This is no so-called 2+2 with the rear seats best-suited to kids or contortionists.
In the back there are immensely comfortable individual La-Z-Boys, with enough legroom for 6-footers. Even with the top raised, there’s soaring headroom, though getting in and out with the roof in place demands your best limbo dance moves.
And your friends won’t thank you for a top-down, rear-seat ride unless you’re taking them on a low-speed glide along St. Pete’s Beach Drive. Over 50mph, sitting in the back is like being blasted by a Cat 5 hurricane.
Yet just being seating inside this masterpiece of bespoke craftsmanship is what makes the Dawn so very special. The quality of the leather — stunning lipstick red in the case of our tester — the exquisite finish of the wood, the look, touch and feel of the switchgear, and the pure sense of occasion you get surely justifies the hefty sticker.
Add to that the ability to drop the top and go open air, and it will surely have you crooning like Bublé. It’s a new dawn indeed. And one that will make you feel very good.
Test drive the magnificent Dawn at Rolls-Royce Tampa Bay in Pinellas Park.