Blue blood | Rolls-Royce Dawn
In a world where carmakers scramble to satisfy every possible taste and whim, Rolls-Royce builds vehicles that remain doggedly loyal to the marque’s ethos. They’re aristocratic, spectacularly refined and effortlessly powerful. And it’s no different with its latest model, the Dawn convertible. Not that you’d expect anything less from a car that costs the same as a grand home in the Western Cape’s Winelands, where the British brand launched the vehicle to the world’s press.
Admiring the car before we depart from Delaire Graff Estate, the drop-top instantly charms. Its exterior design remains loyal to Rolls-Royce’s core principles: a 2:1 wheel-to-body height (think hot-rod); a long bonnet balancing a long rear overhang; a high shoulder line; a tapering rear-end. On the Dawn, the roofline is sleek despite the cloth top featuring six bulky, insulating layers. What’s more, Rolls claims that, with the roof raised, the vehicle is quieter inside than the Wraith coupé (and as spacious). Lowered in 22 seconds, the top stows under a flush deck finished in pleasingly tactile Canadel open-pore panelling. With the side windows raised, the flawlessly trimmed cabin (which can be outfitted in any material you choose … at considerable cost, of course) is a serene place.
Later in the day, after lunch at the spectacular Rooi Els seafront home The Glass House, we head towards the challenging Franschhoek Pass. I’m nervous – depending on the exchange rate at the time of order, the vehicle costs in the region of R10.5 million, and it isn’t exactly a sports car – but I shouldn’t have been. So perfectly judged are the Dawn’s controls, and so clear are the sight lines along that immense bonnet to the Spirit of Ecstasy mascot, that the vehicle manages to feel both exceedingly special to drive and simultaneously unintimidating. The 6.6-litre V12 engine is silent unless called upon to waft occupants past slower vehicles, which it does with verve, and the ride is controlled but cushioned.
All this bodes well for Rolls’ target of lowering the average age of its vehicle buyers to the mid-40s. But, despite the fact that the Dawn is, according to Rolls, its ‘sexiest’ car yet, it remains tenaciously traditional. And that’s exactly how it should be.
Text Terence Steenkamp