Rolls-Royce Dawn (2017) review

Published:30 December 2016

Rolls-Royce Dawn: your entry ticket to soft-top Rolls ownership
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet

► CAR reviews the Rolls-Royce Dawn
► We drive the entry cabriolet Roller
► £264,000, four seats and class aplenty

Welcome to the rarefied world of entry-level Rolls-Royce convertible ownership. Let's be clear, you're hardly slumming it: the Dawn is a 5.2m long giant, motivated by a 563bhp V12, which will burn a £260k hole in your – hopefully deep – pocket. 

It feels exquisite beyond its starter Rolls status and is sure to make a splash wherever you arrive. Few cars make such an impression and our experience suggests that the exalted cachet of R-R ownership is intact; it’s a less ostentatious statement than a supercar, perhaps, though not what you’d exactly call subtle. 

But isn't the Dawn just a posh 7-series?

Woah, steady on. It's true that the current starter Rollers - the Ghost saloon, Wraith coupe and Dawn convertible - are based on some of the fundamentals of BMW’s large-car architecture, so there is some Munich commonality under the skin. But to dismiss this as a tarted-up Seven is to miss the point. 

Goodwood has gifted the Dawn with a host of bespoke engineering and an uncommonly elegant wardrobe - ours sparkled in the most glorious deep azure paintwork, offset with aluminium detailing and giant 21-inch alloys (whose RR emblems stay stubbornly upright).

Rolls-Royce Dawn in South Africa

The Rolls-Royce Dawn is never classier than when flipping from hushed four-seater saloon to open-top cruiser in 22 seconds, an operation fulfilled all-electrically at speeds of up to 30mph if you’re caught short. 

Read our adventure drive across Africa in the Dawn here.

What about inside the Rolls-Royce Dawn's cabin?

This is feelgood motoring with a capital F. The interior has a clear focus on pampering: the seats are huge and plump and upholstered in the finest leather front and rear - you sink into their hide-bound grasp and never want for support.

Goodwood calls the Dawn ‘the world’s only true modern four-seater super-luxury drophead’ and we wouldn’t disabuse them of this notion.

There is space front and rear aplenty and it’s incredibly hushed, roof up; drop the six-layer top and there is an understandable amount of bluster to back-seat passengers – but this isn’t a hard-charging kinda car. Ease off, enjoy the ride and bask in a Roller kind of cruising for four.

Tech, specs, cabin ambience

Does it feel like a Rolls-Royce inside? Yes. Quite as special as the soon-to-depart Phantom? Not quite. 

iDrive by Rolls-Royce

Your quarter-mill secures some amazing fittings and tech that’s markedly newer than the decade-old range-topper’s gadget count. But the BMW underpinnings may grate to those who care about things like keys (a horrid plastic affair like a 3-series of a decade ago), iDrive (remodelled here with bespoke R-R graphics, see above) and such like.

But there’s no doubting the quality of the thing. The steering wheel is divine – slim-rimmed and delicate and a joy to hold; the inch-thick lambswool carpets cradle weary feet; the organ-stop air vents operate with a machined, oiled precision; and the finely-striped macassar-wood veneer encircling the cockpit and rear deck is nothing short of breathtaking.

And how can you not be smitten by the sole pair of rear-hinged suicide doors, granting easier access to both rows… Dramatic and practical. 

Shame, then, that we suffered an unfortunate technical glitch in our test car: the reversing camera picture was inexplicably upside down (see below).

Rolls-Royce Dawn reversing camera picture upside down in our test car

How does the Rolls-Royce Dawn drive?

This is one extremely refined cabriolet, abetted by the Ghost’s 6.6-litre V12 producing a velvety 563bhp and 575lb ft of wallop. It’s whisper-quiet at all times.

It’s enough to make sure there is more than ample performance, as you’d expect in a Rolls. The truth is, however, that the car’s extravagant dimensions, wallowy-soft ride and Eleanor on the bonnet mean that you shouldn’t – and likely won’t – fling the Dawn around.

The eight-speed auto transmission is GPS-assisted, so it pre-selects gears according to inclines or switchbacks ahead; it’s always in the right ratio and slushes through ratios discretely in the background as a result. 

The ride isn’t quite as settled as on Phantom big brother, with an underlying busy-ness on more cracked-up roads, especially around town. Those large, run-flat tyres don’t help, though the air suspension does a decent job of providing serene progress on smoother, faster roads.

Verdict

Rolls-Royce is at pains to point out that the Dawn is a standalone model with 80% unique body panels – not merely a soft-top Wraith. It certainly has a character all of its own – to these eyes, it’s a beauty to behold.

More importantly, there’s real substance behind it – with quality, roominess and a fabulously hushed drive to make you feel special every single day. A few of the CAR staffers who drove it bemoaned the small details that let the side down. 

But I’d wager the target market will still love it – or stump up another six figures for the next-generation Phantom Drophead. Which is a bit like choosing between first class and a private jet.

Read more Rolls-Royce reviews by CAR magazine

Specs

Price when new: £264,000
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 6592cc V12, 563bhp @ 5250rpm, 575lb ft @ 1500rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 4.9sec 0-62mph, 155mph (limited), 19.8mpg, 330g/km CO2
Weight / material: 2560kg/aluminium, steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 5285/1947/1502mm

Rivals

Other Models

Rolls-Royce Dawn Cars for Sale

View all Rolls-Royce Dawn Cars for Sale

Photo Gallery

  • Roof-down, is there a finer vista?
  • Rolls-Royce Dawn, photographed for CAR magazine by Jamie Lipman
  • Rear-hinged suicide coach doors ease access to Rolls Dawn
  • A proper four-seater, the Rolls-Royce Dawn
  • Why many buy a Rolls-Royce: the unimpeachable mascot
  • Rolls-Royce Dawn, photographed in South Africa
  • One helluva kick plate: Rolls-Royce shows off its provenance
  • Deep azure paint suits Rolls-Royce Dawn
  • The cockpit: hints of BMW-kind, but still a stunning cabin

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet

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