Road Test of the Year 2016: Rolls-Royce Dawn Review


Hear that? Almost total silence. I'm in the outside lane of the M4, in a 563bhp car with a roof made from fabric, and all that my ears can pick up is the sound of my own breathing.

Have my nostrils always been this loud? Surely not – I'd have noticed. Or maybe I wouldn't have. Maybe this is what sheer silence is actually supposed to sound like.

The reason I'm experiencing total and utter absence of noise is twofold.
Firstly, I've picked up a Rolls-Royce Dawn from the brand's freshly opened dealer in Bristol, and secondly, the stereo is broken.

Temporarily, I should add – my iPhone's dodgy lightning connector had sent it into a momentary spasm – but I suppose if there's a car in which (to quote Depeche Mode) you want to enjoy the silence, it's probably this one.

That travelling in a Rolls is a serene experience shouldn't come as a great surprise, of course, but one that's been given the tin-opener treatment? Incredibly, Rolls-Royce appears to have pulled it off. Keep the roof up and the Dawn is as refined as any other of its siblings, and even with the soft top folded away, things such as road and traffic noise seem quieter than they should be.

It's not just the peace and quiet that takes you aback, either. The Dawn might only be one of the baby Rollers but the attention to detail inside is staggering. Nowadays, it's easy to become blasé about how car interiors are designed and put together, so appreciating just what's in front of you in the Dawn requires a bit of mental recalibration. Everything – and I mean everything – in your eyeline has been hemmed or carved from beautifully selected materials, be they wood or leather or polished metal, and it feels as though only the very best material available was allowed to be used regardless of cost.

Rolls Royce Dawn

Rolls Royce Dawn

Despite all the old-school craftsmanship that's gone into it, though, the Dawn manages to escape feeling stuffy or old-fashioned in the way that wood-clad car interiors used to – Rolls-Royce now has to cater for the Instagram generation, after all. The orange leather of our car no doubt helped, but the cabin design is unmistakably modern, albeit with little design flourishes and features that nod back to Rolls-Royce's past.

There are some touches that give away some details about Rolls's present, too. The infotainment and navigation system is yanked straight from parent company BMW, for example – albeit with a more subtly designed interface than iDrive – while strictly speaking the car's platform and engine block are borrowed from the Germans, too.

To say the Dawn is merely like a convertible 7 Series would be way off the mark, though – a few shared components or not, Rolls-Royce has instilled a totally different feel altogether. To drive – as with other models in the range – it feels completely unlike anything else on sale today.
It's a hard thing to put your finger on but the Dawn confidently wafts along in a way that no other luxury car – let alone any convertibles – seems to be able to match. The ride is impossibly smooth, and the Dawn's steering is finger-light yet impressively precise.

Powered by a 6.6-litre V12, it goes impressively too, and mostly without so much as a peep from under the bonnet. It even changes direction relatively keenly for a car that weighs some 200kg more than a long-wheelbase Range Rover, although asking it to hold its own on some Welsh B-roads is stretching the Dawn's CV a little too far.

That's completely beside the point, though: the Dawn isn't a car you buy because it out-handles its rivals, it's a car you buy because – frankly – you want a Rolls-Royce and nothing else will do.

Did I end up wanting one? If I'm honest, no – I'm too much of a shrinking violet. Top down in the sun, with music (eventually) serenading me from the impeccably designed speaker system, though, I did fall a bit in love with it. And that's the problem with the best: once you've tasted it, nothing else is good enough.

Rolls-Royce Dawn

Price: £264,000
Engine: 6.6-litre petrol V12
Power: 563bhp 780Nm
0-60mph: 4.7 seconds
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
Economy: 19.9mpg combined
Emissions: 330g/km

Review written by Jon Reay