ROLLS-ROYCE is surely the world’s most conservative car company. It does not name-drop its billionaire customers. It fits its cars with a “power reserve” meter rather than anything as uncouth as a rev counter. So eyebrows were no doubt raised at antique breakfast tables when the British luxury car maker declared the Dawn, its new convertible, the “sexiest Rolls-Royce ever built”.
To traditionalists the description is no doubt vulgar. The rest of the world will see it as a sign that Rolls-Royce has its sights on drivers who have not previously considered owning one of its models.
The Dawn, as well as being sexy, is apparently cavalier in character, offering “a contemporary take on the casino lifestyle”. It is loosely based on the Wraith coupé — 80% of the body panels are new — and Giles Taylor, director of design at Rolls-Royce, says its 17ft-long body offers comfortable seating for four adults.
Its fabric hood folds away beneath a wooden cover in an unhurried 22 seconds and can be operated while the car is moving at up to 30mph. To make sure Elgar does not go unheard, the Dawn has a 16-speaker audio system designed not to be drowned out by wind noise. And concealed behind the back seats is a pair of roll-over protection bars, which spring up if systems sense the possibility of the car turning over.
Beneath the expansive bonnet is a 6.6-litre V12 twin-turbo engine, said to generate up to 536bhp, and 575 Ib ft of torque from 1500rpm. It is paired with an eight-speed automatic gearbox and drives the rear wheels. The company says the Dawn can accelerate from 0 to 62mph in 4.9 seconds, and the top speed is restricted to 155mph; fuel consumption is 19mpg.
The car will cost about £250,000 when it goes on sale early next year, considerably more than the Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible – but a good £100,000 less than the Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead coupé.