For a brand with a history as long and illustrious as Roll-Royce, the launch of a new car is big news. It's no surprise, then, that Rolls-Royce didn't hold back when it came time to take the wraps off the new Dawn in Australia. After taking the car on a tour of Sydney Harbour at sunrise, it was on to Melbourne's Royal Exhibition Building where Gizmag was on the ground to take a closer look at the new convertible and have a chat with the car's global product manager, Jonathan Shears.
It might be a convertible, but Rolls-Royce has worked hard to make sure the Dawn's occupants are able to enjoy some quiet time. In an attempt to keep a traditional silhouette the car is fitted with a canvas roof, albeit the most thoroughly engineered canvas roof we've seen.
There's six layers of fabric involved in creating the Dawn's roof, while a french seam is sewn down its length to cut down on wind noise by improving aerodynamics. This means that roof-up, the Dawn delivers what Jonathan Shears describes as "the silent Rolls-Royce cabin experience.
Don't expect that silent experience to fall apart when the roof drops, because even the Dawn's roof opening and closing mechanism are almost entirely silent. Rolls' engineers have described the roof's operation as a "silent ballet" and, while that might be pushing things a bit far, we can confirm that the roof's operation is whisper quiet. Shears attributes this to the mechanical elements of the roof being moved away from the body shell.
"We worked very hard at making sure we re-routed everything away from the body of the car, in order to stop the car becoming an amplifier for moving hydraulics and motors," Shears said. "That, I think, is where the real secret of the success of the silence of the car comes from."
All of this work on making the car silent would be irrelevant if the car's convertible body wasn't up to its supporting role. In most convertibles, manufacturers go to great lengths to strengthen the body with heavy bracing, but the Dawn's body didn't require much in the way of extra bracing compared to a normal car thanks to a few design quirks. Shears says one such quirk is the Dawn's coach doors, which are hinged behind the driver.
"The fact that the doors are hanging off probably one of the strongest points of the car, that whole C-pillar area, means that you don't have to do all of that heavy reinforcement around the A-pillar in order to support the weight of the door," he said. "The window surround is structural to the car as a part of the rollover protection, and all of those things just really tighten the car up."
Thanks to that tight, solid body shell, Rolls-Royce is hoping it has designed the Dawn to provide a sportier driving experience than the massive Phantom Drophead. That said, the car has been dialled back compared to the Wraith, with the Dawn's engineers aiming for a more of a "boulevard cruiser" driving experience.
Of course if you're cruising top down, you're making an effort to be seen, so it's important that the Dawn's interior puts on a show for those on the outside looking in as well as those inside.
To accomplish this, Rolls-Royce has trimmed the rear deck in a beautiful open-pore wood veneer, which flows down between the rear seats and around the car in the door trims. As you'd expect of any ultra-luxe high-end car, there's a huge range of trim choices available: if you can afford it, Rolls will do it for you.
Not that the standard interior could be called shabby. Everything is finished to an incredible standard, from the deep, soft shag carpet to the wood trim on the dash. Rear seat passengers won't feel short-changed, either, with plenty of legroom behind all but the lankiest of drivers.
The Dawn starts at 749,000 AUD (approx. US$541,000), but we'd be incredibly surprised if any cars left the factory without a whole range of options fitted. After all, who could say no to necessities like the picnic set featured in our gallery?
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