2020 Rolls-Royce Dawn

PHOENIX — Unlike mainstream automakers with a plethora of new models released every year, a new Rolls-Royce doesn’t come along very often. Enter the Dawn, a gorgeous new four-seat convertible introduced a couple model years ago that is undeniably the most sensual, captivating and immersive luxury car experiences available.

Given the bewitchingly history of the British automaker using ghostly monikers when naming their luxurious land yachts like Phantoms, Ghosts and Wraiths we were naturally perplexed with the name Dawn. It immediately took me back to one of my high school infatuations with the same name that I crushed on for a short amount of time.

The folks at Rolls-Royce assured me that the name Dawn is intended to symbolize the beginning of a significant new era for the company. The name harkens back to the late 1940s and early 1950s when the automaker used the name Silver Dawn. The Silver Dawn had a lifespan, lasting from 1949 through 1955, just 761 examples were produced with the upright four-door body styling.  

My immediate inclination on first seeing the Dawn was the impression that it’s a tarted up Wraith coupe with a convertible top. Rolls-Royce is however quick to point out that isn’t the case and that fully 80 percent of the body panels are unique to the Dawn. Still, under the new sheetmetal the two share the same platform and all but the same mechanicals. Know that Rolls goes to great lengths to have you thinking of the Dawn as a standalone model of its own.

Rolls also intends the Dawn to be “the most social” of ultra-luxury droptops noting it has four seats, not 2+2. Social distancing be damned for well-heeled sun worshipers who want to drop the top and to be bathed in sunshine while being drooled over in one of the most opulent and exclusive supercars in the world.

Consistent with the legendary Rolls-Royce styling, the front end is characterized by its signature vaned grille, slotted between LED headlamps and an opened lower valence. Just atop the RR emblem is the brand’s trademark Spirit of Ecstasy figurine that prominently raises from a lowered position when starting the engine. An operational setting allows the driver to either raise or lower it at any time with the touch of an icon on the vehicle’s touchscreen.

Entry into the Dawn is through huge, chromed door handles that run from the front fender to the rear-hinged doors affording easy access to the opulent cabin. 21” carbon alloy composite wheels are part of the optional $50,000 Black Badge package that also includes a sport exhaust through dual chromed rear exhaust tips, dark chrome black exterior styling and appointments, along with additional interior and performance modifications. Ahhhh, behold the look of it, class privilege at its finest. 

With over 44,000 exterior color options to choose from, if you can imagine it Rolls and satisfy it. There are an initial 55 colors to initially choose from on the standard color palette. Our test Dawn was finished in Jubilee Silver (dark metallic grey to my eyes), with a Mandarin (orange) colored six-layer convertible soft top, a $5,425 color option, along with a matching Mandarin colored interior with Selby grey accent and black contrasting colors.

Can’t decide on color? Know that Rolls can Bespoke favorite exterior colors in say a two-tone configuration. Say an Iced Midnight Sapphire with contrasting Premier Silver or perhaps Petra Gold and Crystal over Arctic white. The kind of paint schemes that bring out the tactless sense and absence of social taste and grace. Excessive amounts of discretionary money seem to breed unusual personalization. Still, the folks at Rolls-Royce are only too happy to help their clients.

The top opens in just 22 seconds to reveal the lavish interior. Our Black Badge Dawn came with the $25,750 optional Aero Cowling fiberglass tonneau cover that automatically covers the rear seat and is shaped to accommodate the front seat headrests. This reminded me of the throwback 1962-1963 Ford Thunderbird Sports Roadster with the optional fiberglass tonneau cover designed to fit over the rear seat area of the normal four-seat convertible to give the appearance of a two-seater with a very long rear deck.

When raised, and it’s amazingly done both up and down without a peep of a sound, the huge top secures itself into the windshield and with an overall fit so perfect there isn’t a crease or wrinkle in the fabric and gives the appearance of a fixed roof. This can be done while the vehicle is moving up to 31 mph.

Entering the cabin, the Dawn is again almost identical to the Wraith and one of the most gorgeous and plushest convertible interiors available in any vehicle at any price. The entire interior is void of any cheap or plastic materials. Front seats are butter soft leather that extends and matches the leather door panels, center console and about the instrument panel. Floor mats are thick real lambswool and all the switchgear, push/pull operated air vents, steering wheel, console and touch points are exquisite. The headliner was upholstered in black cashmere.

While our interior trim featured colored carbon fiber, various types of wood veneers including Walnut Burr, Smoked Chestnut, Mahogany, Black stained ash, driftwood or any other of type of timbers your heart desires. Ditto for leathers in addition to our Mandarin orange color buyers can choose from Dark Spice, Navy Blue, Consort Red, Moccasin or any choice you desire.

Other features include a 360° surround-view camera, self-adjusting adaptive air suspension, night vision camera, adaptive cruise control, a head-up display and more.
Most operations include redundant manual buttons and switches in addition to the 10.25-inch touchscreen display and steering-wheel operational buttons.

The Dawn is loaded with standard safety features with a full suite of airbags including dual-stage frontal, knee and side-impact airbags. The Dawn is much too expensive for government or insurance agency crash testing however, the extensive array of available safety features and tank-like construction are likely to keep all occupants top safety ratings safe.

The 2020 Dawn is available in two variants: Dawn and Dawn Black Badge. Both utilize an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission with predictive gearing and a 6.6-liter twin-turbocharged V12 that sends all its output to the rear tires.

The Black Badge version is Rolls-Royce’s nod to a performance model without compromising the brands reputation for luxury and exclusivity. The suspension is slightly firmer and the steering rack is quicker. The gearbox and throttle response settings have been retuned for a more engaging drive, too, and a dual-mode sports exhaust system is included as well. The big news for this model, however, is that you get more power, with 593 hp up from the standard Dawn model 563 hp and 620 lb.-ft. of torque up from 575 lb.-ft.

I spent three full days driving and testing our Dawn Black Badge and was blown away with an experience that exceeds anything I’ve ever driven. The massive engine is effortlessly powerful and even though it exceeds three tons of mass it accelerated to 60 mph from a standing stop in just 4.4 seconds. The top speed is limited to 155 mph. Everything about it from handling, brakes, performance, passing, its library quiet interior even at highway speeds, visibility, infotainment and all controls are simply outstanding.

Still, there were a few niggling annoyances especially the lack of a blind spot monitoring system, the lack of Android Auto entertainment, some fussy controls (I never did find how to engage the massaging seats….and the owner’s manual was no help at all) and lack of a drive mode selection system.

Overall our Dawn Black Badge came in a stratospheric near half-million dollars on the window sticker. Still, at that price those few monied (one-tenth of one percent of all car buyers) shoppers for a vehicle of this prominent price is of no concern. But what you get is a vehicle of such exclusive opulence, cache, road presence, elegant styling, posh interior, its stunning refinement and materials render the Dawn bewitchingly magnificent.

Thankfully they named it Dawn especially considering names like Helga, Ruth, and Stella were still available.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $356,500
Price as Tested: $477,550
Engine – Transmission: 6.6-liter, 593 hp, twin turbocharged V12 engine paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Fuel Economy: 12/18/14 – MPG – City/Highway/Combined
Seating: 4

Crash Test Safety Ratings: The Dawn is too expensive for crash tests, and neither the IIHS nor the NHTSA has tested the car. However, an extensive array of available safety features is likely to keep all occupants safe.

Where Built: Chichester, Great Britain

Competes With:
Bentley Continental GT

Fab Features:
Gorgeous good looks
Sumptuous, ultraluxe interior
Endless Bespoke personalization available

By Jim Prueter