In mid-May, Rolls-Royce announced the name of its forthcoming convertible: Dawn. Two days after that news was released, I saw the new car in Beverly Hills, CA. And as you can probably guess from earlier spy shots, not to mention my choice of lead photo, it looks like a Wraith convertible.
It may look like a Wraith convertible, but that doesn't do this new Rolls justice.
Well, sort of.
Before getting a full briefing of the new Dawn, I was frisked, security guards waved handheld metal detectors around my limbs, and my iPhone was confiscated. I was left standing outside a glamorous mansion with no more than a blue notebook, a pen, a glass of champagne, and gorgeous views of the Hollywood hills and Pacific Ocean. I was told to keep my mouth shut about everything I was about to see, until further notice.
So no, I can't tell you everything I know about the Rolls-Royce Dawn; the company wants to save some information for the car's official unveiling in September at the Frankfurt Motor Show. I don't have photos. I don't even have a napkin sketch. Instead, I'm now allowed to tell you my impressions of the car I saw. It may look like a Wraith convertible, but that phrase alone doesn't do this new Rolls justice.
In an effort to really convey this, Rolls-Royce opted to give the car a totally different name – that's why it isn't called Wraith Drophead Coupe, like the convertible version of the flagship Phantom. "'Dawn' perfectly expresses the character of the new Rolls-Royce. In its tentative, inchoate, anticipatory state, dawn is the world coming to light from the ethereal dark of the night," the company said in its original release. The Dawn name also harks back to the incredibly exclusive Silver Dawn from the 1950s, pictured above.
Fabulous places. Shared social occasions. That's the sort of imagery Rolls-Royce wants to convey with the Dawn.
Fabulous places and fabulous people. Shared social occasions. That's the sort of imagery Rolls-Royce wants to convey with the Dawn.
After a hearing details that shall not be mentioned here (yet), I met the Dawn for the first time. The car drove up a path to the Beverly Hills mansion's courtyard, top up, modern music playing in the background. This was the first time in recent memory that a convertible was introduced with its roof affixed, but this was intentional. With the roof on, the differences between Wraith and Dawn are immediately noticeable.
The key takeaway is that the Wrath's flowing shape has been ditched for the Dawn – it's close to what you see in the spy shots above. Instead, the cloth roof is flat with a quick cut to the rear deck. From the side, the height of the glass opening appears to be shortened compared to the Wraith. Except for the doors, every body panel on the Dawn is new. Some of the smaller bits around the grille are carryover parts, but that's it. Taken from the dead front view, the Dawn looks low and squat. The car's chin is pulled forward, to give it more visual interest. It's very obviously a Wraith – or Ghost – up front, but subtle details make it more appealing. With the roof up, the big droptop sort of looks like a hot rod. An extravagant, fancy, expensive hot rod.
With the roof up, the big droptop sort of looks like a hot rod. An extravagant, fancy, expensive hot rod.
Rolls-Royce then removed the six-layer cloth roof. It's an electronic piece, of course, that neatly and silently folds into the rear deck. At my showing, taking the top off revealed a stunning orange interior that popped against the dark blue exterior paint of this show car. The cabin is essentially the same as the Wraith (pictured below), with a four-place layout that seats adults in ample comfort. Rear passengers will feel a bit cramped with the top up, but not so with the canvas tucked away.
With the roof stowed, the open-pore wood deck glistened under the warm California sun. This isn't the teak wood used on the Phantom Drophead Coupe, it's a different, smooth material, and runs down into the cabin through the console between the rear seats. The open-pore wood absorbs the sun's light and shines. What's more, this materials draws attention to the sculpted beltline that rises up behind the rear headrests. It's like turning up the collar on a jacket – a minor difference, but enough to add just that extra pinch of style.
Prior to my viewing, Rolls-Royce showed the Dawn to several VIP owners, many of whom have already placed orders. As with every Rolls-Royce, the customization possibilities are nearly endless, and the company says the Dawn will be its most versatile canvas yet. Inside the Beverly Hills mansion, Rolls-Royce showed images of the Dawn in different hues, and swatches of material in different colors were matched together, showing a number of possible combinations. No matter the color scheme, the Dawn looks elegant, but has a striking presence. The smaller dimensions of the Ghost/Wraith (compared to the Phantom, anyway), make for a really nicely proportioned convertible.
It's well-executed, subtle differences that set the Dawn apart from the Wraith.
But it's those well-executed, subtle differences that set the Dawn apart from the Wraith coupe. You'll have to see for yourself when the car officially debuts in September. In the meantime, I'll keep my lips sealed about what else is in store for this new addition to the Rolls-Royce range.