Compromise is not a word recognised in the Rolls-Royce lexicon. Indeed the company continues to live by the clarion cry of co-founder Sir Henry Royce to “Strive for perfection in everything you do. Take the best that exists and make it better. When it does not exist, design it. Accept nothing nearly right or good enough.”
The first part of this maxim – “Strive for perfection in everything you do” – guides the company’s every action particularly during the creation of a new motor car. The second – “Take the best that exists and make it better” – has been clearly evidenced in the success of both Phantom Series II and Ghost Series II as they were carefully updated in 2012 and 2014 respectively. And when Rolls-Royce judged that it was time for an authentic gentleman’s Gran Turismo to return to the world stage, it was guided by the third part of Sir Henry’s maxim: “When it does not exist, design it.” And thus, Wraith was born.
Now, the final part of this maxim has guided the Rolls-Royce design and engineering teams as they have worked to initiate a new age for open-top, super-luxury motoring. In a sector exclusively populated by the biggest of automotive compromises – the 2+2 seat configuration – Rolls-Royce has chosen to “accept nothing nearly right or good enough.”
And so, the new Rolls-Royce Dawn, the world’s only true modern four-seater super-luxury drophead, is born.
“It is always darkest just before the dawn”
In the most challenging times, the phrase “It is always darkest just before the dawn” – originally coined by English Restoration preacher Thomas Fuller – resonates as a beacon of hope. This early morning darkness, where apparitions such as phantoms, ghosts or wraiths have been imagined, and where one’s apprehensions lurk, is brushed aside by an energising burst of early morning sunlight as one awakens to a new dawn and the endless possibilities of a new day.
Such was the feeling in 1952 as the world was finally emerging from a period of economic austerity following protracted war. That year, the world looked forward in hope as the world’s first passenger jet , the British deHavilland Comet, made its first commercial flight; the Big Bang Theory of the creation of the Universe was first propounded, and Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne of the United Kingdom.
That very same year, the Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn drophead, which became the muse for the designers of the new Rolls-Royce Dawn, was finished by Rolls-Royce coachbuilders Park Ward and delivered to its first customer, Colonel W.A. Phillips in Canada.
A new beginning for Rolls-Royce at the time, the original Silver Dawn was the first Rolls-Royce to be offered with a factory-built body. However, the drophead Rolls-Royces that carried the name Silver Dawn continued to be coach-built for individual customers, ensuring their uniqueness and rarity, and embodied the optimism of the age as we began to enjoy life again and pursue La Dolce Vita.
This famous and rare Rolls-Royce name was only ever applied to 28 very special drophead bodies between 1950 and 1954.
Rolls-Royce’s new Dawn has taken inspiration from the Silver Dawn, whilst delivering a world first in super-luxury motoring – a cool, contemporary interpretation of what a super-luxury four-seater convertible motor car should be in 2015 – rare, refined and the most social super-luxury car there is.
Much like the 1952 Silver Dawn drophead, the new Rolls-Royce Dawn stands apart from its stable mates, featuring 80% unique body panels.
Indeed such attention has been paid to ensuring this amazing new dawn for super-luxury motoring delivers on its promise, even the tyres that connect the new Rolls-Royce Dawn to the roads it will glide over have been specially developed to deliver the pinnacle ‘magic carpet’ ride expected of every Rolls-Royce that leaves The Home of Rolls-Royce at Goodwood, England.
And, specific engineering and manufacturing attention has been paid to the creation of the Dawn’s roof. Unheard of anywhere in the modern motor industry until now, the roof of the Rolls-Royce Dawn delivers the silence of a Wraith when up and operates in almost complete silence in just over 20 seconds at a cruising speed of up to 50kph.
It is safe to say that the new Rolls-Royce Dawn is the quietest open top car ever made.
2+2 ≠ 4
“In the world of Rolls-Royce, day to day mathematical norms don’t always apply. That’s why I say in the case of the new Rolls-Royce Dawn, 2+2 does not equal 4.”
Giles Taylor, Director of Design, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.
Studying the open-top motor car sector, and specifically its high-value luxury niche, it became apparent to Rolls-Royce’s designers that customers were being short-changed. The myopic focus on one specific configuration – the 2+2 setup – was, in the view of Rolls-Royce, a compromise too far.
Commonly held, a 2+2 is a configuration with seating for the driver and one passenger in the front plus two smaller seats for occasional passengers or children in the rear. Space in the rear is most noticeably absent in terms of longitudinal leg-room, thereby reducing the comfort and practicality of the car. In the case of a convertible body type, this reduction in space is often the result of the manufacturer’s inability to package the convertible roof together with boot and rear passenger space. The result is a sector populated exclusively by open-top cars that Rolls-Royce would consider compromised and ‘anti-social’.
“At Rolls-Royce, we pride ourselves as creators of fine motor cars that also serve as social spaces,” comments Taylor. “The idea of creating a car like Dawn that can be used in comfort by only two adults on a day to day basis is anathema. In creating Dawn we have accepted no compromise to the comfort and luxury of four adults who want to travel together in the pinnacle of style.”
A striking, seductive encounter
“Dawn is a Rolls-Royce that feels completely at home on the Route Napoleon. It is a contemporary homage to a life on the Côte d’Azur. The car is a contemporary take on the ‘Casino’ lifestyle. Perhaps seen as cavalier in character it is intended to attract people who relish both freedom and sophistication,” comments Giles Taylor, Director of Design.
“At Rolls-Royce Motor Cars we design without compromise, and this uncompromising approach brings new challenges with each new motor car,” continues Taylor. “In the case of the new Rolls-Royce Dawn, we have designed it from the road up to deliver a striking, seductive encounter.”
The new Rolls-Royce Dawn greets the observer with a striking yet elegant exterior design with classic Rolls-Royce appearance and presence. It is the most vibrant Rolls-Royce yet with charming and alluring qualities that bring a new level of finesse, sophistication and refinement in a drophead coupé – a serene yet exhilarating sense of uncompromised freedom.
It offers a new level of effortlessness and a relaxed sensory experience with an underlying exhilaration and dynamism. All this without a single compromise to comfort and space. This new Rolls-Royce embodies dynamic and social qualities that will attract a broader, younger and more socially-aware audience around the world.
Contrary to media speculation, the new Rolls-Royce Dawn is not a Wraith drophead. 80% of the exterior body panels of the new Dawn are newly designed to accommodate an evolution of Rolls-Royce’s design language and to encapsulate highly contemporary, four-seat super-luxury drophead architecture.
The aim was clear. To do what no other car manufacturer had achieved so far – make a car that looks as beautiful with its roof up as with it down. One could almost say that the result of the design team’s restless endeavours has been to make the new Rolls-Royce Dawn two cars in one.
The Rolls-Royce Dawn maintains timeless Rolls-Royce design principles – 2:1 wheel height to body height, a long bonnet, short front overhang, a long rear overhang, an elegant tapering rear graphic and a high shoulder line.
All this tradition is delivered in a beautiful and thoroughly contemporary design. Like an athlete, Rolls-Royce Dawn appears poised, taught and ready to go. The latent acceleration and tension in the surfaces are increased through completely new panels which evince curvature that creates a tighter surface and a more powerful silhouette which hints at what lies beneath.
Dawn’s powerful and striking front end gives it a sensuous yet edgy, almost masculine look whilst the bold sweeping shoulder line becomes more sensuous as it flows over the swell of the rear wheels, accommodating a wider track. A tapered ‘wake channel’ on the bonnet, emanating from the Spirit of Ecstasy’s wings, evokes the sight of a jet’s vapour trail, hinting at the car’s dynamism. With its high shoulder line, massive C-pillar and horizontally narrow side window aperture, when viewed from side-on and roof up, the car looks akin to a low-slung ‘hot rod’.
At the front, the grille is recessed by approximately 45mm whilst the lower front bumper has been extended 53mm compared to Wraith. This has been done to focus the eye on the jet air intake face and to make the car feel focused, even when standing still. The grille design helps accelerate the tension of the car towards the rear shoulders, again emphasising the unique elegance of Dawn.
The grille and bumper focus attention on the horizontal lines of the car rather than the traditional vertical lines of the other members of the Rolls-Royce family. The bumper now incorporates the number plate surround and a new focused lower air dam. The mesh in the lower valance is recessed and black in colour, helping create a sense of depth which supplements the depth in the grille. Also, chrome ‘blades’ act to plant the car while also complementing the horizontal lines and accelerating the flow of the eye around the car thus increasing the impression of power and width.
When viewing the Rolls-Royce Dawn in side profile, one’s eye is instantly drawn to the elegant profile of the car. The soft top shape is completely harmonious and homogenous without the ugly concave areas or sharp struts seen in other manufacturers’ soft tops. In addition, new 21” polished and 21’’ and 20” painted wheels ensure Dawn remains a perfectly executed, contemporary expression of Rolls-Royce luxury.
The rear end of the car, having swelled over the feminine ‘hips’ of Dawn, tapers in towards the rear, echoing the elegant design of early ‘boat tail’ Rolls-Royce drophead coupés and indeed the beautiful motor launches of the early 20th Century that inspired them.
The silent lowering of the soft top transforms the Rolls-Royce Dawn, delivering a true Dawn moment. In hero specification of Midnight Sapphire exterior and Mandarin leather interior, night becomes day as rays of sunshine burst forth, bringing the inside out, joining this social space with the wider world of possibilities.
Roof down, the sexiness of the Rolls-Royce Dawn is even more apparent. From the side the steep rake of the windscreen, the swage line that flows over the rear haunches plus the high beltline that rises along the profile give the impression of effortless swiftness. The very same rising beltline wraps around the rear passenger cabin akin to the collar of a jacket pulled up to protect the neck.
The stainless steel waist line finisher that wraps around the cabin encompasses the deck that covers the soft top when stowed, and integrates the high-level brake light. This beautiful metal feature works in harmony with the stainless steel door handles, polished wheels, visible exhausts and front and rear bumper jewellery, to create a priceless look and feel.
The deck itself is an amazing work of modern craftsmanship. Clothed in open-pore Canadel panelling that traces the horse-shoe shape of the rear cabin, it demonstrates the great advances that the craftspeople in the Woodshop at the Home of Rolls-Royce in Goodwood have made in wood crafting technology and techniques.
The wood on the deck, chosen by the customer to suit their individual taste, flows down the ‘Waterfall’ between the rear seats, and around the cabin clothing the interior door panels and enticing the owner to enter Dawn.
Once again Rolls-Royce’s unique coach doors come into their own in a drophead format. The coach doors are impressive and graceful. The doors complement the long front wings and relaxed waft line, creating a long body profile and a cosseted cabin.
Evocative of the classic sports car profile, they add considerably to the easy entry and egress of rear passengers from Dawn’s luxurious embrace. The rear passengers do not merely ‘get out’ of a Rolls-Royce Dawn, but rather stand and disembark as if from a Riva motor launch onto a glamorous private jetty in Monaco or on Lake Como.
Of course as one would expect of a Rolls-Royce, the coach doors also serve a more fundamental purpose than simply a means of access. Perhaps just as importantly, they also add significantly to the overall strength and stiffness of the body as they allow the construction of an uninterrupted A-pillar.
The first impression upon entering Dawn is of the four separate bucket seats set in the midst of a sumptuous and sartorial slingshot of wood and leather. The slingshot concept runs from the driver’s A-post towards the rear of the car, around the rear seats before returning to the passenger A-Pillar.
The slingshot form is reminiscent of a barchetta, pulled back, poised and ready to launch the occupants of the car to the horizon, even whilst stationary. This design complements the accelerated tension seen in the exterior of the car. The interior complements the exterior, a place of opulence, security and presence.
The Rolls-Royce Dawn offers four very individual, cosseting seats. The vehicle is a full four seater and so there is no compromise in comfort wherever you sit. The seats have been designed to help emphasise the energetic, yet elegant intent and sense of purpose of the car, complemented by an intersecting full length centre console. The upper seat back houses the seat belt harness, which together with the pillarless bodywork enhances and emphasises the slingshot of wood or leather with no breaks in the flow-lines. The wood on the surfaces of the trays are also book-matched down the centre console in a chevron pattern pointing forward providing an accelerated feel.
The instrument dials have also undergone subtle enhancements with individually applied polished metal chaplets around the dials evoking the precision design of hand-made, luxury wrist watches, whilst the matt chrome centres ‘float’ in the middle of each instrument. In addition, a new clock design featuring the new motor car’s name has been introduced.
ENGINEERING & TECHNOLOGY
The Silent Ballet
Without question, the engineering highlight of the new Rolls-Royce Dawn is the new roof. To be a true Rolls-Royce, Dawn had to deliver the hushed driving experience associated with all Rolls-Royces. At the same time the only choice for a Rolls-Royce was a fabric roof for reasons of aesthetics, romance and brand appropriateness. There is nothing more romantic than driving a convertible in the rain at night and hearing the drops pattering on the roof. In conversation with its customers, Rolls-Royce realised that they felt the same way.
Working with a fabric roof configuration, the Rolls-Royce engineering team set themselves a challenging goal which they were unwilling to compromise on – to make the quietest convertible car in the world today. This quest for silence applied to all aspects of the engineering of the new roof and by extension the new motor car.
Firstly, the passengers’ on-board aural experience roof up and roof down while in motion had to be pure Rolls-Royce. The design of the roof had to be graceful, beautiful and sensuous whilst remaining one of the largest canopies to grace a convertible car.
Of particular note is how the canopy wraps around the rear seats and down over the window tops of Dawn thereby optically lowering the roofline of the car to contribute to its low-slung appearance.
Another point to note is the small size of the rear glass – a carefully-judged proportion which heightens the sense of a private sanctuary when motoring with the roof up.
Two key techniques were employed to ensure the roof not only appears beautiful and sensuous in its form, but also contributes to the silence of the car in its function. A perfectly smooth surface, combined with an innovative tailored ‘French Seam’ ensures that the air flow over the car with the roof up creates no noticeable wind noise. Inside, the Rolls-Royce Dawn is as silent as a Rolls-Royce Wraith – a first in convertible motoring.
Secondly, the actual opening and closing of the roof mechanism had to be both beautiful and unobtrusive at the same time. The engineering team even went so far as to invent a phrase for what they wished to achieve with the roof mechanism. The Silent Ballet.
And a Silent Ballet is what they achieved.
Operating in complete silence in just 22 seconds, and at cruising speeds of up to 50km/h this ‘Silent Ballet’ engages the majority of one’s senses as silence and seclusion are exchanged for the sounds, light and aromas of the outside world. As if opening an airlock, Dawn lifts the lid on the outside world and its cabin becomes a wider part of the owner’s social space.
For those not so worried about silence and more interested in sharing music and entertainment with their friends, Rolls-Royce’s Bespoke Audio system has been specially calibrated for the unique configuration of the Rolls-Royce Dawn. Finely tuned by expert Rolls-Royce audio engineers, Bespoke Audio is the most exhaustively designed automotive hi-fi system ever developed and has been minutely calibrated to compensate for the dual personality of Dawn.
Whether the roof is open or closed, Bespoke Audio ensures perfect acoustic balance and performance. Audio engineers were consulted throughout the design process of the car on the effect proposed changes may have had on the performance of the audio system – a practice unparalleled in the automotive world.
Sixteen individually-tuned speakers, with both theatre and studio settings, deliver a pure ‘larger than live’ sensation. Two bass speakers located in the boot complement seven tweeters meticulously placed throughout the cabin. The system utilises a highly sensitive microphone to constantly monitor ambient exterior noise, subtly adjusting the volume and tone settings accordingly to ensure the system delivers consistent perfection. The technology complements this, with frequency and phase correction for individual speakers eliminating potential loud and dead spots caused by outside influences.
Engineering a new Dawn for open-top motoring
In addition to the undisputed leaps forward made in the engineering of soft-top cars by the Rolls-Royce team, the new Rolls-Royce Dawn also introduces several other tailor-made engineering innovations.
The challenge in designing any convertible lies in retaining a high degree of torsional rigidity throughout the body while keeping weight down. Torsional rigidity is vital to minimise the scuttle shake associated with most convertible cars and to help maintain the car’s dynamic composure.
Extensive testing and research were carried out before the engineering team were completely satisfied. Tens of thousands of kilometres were driven over rough road surfaces to help identify and eliminate potential problems. The result is a chassis that makes the Rolls-Royce Dawn the most rigid four-seater convertible available today.
A newly designed suspension configuration takes care of the specific behaviour of this open top motor car in the areas of body stiffness and mass distribution, guaranteeing ultimate cruising comfort and the expected Rolls-Royce ‘magic carpet’ ride.
Fewer aerodynamic lifts in front and rear and a lower centre of gravity, in combination with newly designed air springs and active roll bars, deliver surprisingly agile handling capabilities for this super-luxury boulevardier.
The flared, sensuous rear flanks of the Dawn indicate a rear track that is 24mm wider compared to Ghost, giving Dawn a lower, sleeker profile. In addition, the car’s wide hip not only adds to the seductiveness of the car, its broad shoulders underline the masculine muscularity and strength of the vehicle, helped by the 180mm shorter wheelbase.
The heart of the Rolls-Royce Dawn driving experience
The beating heart and soul of any Rolls-Royce motor car is the beloved twin-turbo 6.6-litre V12 powertrain. With a power output of 563bhp or 420kW @ 5,250rpm and a torque rating of 780Nm or 575 lb ft @ 1,500rpm, Dawn’s driving experience is exceptional.
This experience is enhanced by dynamic accelerator pedal mapping which delivers up to 30% increased response at medium throttle.
Dawn maintains Rolls-Royce’s typical steering characteristics providing superb driver feedback thereby ensuring that the car is effortless but precise to drive, while also providing a great sense of safety, even at higher speeds, no matter if the top is up or down.
The result is that the new Dawn is Rolls-Royce’s most powerful full four-seat drophead motor car to date, and thanks to its advanced engineering is lighter and more fuel efficient than the majority of compromised 2+2 convertibles in the market.
Grip is provided by runflat tyres, metrically sized at 540mm (20 inches) in diameter. These tyres enable the Dawn to run on a deflated tyre for at least 100 miles/160km at speeds up to 50mph/80km/h before needing a replacement. A remarkable level of control still exists, even with a tyre fully deflated. Optional 21” wheels are also available, mounted on 10-spoke rims. The inclusion of runflat tyre technology removes the need for a spare wheel and jack, freeing up space in the luggage compartment.
Discreet technology for an effortless drive
In common with the entire Rolls-Royce family of fine motor cars, the new Dawn is at the very vanguard of automotive design and technology. Dawn presents drivers with a suite of discreet technologies that ensure their leisure time in the car is a super-luxurious effortless experience. Key is the discreet placement of the car’s technological functions. Dawn is therefore fitted with the Spirit of Ecstasy Rotary Controller, an intuitive, one-touch solution that allows the user effortless access to media and navigation functions.
For example, characters for navigation input or media searches can be finger-drawn onto its surface, echoing seamless smartphone functionality. A one-touch call button located conveniently on the steering wheel allows users to summon the car’s functions using simple voice commands. Both features remove the need for superfluous buttons and ensure absolute ease of use. For example, simply press the button and say the command: “Navigate to St. Tropez” and the car’s Satellite Navigation system will plot the fastest possible route.
This Spirit of Ecstasy Rotary Controller presents a touch pad (rather than a touch screen which might leave unsightly fingerprints at driver and passenger eye level), with the ability to write characters by finger, as well as the ability to scroll through function menus by turning the chrome dial and pressing down to select its functions.
The system recognises Latin and Arabic characters as well as Mandarin.
The Rotary Controller’s touch pad also allows ‘pull and pinch’ features, replicating intuitive smart phone functionality. These help the user pinpoint chosen areas on the screen or make them larger.
Information from the significantly updated Multimedia Interface and Navigation system is displayed beautifully on a new 10.25” high-definition screen, whilst hardware and software changes have improved processing speeds for faster route calculations.
An Automatic Cruise Control system helps to reduce constant small precision adjustments of distance and speed, reducing continuous creep, stop and start. The driver can now move along in city traffic in a confident and relaxed manner relying on the system to monitor conditions and react to changes in traffic patterns – for example when entering a new road or slip road.
New software for the radar and camera – located in the front bumper valance and centre upper windscreen respectively – provides faster system response times, including faster pre-conditioning of the brakes to expect emergency pressure.
Should the worst of circumstances arise, Dawn will deploy a concealed roll-over protection system from behind the rear head restraints in just a fraction of a second. A ratchet system then locks them in place. This roll-over protection system also encompasses the entire windscreen surround of the car.
Satellite Aided Transmission
The Rolls-Royce Dawn’s effortless dynamism is augmented with the addition of Satellite Aided Transmission, a technology that made its global debut on Wraith in 2013.
Satellite Aided Transmission utilises GPS data to allow the car to see beyond what the driver sees, anticipating their next move based on location and driving style.
It uses this information to select the most appropriate gear from the Dawn’s 8-speed ZF gearbox to ensure the driver is able to appropriately exploit the power from the Rolls-Royce 6.6 litre twin-turbo V12, ensuring an effortless and seamless drive experience.
For example when approaching a sweeping bend, the car will predict how you wish to drive through it. When the driver lifts the accelerator it will hold the lower gear to ensure maximum power is available on accelerating through the exit of the corner.
Satellite Aided Transmission comes as standard on Dawn.
From dusk ‘til dawn – Illuminating technology shows the way
The most recent developments in LED lighting technology have also been applied to the Rolls-Royce Dawn. The way this light is managed is significantly enhanced by adaptive technology. Electronically controlled reflectors move in the direction of travel in response to wheel turns to give a greater depth of vision when cornering and a whiter, brighter light ensures effortless and safe driving on dark roads whilst helping reduce driver tiredness.
In addition, automatic dipping of full-beam headlights has been replaced with revolutionary new glare-free technology. When a car approaches, light is deflected to ensure the oncoming driver is not dazzled. Dawn drivers therefore enjoy the safety benefits of constant full-beam visibility. A day-time running bar frames Dawn’s contemporary front light graphic, giving the car a distinctive signature whilst augmenting safety at the same time.
Night-time driving safety is boosted by the head-up display and heat detection system that detects both human and animal heat signatures, and issues an audible warning to the driver of possible danger.