New Rolls-Royce Fixes the Big Problems With Convertibles
If Marcel Proust were alive today and in need of extra cash, he’d find good work chez Rolls-Royce, which announced its new model in a 4,800-word opus that doesn’t mention the car until the fourth paragraph.
One must ignore the references to the advent of jet travel and the Big Bang Theory, and move past phrases like “night becomes day as rays of sunshine burst forth, bringing the inside out, joining this social space with the wider world of possibilities.” Only then do you realize Rolls-Royce is introducing a convertible called the “Dawn,” an attractive car packed with swanky features and designed to eliminate two major hassles of convertibles.
Rather than force you to wade through the À la recherche du temps perdu of press releases, here’s the Cliff’s Notes version: Two years ago, Rolls-Royce debuted the Wraith, a lovely fastback coupé aimed at younger, yet still exceedingly wealthy, buyers more interested in driving than riding in back.
The Dawn is a drop-top Wraith, even if it is wrapped in new bodywork. In addition to being absurdly expensive, Rolls-Royce automobiles are absurdly quick, and the Dawn is no exception. The 6.6-liter twin-turbocharged V12 engine produces 563 horsepower, enough to propel 5,600 pounds of opulence to 62 mph in a spritely 4.9 seconds.
All that oomph flows through a “satellite aided transmission,” which uses GPS to spot terrain changes like hills and chooses which of its eight gears is best suited to the job at hand. Speaking of hands, the car’s UI features a touch pad rather than a touch screen, “which might leave unsightly fingerprints at driver and passenger eye level.” Rather than poke and swipe at a screen like those plebeians in Bentleys, those in a Dawn use their fingers to write commands on the pad, a neat tool we’ve seen in recent Audis and BMWs. This one recognizes Mandarin and Arabic, showing Rolls recognizes that Dawn happens in the East, where you can find more and more of the world’s billionaires.
Naturally, the Dawn offers voice navigation, and the press release suggests the command, “Navigate to St. Tropez.” We assume the system also recognizes the phrases “Let’s go to my oil refinery” and “Take me to wherever I docked my megayacht.”
Fixing the Convertible
Of course, all this stuff is fairly typical fare when spending well into six figures on an automobile. None of this is particularly noteworthy. The one percent have been sitting on leather forever. Automakers have been using wood as long as they’ve been making autos. And anyone with a smartphone can have voice navi.
No, the truly innovative features address two problems that invariably pop up when you chop the roof off a perfectly good car: Things get noisy, and the back seats get cramped.
Rolls-Royce boasts the Dawn is as quiet as the Wraith when the top is up, an impressive feat given that the roof is fabric “for reasons of aesthetics, romance and brand appropriateness.” Rolls attributes that to smart aerodynamics and a perfectly smooth roof that limits turbulence and wind noise. The smooth roof is due in part to the “French seam” that keeps all the stitching on the roof’s interior.
In most convertibles, the backseat is comfortable if you’re a child or a sack of potatoes because the space needed to stash the roof impinges on space for things like your legs. This is “a compromise too far” for Rolls, which opted instead of cut trunk space from 16.6 to 10.4 cubic feet, extend the length of the car by half an inch, and engage in a little creative origami when engineering the roof’s folding mechanism. The result is a “four full seater” that offers “a sumptuous and sartorial slingshot of wood and leather” and seats that are “very individual” and “cosseting.” Translated from marketing-speak, the Dawn offers the same 36.9 inches of rear leg room available in the Wraith.
If you’re worried about lost trunk space, hire someone to follow along behind you with your Veuve Clicquot and beluga caviar.