What is there to say about a Rolls-Royce? When one thinks of Rolls-Royce, the epitome of automobile excellence comes to mind. It’s hard to fathom how a car with the same amount of doors, windows, and wheels as your car could be something so completely different.
A Rolls Royce isn’t just a car, it’s a statement and a grand statement at that.
The Rolls-Royce you see here isn’t like the traditional “old style” Rolls-Royce you may be familiar with. This one is sinisterly called the ‘Black Badge’. The Dawn is the third model in the Rolls-Royce line to receive the Black Badge treatment. It was inspired by risk takers and disputers like Charles Rolls, who was an aviation pioneer and subsequently was the first person in the United Kingdom involved in an aeronautical fatality. There was also Sir Malcolm Campbell, who broke the world speed record on land and on water, and in many occasions using Rolls-Royce powered vehicles. These guys were, as Rolls-Royce describes them, “restless spirits”. The aim of Black Badge is to channel some of that spirit at “today’s generation of young, self-empowered, self-confident rule breakers”.
The Black Badge may look like a Dawn with a few bits and pieces changed but the small changes have made a huge difference in its personality.
Rolls-Royce don’t do trim levels like mainstream car companies. There’s no SE trim or GLI Edition. You either get the Dawn or the Dawn Black Badge, depending on your mood. If having a soft top isn’t your deal then the Wraith is also available, essentially coupe version of the Dawn. If you need even more space the Ghost is essentially the sedan version of the Wraith and of course both are also available as a Black Badge.
The Ghost, Wraith, and Dawn families are powered by the same 6.6-litre twin-turbo V12, the difference being the Dawn having to make do with 562hp while the Black Badge ups that to 601hp. Like all Rolls-Royces, the Dawn doesn’t go on about numbers. Yes, it can do 0-100 km/h in 4.9 seconds and will go on to a top speed of 250 km/h, but it doesn’t shout about it like other high-end V12 exotics might.
That’s because the Dawn doesn’t need stats and figures to speak for it, iIt can happily speak for itself without having to say a word. This thing makes an impact the moment you lay eyes on it. In most cars it’s all about the journey, but in the Dawn it’s all about the arrival. Everywhere you go this draws attention to it like a flame to moths.
The bright red paint didn’t help making it more discreet. While the non-Black Badge Dawn looks elegant in an old fashioned way, the Dawn Black Badge has a sort of thuggish charm to it. Perhaps it’s the black chrome grille or the blacked out Spirit of Ecstasy or perhaps it’s the 21-inch carbon composite wheels but there’s an intangible ‘badass’ feel.
Regardless of what spec it’s in, the sheer size of the Dawn commands attention. It really was a case of people looking at the car and who’s inside. Because let’s face it, anyone who’s going to be in a Rolls-Royce is going to be someone of significance. So you can imagine the disappointment on people’s faces when they saw a pleb like me behind the wheel. This isn’t a car for introverts.
It’s very much a traditional British interior brought over to the modern age. I like how Rolls-Royce went down the restrained, timeless route rather than going for something distinctively modern that might not age as well. The infotainment system is a Rolls-Royce version of the BMW iDrive, which looks good now but in a few decades when it really shows its age, you can hide it away behind a carbon panel at the touch of a button.
Speaking of technology, the Dawn carries a lot over from BMW, so it’s got most of the modern gizmos such as radar cruise control, bluetooth/iPod connectivity, and a reversing camera though it lacks the newest all-round view camera system. But by far the most impressive piece of technology in the Dawn Black Badge was Rolls-Royce’s own in-house developed Bespoke Audio system. It’s up there with one of the best OEM systems I’ve encountered that manages to keep the same audio quality top up and top down.
The materials are all the finest available with real stainless steel, aluminium, leather, and carbon. Weirdly, for a Rolls-Royce, there’s no wood but no doubt that can be optioned. I guess it’s to highlight the youthful image of the Black Badge series. Up until getting to experience a Rolls-Royce extensively, I was adamant just how it could be so much more expensive or luxurious than say an Aston Martin or Bentley. But boy, how wrong was I. This truly is another level of luxury that transcends anything else you’ve experienced. It’s the little details like the incredible sound insulation, roof down but especially roof up. The six-layer fabric roof manages to cut out any sort of outside interference, making it feel like a more like a hardtop coupe.
There’s all the little reminders that you’re in something special like the analog clock with the ‘RR’ logos, the soft wrinkle-free leather that smells rich (in every sense of the word), and the power closing suicide doors. How can you not feel like a million-dollar rockstar while closing your suicide door at a push of a button?
Then there’s the comfort. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in low-slung sports cars and as fun as those were, I’m partial to a bit of comfort and luxury. The seats in the Dawn were one of the best experiences I’ve had. They’re by far the most comfortable seats in any car, yet there was a familiarity to them. They were so plush and so comfortable, like sitting on your favourite armchair at your grandparent’s home. You just sink in and all is well in the world. Your heart rate decreases sitting inside a Rolls Royce. All your cares disappear, the little things that bother you are forgotten, as this car cocoons you from the outside world in your own personal bubble of luxury. It harks back to the days of grand convertibles.
There’s space for four adults comfortably inside. In fact, it’s possibly the only four-seater convertible I’ve experienced that can actually comfortably fit adults in the back. There’s the same amount of rear legroom in a midsize premium sedan, but more comfortable of course. Luggage space was generous though an awkward shape. It goes in quite deep but there’s a narrow opening so that means if you throw something to the very back of the boot, you’ll struggle to get out in a dignified manner. Space can be increased or decreased depending if you have the roof up or down.
Ironically for a car with Rolls in its name there’s hardly any body roll. A roller, this is not. The air suspension has to work overtime to keep this from happening but it does an incredible job at balancing the mass of the car. Okay, that’s not to say there’s zero body roll but it doesn’t wallow about as much as you’d expect it to. However, don’t think just because it doesn’t roll around means it’s a flat cornering speedster. It isn’t. It’s still a Rolls-Royce so don’t think this can be a car you can drive to a track day and do serious driving. Though that said, a Dawn on the track might be fun in other ways.
Wherever you might decide to go in your Dawn Black Badge one thing is certain; you’ll get there in comfort. Whatever your benchmark for comfort is, the Dawn will surpass it and moves the benchmark further. It’s a big heavy old thing and as such it doesn’t simply drive over bumps so much as flatten them out of existence. That’s why the ride is so sublime. There are five-star hotels that are less comfortable than the Dawn. It truly is the perfect car for crossing continents in.
Don’t let the size and weight fool you, this thing can fly. 0-100 km/h in under 5 seconds is respectable for what’s essentially Downton Abbey on wheels. When you do accelerate hard, the front end lifts up like a speedboat. But it’s not a car that encourages you to go fast, though fully capable of blasting down the autobahn, you get the sense it’d much rather cruise down the coast with the top down. Ultimately, so would you. That’s why you’d get the Dawn instead of the Wraith or Ghost.
Another reason to get the Dawn over the other two is you get to hear the Black Badge’s bespoke sports exhaust better. Press the ‘low’ button on the column-mounted gear stalk and suddenly it goes from Bruce Banner to Hulk. So it’s not going to scream like a Ferrari or make silly farting noises like a Lamborghini, but there’s a nice gruff burble from the backend that you wouldn’t expect to come from a Rolls-Royce. It’s a bit cheeky and encourages you to embrace the darker side of the Black Badge.
The speed, comfort, and body control aren’t the most unusual part of driving the Dawn. No, it’s the attention you get. Driving around town in a car as big as this is difficult enough without everyone’s eyes on you. The width of the Dawn is manageable, it’s about as wide as an Aston Martin DB11, but the length and mass of the Dawn becomes noticeable as soon as you’re trying to manoeuvre it around town. It’s a big car, stretching over 5.2 metres long, but you sit so far from the front end there’s so much car around you it’s hard to get used to where to place it. Luckily the SUV-like driving position means you get a good view all round.
|Brand/Model||Engine||Power/Torque||Fuel, L/100km||0-100 kph, seconds||Price – High to Low|
|Rolls Royce Dawn Black Badge||6.6-litre V12 twin-turbo petrol||442kW/820NM||14.7||4.9||$700,000 (est)|
|Bentley Continental GTC||6.0-litre W12 twin-turbo petrol||467kW/900NM||12.2||4.0||$395,000|
|Mercedes-AMG S63 AMG Cabriolet||4.0-litre V8 twin turbo petrol||450kW/900NM||18.3||4.9||$330,100|
The Pros and Cons
| • An automotive experience unlike any other |
• Space for four adults to sit comfortably
• Feel good factor
• Flies like a bat out of hell
• Unsurpassed comfort and luxury
• Handsome classic-yet-modern styling
| • It’s a huge thing to drive around town |
• Don’t get one if you’re shy
• Could do with BMW’s brilliant 360 degree camera
What do we think of it?
The Rolls-Royce Dawn Black Badge isn’t just any car, it’s an exquisite automobile experience. There’s nothing quite like it on the market. There’s luxury and then there’s Rolls-Royce luxury. The cars I listed as ‘competition’ aren’t really the Dawn’s natural rivals. That’s just to show how this car is on another level. It should really rival yachts, planes, and villas.
Rolls-Royces have always been known as the finest automobiles in the world and that most definitely stands true with the Dawn. It’s more than just a car. It’s a thing that makes you feel truly special, a car that wherever you go you arrive feeling like a superstar and it’ll take you there in unrivalled comfort and luxury.
The way it manages to take you out of the outside world and into your own piece of moving paradise is therapeutic. It does have little niggles but all minor things you can get over once you remember the fact you’re behind the wheel of a Rolls-Royce.
The question is whether you should get a Dawn or a Dawn Black Badge will depend on your taste and style. For me, I liked the cheeky brutish nature the Black Badge brings to the Dawn without losing any of the luxury or comfort. It’s a win-win.
|Vehicle Type||Convertible Grand Tourer|
|Tested Price||$700,000 (est)|
|Engine||6.6-litre V12 twin-turbo, petrol engine|
|0 – 100 kph, seconds||4.9|
|Kerb Weight, Kg||2,560|
|Length x Width x Height, mm||5285 x 1947 x 1502 mm|
|Cargo Capacity, litres||480|
|Fuel Tank, litres||82|
|Fuel Efficiency||Advertised Spec – Combined – 14.7L / 100kmReal World Test – Combined – 17.2L / 100kmLow Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+|
|Turning circle||12.7mSmall: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+|
|ANCAP Safety Ratings||N/A|
|Warranty||4 year, unlimited km|