The interior is the place to be
As elegantly as the Dawn drives, it's even better to gain entry to the cabin. Immediately upon opening the rear-hinged suicide-style driver's door (coach door, according to Rolls-Royce), I was struck by the bold beauty of my test car's Mandarin leather-wrapped cockpit. The leather contrasted wonderfully with the dark open-pore wood trim and the finely detailed chromed controls. A young guy in a BMW said I was "straight up savage," for choosing that cool orange interior. If only.
Sitting behind the wheel of a Rolls is a unique experience. The steering wheel is flatter than most and its carefully applied hand-sewn leather feels great to the touch. Rolls-Royce allows buyers to choose the color of the leather, stitching, piping, dash top, door panels, console lids, and seat inserts, as well as the grain of the book-matched wood and just how much of the interior will be covered with that wood and leather. Many of these options cost thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars.
The seats are supremely comfortable and offer an abundance of room front and rear. Rolls-Royce makes fun of other 2+2 convertibles, accusing them of being antisocial and saying 2+2 doesn't equal four, while touting the Dawn's true four-passenger capacity. At 208.1 inches long with a 122.5-inch wheelbase, that's not much of an accomplishment. By comparison, a Ford Expedition is 206.5 inches long with a 119-inch wheelbase. This is a big car. It should, and does, fit four comfortably.
The convertible soft top is a work of art unto itself. It raises or lowers in 22 seconds at speeds up to 31 mph in a motion that Rolls calls a silent ballet. It stows away without a trace of the mechanism showing, and, when up, it offers absolute isolation. Rolls says the Dawn is the quietest convertible in the world, and I believe it. Why did Rolls chose a soft top instead of a retractable hard top? Because of the look, the romance, and the tradition. According to the Dawn's press kit, "there is nothing more romantic than driving a convertible in the rain at night and hearing the drops pattering on the roof." Only a British automaker could come up with that line.
It changes the way you think
I couldn't bring myself to drive the Dawn like I would drive any other car. Before I even got behind the wheel, I made sure to shower and shave. Instead of the usual T-shirt and blue jeans, I put on a button-down shirt and slacks and was inspired to go shopping at Nordstrom. When I saw the $155 dress shirts, I headed for the exit, then went downtown to one of Chicago's excellent steak places where I could valet the car and act like a bigshot.
During my drive, I even considered listening to classical music, but instead I perused the rock stations on satellite radio and settled on an assortment of Rage Against the Machine, Judas Priest, Alice Cooper, and Black Sabbath. Government Mule’s cover of Sabbath’s "War Pigs" seemed quite poignant, especially when cranked through the 18 speakers of the car's $8,625 1,300-watt Bespoke Audio system.
I'll miss it
With my uncultured lower-middle class Midwestern upbringing and meager portfolio, I usually don't understand ultra-luxury cars. The Dawn in particular is certainly not a value when compared to a Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet. Instead, it is something much finer and, in turn, it makes you appreciate the finer things. For a short time, my eyes were opened from the ethereal dark of the night. There is truly a reward for success, and cars like the Roll-Royce Dawn are a big part of it. I enjoyed that reward, if only for a moment. Alas, it is gone.