He says, she says: A male/female perspective on the Rolls-Royce Dawn
How do you test a status symbol? In the past six years of living in the UAE, I have taken an array of cars through the gates of Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, from dust-smeared hire cars upwards, but nothing has got me close to having the valet park it next to the front entrance.
Would the Dawn, Rolls-Royce’s dreamy V12-powered convertible, break that run? Sadly not, but only because after I smilingly wave at the staff directing me towards the self-park and gleefully turn into the valet entrance, I don’t realise I’m about to drive up to a welcome party for some high-level UAE officials. Oops. The Dawn is driven off into the bowels of the palace parking, although it’s probably the only reason I get as far as the entrance.
Failed fair test aside, it remains no secret that the UAE is at the pinnacle of Rolls-Royce’s worldwide efforts, with its Abu Dhabi and Dubai dealerships annually duking it out for the top global sales figures.
Going by many Rolls on the roads here, their owners often seem to suffer severe cases of colour-blindness when it comes to exterior paintwork. I can now confirm, however, from a male perspective at least, that the company itself might also have a case to answer. Our test car is in “turchese”, which accidentally aptly evokes images of a cheesy turquoise. It’s an opinion-splitter: almost every female friend who sees the car is in love with its shades; male pals mostly wince with a severity usually reserved for seeing a fellow fella hit somewhere painful.
As expected for a car with a base price of Dh1.5 million, the Dawn has embellishments aplenty to bring a smile to even the most jaded motorist’s face. For one, at night, the Spirit of Ecstasy figurine is illuminated (an optional extra on our bespoke model). Naturally, luxury levels are also considerable. The carpeting is thicker than at any house I have ever lived in. The front seats have massage functions. The analogue dials and dash clock take you back to simpler times.
While most Rollers are closer to piloting a humungous barge than a mere car, the Dawn isn’t half as sizeable as you might fear – although its long nose drops away, which can prove a touch worrisome when manoeuvring. That styling makes the Dawn by far the most-attractive Rolls on the grand old company’s current roster, though, with lines in perfect synergy with top up or down – although it’s an awful waste to do anything other than sidle around at low speeds with the latter configuration. You can hit 100kph from standstill in 4.9 seconds, but it feels crass to do so – like sprinting in a three-piece suit. And that’s the magic: you don’t feel obliged to go at any other speed than your whims dictate, but the Dawn can handle every extreme with a grace that Rolls-Royce has built its reputation upon.
It was the end of a family visit, and I had a little treat in store for my mum and sister, who were visiting from Australia. I was planning to drop them at Abu Dhabi airport in a Dawn.
They were eagerly anticipating the drive in ultimate luxury (even if it was to be followed by a 14-hour flight in economy). I, on the other hand, was nervous about driving such an expensive vehicle.
The Dawn arrived at my home in all its turquoise glory. It was a definite head-turner, and oh was it gorgeous. I sat in the driver’s seat and took in its retro vibe. The thick sheepskin floor makes you want to remove your shoes and sink your toes right in.
I noticed the white leather upholstery – not exactly practical, but if you own a Rolls, you probably have someone else taking care of the leather. The doors were particularly long, which also meant a stretch out of your seat to close them, but that’s no bother in the Dawn. There’s a button near the side mirrors for such matters. And should you get caught in a rare shower, there’s umbrellas neatly stored in the door frames.
Before setting off for the airport, we decided to go for a drive around the streets of my neighbourhood with the roof down to test its head-turning ability. It didn’t disappoint.
Being a convertible, the boot was awkwardly shaped: not deep enough to fit my family’s exploding suitcases, but long, so better for plenty of smaller objects.
The Dawn was beautifully quiet, eliminating most road noise, and the 18-speaker sound system was a treat. Even the radio sounded like a symphony. Despite its size, the Dawn was easy to handle, but its sheer bulk made me nervous. The cameras did help, though.
There was enough power when I wanted it and the technology was easy to decipher. The gear-change column on the steering wheel took some getting used to, but I’m sure I would adjust eventually.
It’s a beautiful vehicle – smooth, quiet, easy to drive (despite its size), powerful, attractive – but I couldn’t wait to give it back. Not because I didn’t enjoy driving it, but because it attracted too much attention. If you’re in the market for a head-turner, this is for you. I would even recommend choosing the “turchese” paint job. If you want to turn heads, you may as well do it properly.
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Updated: March 23, 2017 04:00 AM