Published: 01:40, 24 August 2017 |
Updated: 01:50, 24 August 2017
A visit to the cinema has often been as much of a pain as a pleasure.
The pleasure is, of course, watching the latest intellectually challenging Oscar-nominated big-budget factually accurate shape-shifting robot smash-up by Michael Bay. The pain is being forced to share a confined space with total strangers.
Strangers who find it impossible to resist commenting on the on-screen action, or crunch their way noisily through trays of nachos and slurp greedily at oversized drinks, followed by the inevitable flow, pun intended, of silhouettes across the screen as nature takes its course.
That’s why, when the opportunity to watch Wonder Woman on the big screen but from the comfort of my own chair – although in this case my chair was, technically, Rolls-Royce’s – it was too good an offer to refuse.
That was how I found myself at the drive-in cinema at the Hop Farm, Paddock Wood, on a balmy Friday evening, waiting for the opening credits to roll siting behind the wheel of the Dawn, Rolls-Royce’s ultra-luxurious convertible. With the roof down, of course.
The reason why the company had very kindly funded this particular excursion was not, as it might appear, to garner a positive review but to demonstrate the quality of the bespoke sound system fitted to the drop top in the most appropriate fashion
And first class it is too. It doesn't stand comparison with the latest Dolby Atmos systems - although it could certainly hold its own against some home theatre set-ups - but given the importance of rich, immersive audio when you’re watching a film it delivers impressive performance. Reproduction is detailed right across the range and there’s a complete absence of distortion even with a bass-heavy soundtracks.
That the Bespoke Audio system performs so spectacularly is in no small part thanks to the inclusion of a microphone that monitors ambient noise and adjusts the volume and the tone from the 16 speakers dotted strategically around the cabin.
While it’s hard to imagine a more sumptuous spot from which to watch, and listen to, a must-see movie there is, apparently, nothing that can be done about the steady flow of people beset by the call of nature.
A great audio system is absolutely no reason to part with £350,000, however. Many people would, quite rightly, question whether there is any reason for spending the kind of money on a car that would, in the right location, secure you a well-appointed family home.
That is, of course, a matter of perspective, but you’ve really only got to spend a short while sitting in the cabin of the Dawn to appreciate that it is a very special car indeed.
Despite the similarities – and there are a few – the Dawn is not a roofless Wraith. Eighty per cent of the body panels are unique (though it is, perhaps, worth noting that means that a sizeable chunk aren’t) but it does sit on the same platform as the Wraith.
You do have to look closely to appreciate the differences. The lines around the front and rear are more fluid, more curvaceous. Certainly the Dawn is the most contemporary Rolls to emerge from Goodwood thus far. That’s particularly evident when you compare it to the Phantom Drophead whose proportions are more akin to a yacht than a motor car.
Not that you could describe the Dawn as a city runabout and not finding room for four adults within the almost 5.3m length would be inexcusable.
You sit behind a huge, thin-rimmed steering wheel surrounded by the first and last word in opulence and luxury. Extending out towards the horizon the tip of the bonnet is highlighted by the Spirit of Ecstasy proudly leading the way.
The sumptuous seats are surprisingly firm, supporting you rather than sucking you in, and can be extended at the front so longer-legged passengers can get themselves comfortable.
The beautiful white analogue gauges, three of them, dominate the instrument binnacle. Rolls-Royce have seen fit not to include a rev counter and, instead, bestow upon the lucky driver a Power Reserve meter, whose job it is to tell you exactly how effortless forward momentum is.
The multimedia system, though you wouldn’t know it to look at it, is a skinned version of BMW’s i-Drive. It’s hidden beneath a Spirit of Ecstasy rotary controller, itself a carefully restyled iDrive selector, mounted atop the transmission tunnel. It's worth overlooking its slightly more humble origins because it is both intuitive and responsive. To set a destination on the sat nav you can choose between selector dial, handwriting recognition or, my personal favourite, voice control. Until you can connect wirelessly to you car with your mind it's hard to imagine how Rolls-Royce could make life any easier.
Anythingthat isn’t made from wood, leather, metal or some other exotic material is going to feel a little out of place in what is, after all, a wonderfully appointed cabin, but the plastics that have, unfortunately but necessarily, found their way into the car are tactile and soft to the touch.
Rear-seat passengers are as equally well catered for and, with the roof stowed away, getting in and out is a straightforward affair and can be accomplished with relative grace. It’s a slightly different story with the roof up, and it’s probably wise to leave your pride in the back when you try you make your escape. Roof up - or down for that matter - there’s certainly no shortage of head or legroom in the back.
Refinement is outstanding but with the roof down there is a degree of buffeting at speed.
Under the bonnet is a 6.6-litre twin turbocharged V12 though you’d be forgiven for believing that the luxury car maker had omitted to install a mechanical power plant beneath the vast bonnet, instead opting to harness the power of bees. How else would you explain the gentle hum that emanates from the magical place known only as the engine bay?
The giveaway that there is combustion taking place is the deep, distant, nerve-tingling rumble that accompanies every request for a change of pace. It’s all too brief but it’s more than enough to give a very real hint of the Dawn’s potential. Subtle is, perhaps, not a word you might associate with the Dawn but subtle signs are you get from within the car that momentum is building.
The ride isolates, the cabin insulates and all the while the car accelerates in a relentless, breathless, endless manner. The five seconds it takes to arrive at 62mph would appear, on paper, to be in the realm of quick, but not that quick, until you consider than this great big beautiful slab of metal and leather and wood weighs a not inconsiderable two-and-a-half tonnes.
Consider, also, how wonderfully the air suspension manages to contain that mass. The ride is untroubled by broken surfaces. It doesn’t just absorb them, it dismisses them, smoothing out lumps, bumps, potholes, undulations and imperfections as if they were never there in the first place.
It’s enough to make want to trade in your magic carpet.
The real miracle, however, is how Rolls have managed to retain their trademark ride and yet still dial in a degree of sportiness that means if you fancy tackling slightly more challenging roads the Dawn possesses the verve and vivacity to make the detour worthwhile.
You’ll never forget that this is a big car – physics won’t be denied – but body control through bends taken at speed is admirable for a car of this size while the 21inch wheels hang on with real determination. And of course, once the car is straightened up you can squeeze the throttle and hurl those two-and-a-half thousand kilograms towards the next corner.
There isn’t a great deal of feedback through the steering wheel, that's thanks to the ample amount of assistance provided to make driving the Dawn as effortless as possible, and that lack of weight can take time to adjust to.
It shouldn’t come as surprise to learn that there’s no flexing or wobbling, the body remains fixed and rigid even when you’re tackling unfavourable conditions. The Dawn is also equipped with the same satellite-aided transmission that you’ll find in the Wraith. It uses GPS to ensure that the eight-speed automatic box is always in the right gear at the right time.
The Rolls-Royce Dawn, then, is the perfect car to take to a drive-in for a screening of Wonder Woman, for a screening of any film, in fact. Its talents do, however, extend far beyond being just a highly accomplished and outrageously well-appointed cinema seat.
Enthusiastic drivers would be best served looking elsewhere for their thrills but the Dawn serves up a bespoke brand of excitement. It turns heads effortlessly and with an unequalled sense of occasion. It might still seem difficult to justify the quarter-of-a-million-pound price tag – and that’s before you start adding all the essential(?) bells and whistles – it is, after all, just another motor car.
Except to truly believe that is to miss the point entirely. It is an amalgamation of sights, sounds, smells and sensations that together transcend perceptions of what a car should be.
As tested: 355,356
Engine: 6.6-litre V12
Transmission: 8-speed auto
Max power: 563bhp @ 1,500 – 5,000 rpm
Max torque: 780Nm @ 1,500rpm
Max speed: 155mph (regulated)
Acceleration (0-62mph): 5 sec
Extra urban: 28.5mpg
Emissions (CO2): 330g/km
For more information visit www.rolls-roycemotorcars .com
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