October 13, 2017

Dawn of a new era

The Rolls-Royce Dawn at rest at the Tantalus Range lookout on the Sea to Sky Highway, located 40 kilometres south of Whistler. Photo: Andrew McCredie

The all-new Rolls-Royce drophead coupe could have been made for the Sea to Sky Highway

By Andrew McCredie

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve driven the 120-kilometre route between Vancouver and Whistler.
But whether I was driving a barely-held-together-beater, sensible SUV or even the odd supercar, in all those trips up and down the Sea to Sky Highway, I’ve never experienced a vehicle that even came close to rivaling the stunning scenery rolling past the windscreen. Until now.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that the Rolls-Royce Dawn drophead coupe is a convertible (that’s what “drophead” denotes in Brit-speak), or that the days in which I did the overnight trip were right out of a Destination BC photo shoot. Strike that. A Condé Nast photo shoot.
Anyway, my Roller drive served as proof positive to someone who drives other people’s cars and writes about them for a living that Rolls-Royce produces the most incredible motor cars in the world. (And yes, the archaic “motor car” remains an appropriate adjective for a Rolls-Royce. But only a Rolls.)
The Dawn debuted in 2016, the latest in a string of all-new offerings from Rolls-Royce Motor Cars that began in 2003, when then-new parent company BMW launched an ambitious reinvention of the venerable brand. These included the seventh-generation Phantom (2003), the Phantom Drophead Coupe (2007), the Phantom Coupe (2008), the Ghost (2010) and the Wraith (2013). Next year the eighth-generation Phantom arrives, a stunning sedan that made its Canadian debut at last month’s Luxury & Supercar Weekend at Vancouver’s VanDusen Botanical Garden.

The muse for Rolls-Royce designers when approaching the Dawn was the breathtaking Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn, so named as Britain was just emerging from the austerity of the years after the Second World War. It remains one of the rarest Rollers ever, with just 28 made between 1950 and 1954.
Not surprisingly, the 21st century Dawn bears little resemblance to that classic, but the spirit of top-down, 2+2 touring certainly translates. Speaking of 2+2—the automotive term for a four-seat, two-door configuration—the Dawn redefines that definition in true Rolls-Royce style. Unlike the traditional 2+2 layout in a convertible, where backseat passengers are treated as mere afterthoughts with tight seats and tighter still legroom, those riding in the back of the Dawn are treated like royalty, with spacious seating and, thanks to those unique rear-hinged doors, easy access in and out of the rear passenger compartment.
Treating rear seat passengers like kings and queens has been a Rolls-Royce hallmark since 1906, the year Charles Stewart Rolls and Frederick Henry Royce first teamed up to produce fine automobiles. Back then few if any Rolls owners actually drove their car; that was left to the white-gloved chauffeur. A surprising number of current Rolls owners still ride in the back, and so the Dawn is designed to accommodate that preference.
A more recent yet equally important hallmark of these vehicles—particularly to their rear seat owners/passengers—is the so-called “magic carpet ride,” a term attributed to the state-of-the-art suspension system developed under BMW’s stewardship. Featuring a four-corner air-spring system, it gives a ride unlike any other vehicle in the world, particularly ones of the length and weight of these vehicles.
I did not have the luxury of a chauffeur during my Sea to Sky jaunt, and thankfully so. As much as some owners might prefer to ride in the back, I’ll take the wheel, thank you very much.
Despite that aforementioned girth, the Dawn handles like a dream. Its so smooth yet so powerful V12 engine has more than enough get-up-and-go to get the big car up and going, yet in such a stable and refined manner of acceleration to be a little unnerving. On a couple of occasions my driving partner had to remind me of the posted speed limit. Credit that to the aerodynamics of the Dawn. It might look like a brick—albeit a beautifully sculpted one—but at highway speeds and with the top down, wind noise was barely audible, making it all the better to enjoy the bespoke stereo system.
Speaking of bespoke—a centuries-old term for custom ordering things before they are made and how the vast majority of Rolls-Royces are ordered—the Dawn I drove was a special edition “Inspired by Fashion” model. The Dawn’s Andalucian White exterior is beautifully accented by a Cobalto Blue coachline hand-painted by master craftsmen, reflecting the identical splash of colour provided when the soft-top roof is in place, just like the finest bespoke garments. A classic black and white colour scheme sets the tone for the interior, while the dashboard is created in Piano White with aluminum particles resulting in a silk-like appearance. The car’s coachline, steering wheel, seats and door pockets are adorned in Cobalto Blue. The door pockets are lined with fine silks, featuring an abstract representation of the Spirit of Ecstasy with each emblem set precisely at 55 degrees to complement the lines of the door.

Dawn by the Numbers

Seats: Four
Engine: 6.6-litre V12 engine
Horsepower: 563
Fuel Economy (L/100km): 19.6 city; 12.4 hwy
Price (base/as tested): US$341,125/US$390,850

If you go

Driving the Sea to Sky Highway in a Rolls-Royce Dawn is nothing short of spectacular, but getting there is only half the fun when the final stop is the Four Seasons Residences in Whistler.
Which is saying a lot, as the sublime “magic carpet ride” driving dynamics of the convertible Dawn combined with the where-ocean-meets-mountain scenery between Vancouver and the world-famous ski resort is one very tough act to follow.
Situated beside the five-star Four Seasons Resort in the Upper Village, the Residences features luxurious mountain estates ranging in size from two bedrooms to bi-level four bedrooms as well as attentive staff and full access to the sister resort, including its award-winning steakhouse Sidecut.
Rolls-Royce owners, and for that matter all well-heeled guests, can dial the pampering up a notch with a private chef, butler and personal chauffeur to make their stay all the more relaxing. Those helping hands will also help to free up more time for some alpine hiking and a Peak 2 Peak Gondola ride, one of many must-dos in the four-season resort.
Truly the Rolls-Royce of Whistler accommodations.
For more info, visit fourseasons.com/whistler/residences.

Andrew McCredie is the Driving Editor of the Vancouver Sun and Province and is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada.

The writer was a guest of the Four Seasons Residences. No one from the Four Seasons Residences read or approved of this article before publication.

 

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