Wealthy get hands dirty in Rolls-Royce Dawn Black Badge
WELCOME to the dawn of a new era for Rolls-Royce.
Bespoke is the new black for those with supremely deep pockets - the second Queensland-ordered $850,000 drive-away Dawn Black Badge has just arrived and already it's being coveted by a prospective buyer.
The Black Badge signifies models which are "driver's cars” among the Roller range, boasting extra power and firmer suspension for additional cornering dexterity for owners who like to explore their darker side.
Dawn is the most expensive of the alter-ego range, with the Wraith starting from $770,000 drive-away, while the Ghost is $725,000.
Proof is in the sales pudding. Despite the luxury car market downturn last year, Rolls-Royce sales increased 21 per cent to 45 vehicles - and its popularity is on par this year.
"The average age is now down to 39. It has been in the 50s,” Rolls-Royce Asia Pacific corporate communications manager Hal Serudin said.
"Our management team were touring the world and they noticed a lot of owners were starting to black out their cars. They were doing that themselves and they saw customers were getting younger.”
Fuelling the brand's next generation excitement is the upcoming Cullinan SUV.
Hopeful to launch later this year or early 2019, it will start from $685,000 drive-away.
"Cullinan is attracting younger customers ... people who have never owned a Rolls-Royce,” Serudin said.
"It's for adventurous couples, and young couples with families.”
Well-heeled Australians like to drive. Luxury marques like BMW (Rolls-Royce's parent company) and Mercedes-Benz have enjoyed outstanding success with their sporting derivatives - there are more Mercedes-AMGs per capita Down Under than anywhere else in the world.
Black Badges account for a "good proportion” of sales, with an even split between the Dawn convertible and hardtop Wraith coupe.
The blackened Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament and the badge colouring reversed are indicators of its athletic abilities.
Like all Rolls-Royces, styling and features are only limited by the buyer's imagination.
There are more than 44,000 colour choices, and bespoke features are a speciality. Although, with more special requests comes time.
Already between 250-400 man-and-woman hours are devoted to each vehicle. Walk into a dealership now and you can expect it to arrive in about 4-5 months - more if there are a range of special requests.
From the moment the rear-hinge doors swing open you can see exemplary levels of craftsmanship.
Hand-polished dash materials have threads of aircraft-grade aluminium, 0.014mm in diameter, which are woven together and then bonded in carbon fibre. To finish the job, six coats of lacquer are applied.
Then there's the 22 layers of carbon fibre used to create the 21-inch wheels. Combine that with the trademark organ stop levers for the air vents and the full-size umbrellas which feature Teflon material and match the external colour scheme that are hidden in the door and dry while driving, as well as electric assistance for door closure.
Apart from the sumptuous leather covering nearly every surface, it gains all the usual equipment, like dual zone aircon, front seats massage function, satnav via the colour screen which is controlled by a central dial, push- button start and a powered roof which opens and closes in about 20 seconds at driving speeds of less than 50km/h.
Don't expect any of the modern nasties, like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Instead you enjoy the pleasures within.
Servicing is condition-based, like BMWs, but typically annual or per 15,000km. Servicing is covered during the warranty period, where consumables are included.
ON THE ROAD
What do those who want to make a "bold and edgy lifestyle statement about their lives” get from the Black Badge? More power from the twin-turbo V12 for starters.
An extra 22 kilowatts and 20 more Newton metres are accompanied by a faster steering-rack and more responsive throttle control. Rolls-Royce has even created a sports exhaust, a first for the brand which traditionally insulates the cabin from any external nasties.
When pressed you can hear the soundtrack, never raucous or rowdy, rather restrained athleticism. Pushing a hefty 2560kg, the V12 will propel the Dawn from standstill to 100km/h in less than five seconds, which is fleet-footed by sports car standards, let alone a 5.2m long convertible.
The ride is typically plush and pillow smooth, soaking up bumps and undulations. Yet the slightly firmer suspension allows for more spirited cornering and the drop-top maintains sporting luxury dynamics.
Theatrics or fanfare are absent from the driving process. Simply press the start button and use a column-mounted stalk to shift into drive.
Absent are steering wheel paddles or drive mode selector for various drivetrain personalities, nor is there are fancy digital driver's display. The binnacle features four analogue gauges, two small instruments showing fuel and temperature, a large speedometer and then a power meter depicting how much mumbo is still available in percentage terms - no tachometer. No doubt you could option one.
Everything feels effortless behind the wheel. Under acceleration and cornering it feels accomplished and robust, you just can't throw it around like a Porsche 911. Not that you would, it feels too elegant to treat harshly.
Convertibles aren't known for gargantuan boot space, and the Dawn is no different. Despite its generous external dimensions it offers only space for a couple of small bags.
Unusually for a convertible, rear passenger space is excellent. Luxury is assured and you sink into the chairs with ample leg room.
While there's no crash rating - the volumes are not great enough - our test car was equipped with an optional driver assistance package with night vision, pedestrian recognition, radar cruise control, lane departure warning, auto high beam, head-up display and parking assist.
Exclusivity remains the alluring factor for Rolls-Royce buyers. Price ensures they remain restricted to a chosen few. Yet the interior reeks of yesteryear with true craftsmanship in a cabin which remains whisper quiet - with a dash of exhaust soundtrack when summonsed - while modern technology takes a back seat. Insanely extravagant, the look and driving experience is truly commanding and unforgettable. Mere mortals could never justify the outlay.
AT A GLANCE
ROLLS-ROYCE DAWN BLACK BADGE
PRICE $850,000 drive-away (in its own stratosphere)
WARRANTY AND SERVICING Four-year unlimited kilometre warranty, servicing is conditioned based and included over warranty period (so it should be)
ENGINE 6.6 litre twin-turbo V12 442kW/840Nm (mighty swift)
SAFETY Not rated, night vision with pedestrian recognition, radar cruise control, lane departure warning, (not the best)
THIRST 14.7 litres/ 100km (buyers can afford it)
SPARE None, run flat tyres (not great)
BOOT 295 litres (small given Dawn is 5.2m long)