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Rolls-Royce Dawn First Drive: Sunset Chasing In Cape Town

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Rolls-Royce are one of those brands that don’t do things in halves. You can imagine our excitement when we were invited to spend three days in Cape Town’s wine country testing the latest addition to the family, the drophead coupe known simply as the Dawn.

Travelling for close to a month, I prepared myself for the unknown. Setting all expectations aside and keeping an open mind of what lay ahead. It’s Rolls-Royce, just how bad could it be?

“The road was literally born for blasting through the side of Chapman’s Peak and boasts 114 curves as it winds its way above the coast.”

In November 2015, Rolls-Royce launched the Dawn globally in a digital reveal which Richard Carter, director of global communications, tells us was incredibly successful. The launch trended on Google and Twitter and was covered by thousands of websites all around the world.

The Dawn was Rolls-Royce’s only drophead coupe release in close to 20 years so the launch and following press event needed to be as grand as the automobile itself. Overhearing Richard Carter’s reasoning for Cape Town made perfect sense, it was a the perfect balance of beauty and amazing roads where the Dawn could really be experienced to its marvellous potential. Regardless of his regular digs about Australia, it was hard not to agree, Cape Town was a magical place.

Upon landing in Cape Town we were whisked away in a black Phantom to the Delaire Graff Estate near Stellenbosch. It’s a town that mostly houses students but is also home to some of the Cape’s most incredible wineries.

Delaire Graff Estate is owned by the Graff diamond family and spans over 50 acres with 20 luxury villas. Rolls Royce booked the entire hotel for three weeks to house the many media and guests taking part in the event. As expected, after 25 days on the road it proves to be a perfect opportunity to have all my washing taken care of.

We were treated with lunch and a tour of The Franschhoek Motor Museum. This included a private collection of 300 cars ranging from Model T Ford’s, Nelson Mandela’s Bulletproof BMW 7-Series and even one of Hitler’s convertible Mercedes Benz which he gave to an Egyptian King in the 1930’s. The tour finished with a quick wine tasting at Anthonij Rupert Wines where we were particularly impressed with the 2009 Blend which was voted in the top 5% of wines in the world. At roughly AU$80 a bottle it was a bargain that couldn’t be passed up. 

Richard Carter soon introduced the evening’s proceedings. Richard is South African born but has lived abroad for many years. His voice is that of a well oiled radio announcer and as expected, he delivers a near perfect introduction of Cape Town and the Dawn.

The Rolls-Royce product and design team explain the car’s conception, design and customisable forms. Alex Innes, the chief designer (who looks far too young to be in his position) is quick to point out how important it was for the Rolls-Royce Dawn to be as beautiful with the top down as it was vice versa.

The Dawn takes a lot of its styling cues from the Wraith which was released in 2013. To the untrained eye, the Dawn is a convertible Wraith but careful styling cues in the car’s rear help give it an aura of elegance and aggressiveness in a convertible.

When on media trips your driving partner is paramount. You never want someone like ‘Herman The German’ who I was partnered with in Italy in 2015. This time I was travelling with a charismatic 60- something bon vivant called Jon. Only to be described as a cross between Austin Powers and Billy Nighy.

“Looking out onto the kelp filled shallows you can’t help but think there’s a few bloody big Great White Sharks creeping about in the waters.”

Our drive day starts in Cape Town’s wine country through the Haweqa Nature Reserve towards the town of Franscheok. In terrain that can only be described as a scene from the Game Of Thrones, we are greeted with the only rain for the entire few weeks of driving. With the roof back on the Dawn we begin to pass troops of Baboons. Baboons are everywhere along these roads where groups of up to 20 litter the sides of the roads at any one time.

The drive takes us past Sir Lowry’s Pass and on toward Cape Town’s city centre and up toward Table Mountain and Signal Hill. With a gale blowing the majority of the fleet decided not to challenge the somewhat dicey roads toward Signal Hill. The view of Cape Town from here can only be described as amazing.

Rather famished and ready for a decent feed we head toward the beach club and restaurant of Tintswalo Atlantic. We park the Rolls-Royce Dawns and bus down a windy road to this idyllic setting and view over Hout Bay and the South Atlantic Ocean. Looking out onto the kelp filled shallows you can’t help but think there’s a few bloody big Great White Sharks creeping about in the waters.

The drive eventually makes its way towards the famous Chapman’s Peak Drive, arguably the best part of our drive. The road was literally born for blasting through the side of Chapman’s Peak and boasts 114 curves as it winds its way above the coast. The Dawn cuts through the corners like butter, but that’s hardly on our mind. It’s the view that really just continues to blow us away.

Before stopping for a quick opportunity my co-pilot Jon cuts off an oncoming car, smoke, screeching tyres and horns blaring…only to have its occupants come over and say ‘OMG, is this the new Rolls-Royce Dawn?’ With an endorsement like that, why wouldn’t you buy one?

An element of the car’s design which has to be noted was the room in the backseat. A friend once told me the only person who ever looked good in the backseat of a convertible was Hitler. I decided to put the comfort to the test and enjoyed 50kms of the journey in the backseat. Windswept, yes, but incredibly comfortable.

The day concludes at an incredible private home called The Glasshouse on the point of Rooi-Els.  Wall-to-wall glass and a view of the undulating Kogelberg Nature Reserve alongside the ocean ensured that we were treated to a barbecue fit for a king. It’s here we’re able to relax, have a drink and enjoy the sunsets.

The Dawn will definitely appeal to a younger segment of the market. It’s not a sports car, nor will they ever claim it to be. It’s a Rolls-Royce and if you’re in the position to purchase one then this vehicle will be a hard mark to miss.

The term ‘once in a lifetime’ is often thrown around, but this Dawn First Drive was truly that. The roads of Cape Town are some of the best in the world, and to experience them in arguably the smoothest most comfortable ride on the road was an unforgettable treat.

Luc Wiesman travelled to Cape Town as a guest of Rolls-Royce Australia.

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