Now that you’ve cashed those Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza and Festivus gift checks, a small percentage of you may be looking to be spend $300,000 or more on an automobile. It’s with you in mind, you witheringly few, that I consented to take a ride just before Christmas in a Rolls Royce Phantom to go look at the company’s new Dawn convertible, one of only two in the country.
Rolls’ first starter ragtop, with a popular price likely to begin at $325,000, the Dawn compares favorably, strictly on a dollars' basis, with the even larger Phantom drophead, an example of which we’d also sit in this day, too. But, after admiring its window sticker, make that lying down, barely conscious. This open-topped number priced out nearer $526,000.
That’s a lot of money. In case it’s not obvious, allow me to mention here that it is only owing to the fact that I write about cars that I can say I’ve driven a fair number of modern Rolls Royces – from the top-of-the-line sedan Phantom ($417,825 and up, “up” being the operative phrase in the business of selling these cars) through the “entry-level” Ghost ($298,000 and up) and its coupe variant, the Wraith ($306,000 and up). All with Germanic V12 power, each very, very good, based as they are on the finest BMW mechanical components, with vast, imposing bodyworks and extensive lashings of the traditional wood and leather craft for which high-end British automobiles have always been known.
Ten years of modern Rolls Royce findings, in short: Wildly ostentatious, yet not altogether unpleasant. They all feel huge to drive, but less than they ought to, because they are even huger than they feel. A massive sense of occasion every time out, not just for their tactile enjoyment, but, too, for the reason that driving a Rolls feels very much like conducting your entire pension plan plus the equity in your home down a crowded, narrow street filled with badly-driven cars and drunk pedestrians, most of whom resent you or wish to intentionally do you harm, the rest of whom will merely inadvertently stagger into your liability seeking way, or otherwise commit some innocent but egregiously knuckleheaded driving maneuver whose consequences will be so expensive that they will show up in the annual Gross National Product figures. If you were actually rich, perhaps you’d be used to this feeling.
Happily for me, today’s adventure in Rolls Royce-ing, organized by Rolls U.S. public relations chief, Gerry Spahn, involved riding in the back seat of a Phantom as a passenger. A lot of things would have to change in my life, but removing all stress from the experience, this could definitely become my preferred method of travel. We were headed this afternoon to Jericho, not the biblical city of antiquity by the banks of the River Jordan, but the one hard by the shores of the Long Island Expressway, where Rolls Royce Motor Cars Long Island, one of the company’s biggest dealers by volume, was displaying the new Dawn.
First revealed at the Geneva Motor Show, it was here for Long Island’s wealthiest to examine in the metal. Based, like the Wraith, in large measure on the Seven Series BMW, the Dawn looks like a very big machine, with a surprisingly spacious backseat for a modern two-door, except when compared to the Phantom drophead sitting across the showroom, which dwarfs everything near it, including the LIE service road. Though not quite as in your face as the Phantom, the Dawn is still an undeniably visible machine. This one is passing through the dealership while awaiting further service for the factory on the floors of U.S. auto shows, including Miami, for which its vulgar white exterior and nautical blue accented interior seem particularly well suited.
Sales manager Marcello Bommarito says early response has been encouraging, though on this day he’s also glad to report that someone has just put a deposit down on the $526,000 Phantom drophead. Apparently, they came in to see the Dawn, but were won over in the end by the Phantom’s sheer excess. For, as history reminds us, nothing exceeds like excess.
In this vein, Bommarito agrees that Rolls’ first ever SUV, known internally as Cullinan, and due in 2017, will be an instant sellout. He’s less certain than I that it marks the beginning of the end of days. “What point is there in a lumbering, $450,000 bespoke off-road vehicle?” I ask him. Motioning to the midnight blue Phantom drophead he’s just sold, he asks rhetorically, “What’s the point of that?” Speaking of points, he had one there.