From Bedouins to skyscrapers, the city of Dubai has come a long way. Today it’s a showcase of global success. So what better place, then, to indulge in the opulence of the most luxurious models from the house of Rolls-Royce.
Smack bang in the middle of the desert, Dubai is the jewel in the crown of the United Arab of Emirates – an oasis of splurge and opulence. After all, Dubai offers many man-made miracles – the Burj Khalifa, Palm Jumeirah, and, wait for it, an indoor ski slope. But it’s all a bit too artificial for my tastes. However, when we got an invitation to drive the latest fleet from Rolls-Royce in Dubai, all my inhibitions went out the window. I mean, c’mon, it’s Rolls-Royce! Nobody in his right mind would refuse such an opportunity.
I landed in Dubai late evening, and to my surprise the weather was just right for a drive thanks to a cool breeze sweeping through this city of lights. Sitting comfortably snug in the rear seat of the BMW 7 Series, we passed Dubai’s City Walk – the new luxury and hospitality hotspot – where Rolls-Royce has its first ever worldwide boutique concept store. Honestly, the brightly lit showroom was quite hard to miss. We’ll get to that later, as all I wanted to do was take a shower and call it a day. And I did just that once I reached the hotel.
Sleeping early didn’t quite calm my nerves though, as I was up in the wee hours. So, I laid about watching the light drizzle (yes, in Dubai!) from the French window. A couple of hours later, I was all set to meet our partners in crime – a row of Rolls-Royce motorcars. If you’ve ever felt your heart pounding in your chest, you’ll know exactly how I was feeling.
I was whizzed away to the boutique, and my first reaction to this experimental showroom was ‘Wow!’ It’s a showroom like no other. It has the Pinnacle Café at one end, where you can sip freshly brewed coffee. I had a desperate craving for a shot of caffeine, but my attention turned to the two-toned blue-and-red Dawn. Now that’s a unique colour combination – it was so regal, in fact, that I could hardly tear myself away from it. When I did eventually manage, I realised that the Ghost Series II was right behind me. What can I say, I was surrounded by awe-inspiring company. After a brief tour of the boutique, it was time to put all the theory aside, nestle in the lap of luxury, and get behind the wheel of these beauties.
I decided to opt for an aqua green Dawn. Actually, it was this gorgeous convertible that chose me. I opened the door, sat on the seat and just admired the craftsmanship of the cabin for a couple of minutes. The utterly exquisite interiors are easily the finest I’ve ever seen. Where do I begin? The hand-stitched leather, the perfectly laid out dashboard, beautifully crafted wooden panels – all of it is guaranteed to leave you mesmerised. It was time to fire up the engine, but before that I decided to drop the roof. Rolls-Royce claims that the Dawn is the quietest convertible in the world. And I would gladly vouch for that, as there was not even a buzz when the roof silently folded. The best part is that the roof retracting process takes less than 20 seconds, and can be performed at speeds of up to 50km/h.
I fired up the mammoth 6.6-litre V12 engine, and there wasn’t even a hum from under the bonnet – except for the satisfying sound of an undoubtedly very high quality starter motor. But, after that, I wasn’t even sure if they engine was running at all. Nevertheless, I slotted the gear lever into drive and the Dawn literally sailed forward. Now, in most cars, when you build speed, you get to hear and sense the character of the engine, but in the V12’s case it’s all so Rolls-Roycey! What am I saying anyway – it would be an absolute sin to compare the Dawn with other cars. Rolls-Royce states that this is the world’s only true 4-seat convertible. At any rate, it’s one gigantic car at a total length of 5.2 metres. And it weighs 2.5 tons. Yet, with 563 obedient thoroughbreds at its disposal, it felt as lithe as a flying carpet. Which is also what the ride felt like by the way.
As we entered the highway, on our way to the Al Wadi desert, I decided to put the roof back up as it was getting a bit warm. With a straight, open highway ahead of me, I decided to push the pedal to the metal and see what this convertible was capable of. Again, the V12 remained silent as a mouse, but with the massive 780Nm kicking in, the Dawn was soon zipping past the other traffic as they looked on in awe – yes, even in Dubai they give a Rolls-Royce a second look! The 8-speed ZF automatic transmission is so slick and flawless that the gear changes were effortless. We didn’t come across too many twisties, so there was no question of gauging levels of body roll. But, then, that would be a far too juvenile an exercise in the likes of a Rolls-Royce. And, in fairness, you can’t expect a car of this standard and size to actually focus on blazing through tight corners. I could feel just a hint of understeer, but on the whole the lightness of the controls and the directness of the driving experience – while keeping out absolutely anything undesirable – was uncanny.
We were half way to our destination when we decided to swap cars. I know this may sound silly, but I’m not kidding, the Ghost Black Badge called out to me. There’s something about the colour black – it’s charismatic, yet formidable. With the Spirit of Ecstasy cloaked in black, it looks bolder still. In my opinion, the Ghost Black Badge’s dark front chrome grille alongside the contrasting LED lamps gives it an even more imposing stance. It certainly has a ‘don’t mess with me’ kind of a look. Step inside the cabin, and I was blown away with the black interiors – with its use of dark chrome and with the contrasting all white dials.
So what’s this Black Badge business all about – is it all show, or is there an evil streak there somewhere? Well, even though this dark knight is powered by the same 6.6-litre V12, it has an output of 603bhp and a whopping 840Nm of torque. And, yes, it does accelerate stupendously fast for a 2.5 ton leviathan. I stepped on the gas, and it responded with incredible vigour – unlike the silky laziness of the Dawn. The Ghost Black Badge can complete the 0-100km/h sprint in a mere 4.8 seconds. Unfortunately, we couldn’t gun it, as the UAE has very strict speed limit rules. And when we did come across some winding roads, it became evident that the suspension set up is stiffer. So, this is a Rolls that can actually corner!
The Black Badge is too fast for its own good though – because before I could even begin to enjoy its luxuries, we had reached our destination. And, naturally, I thought the best way to sign off from this drive was to sip some champagne and take a dip in my room’s private pool. Sorry, villa!
- Rolls-Royce Dawn / Ghost Black Badge
Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic Transmission / Rear Wheel Drive
Power: 563bhp @ 5,250-6,000rpm / 603bhp @ 5,250rpm
Torque: 780Nm @ 1,500-5,000rpm / 840Nm @ 1,650-5,000rpm
X-Factor: The absolute pinnacle of the automotive experience! Fitting descendants to the legend of Rolls-Royce – both of them.