164 CARS Philip As­tor takes the lux­u­ri­ous Rolls-royce Dawn on a road trip through the Sur­rey hills

Philip As­tor is trans­ported by the grace and power of the Rolls-royce Dawn on a jour­ney from past glories to a fu­ture clas­sic

Town & Country (UK) - - CONTENTS —WINTER 2017 -

The ed­i­tor of this mag­a­zine wouldn’t mind me say­ing that she hasn’t got a clue about cars. Some­thing that gets her from A to B – that’s all she needs. When I first met Jus­tine she was driv­ing a bland but func­tional Prius; she sub­se­quently traded down to a Toy­ota Aygo that is so titchy it could prob­a­bly park in the street side­ways.

How­ever, as ev­ery is­sue of this mag­a­zine pro­claims – not to men­tion its sis­ter pub­li­ca­tion Harper’s Bazaar – Jus­tine pos­sesses a peer­less ap­pre­ci­a­tion of style and el­e­gance. So it was wholly fit­ting that she should have been in­vited by the Royal Au­to­mo­bile Club to be one of the judges for its pres­ti­gious Club Tro­phy at the an­nual Con­cours of El­e­gance, held this year in the ma­jes­tic grounds of Hamp­ton Court.

It turned out that I too had snuck onto the judg­ing panel, which in­cluded the Chair­man of the RAC, some pukka petrol-head jour­nal­ists, an au­to­mo­tive de­sign di­rec­tor and a rac­ing driver. Some­how the ed­i­tor and I man­aged to hold our own in such au­gust com­pany. Cer­tainly we had no is­sue with the win­ner of the tro­phy, an im­mac­u­late 1912 Rolls-royce Sil­ver Ghost Tourer, which had orig­i­nally been ex­ported to In­dia where it was owned by the Ma­hara­jah of Nabha.

By co­in­ci­dence, Jus­tine and I had ar­rived at Hamp­ton Court in Rolls-royce’s cur­rent con­vert­ible tourer, the stun­ning Dawn Drop­head Coupé, which will doubt­less

war­rant con­cours sta­tus one of these days. With its pow­der-blue paint­work and del­i­cately contrasting sil­ver bon­net, it ex­uded a be­nign and cheer­ful aura, and its flow­ing lines are as easy on the eye whether the roof is up or down. ( Jus­tine judged it to be the Gisele of lux­ury cars, so you get the idea.) The in­te­rior is op­u­lent, with­out be­ing blingy; and the carpets are made of lamb­swool, if you please, and one inch deep.

As for the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, there aren’t su­perla­tives ex­trav­a­gant enough to de­scribe it. Oh, I can give you the facts and fig­ures: the Dawn’s 6.6-litre twin-turbo V12 en­gine de­liv­ers 563 bhp and 605 lb/ft of torque, suf­fi­cient to pro­pel a ve­hi­cle weigh­ing over two and a half tonnes from 0 to 60 mph in five sec­onds. But how much more in­for­ma­tive if I were to say that this de­li­cious mo­tor car purrs; it wafts; it glides; it cos­sets.

The ed­i­tor can be, shall we say, a de­mand­ing pas­sen­ger; but even she de­scribed it as one of the most com­fort­able cars she had ever been driven in, com­par­ing it wist­fully to what fly­ing First Class on Bri­tish Air­ways should be like. Just in case BA are read­ing this, the last time Jus­tine flew long haul they had no fizzy water and ran out of loo pa­per. How re­as­sur­ing, there­fore, to know that at least Rolls-royce con­tin­ues to fly the flag with un­der­stated lux­ury, supreme re­fine­ment and ef­fort­less class.

With the roof down, and Ce­cilia Bar­toli and Bryn Ter­fel belt­ing out The Mar­riage of Fi­garo through the be­spoke sys­tem of 18 in­di­vid­u­ally tuned speak­ers, we drove from Hamp­ton Court to the Sur­rey Hills, surely one of the most beau­ti­ful parts of the English coun­try­side. We were stay­ing at Cherkley Court, the erst­while seat of that buc­ca­neer­ing politi­cian, press­man and early in­vestor in Rolls-royce, Max Aitken, the first Lord Beaver­brook. Cherkley Court is now a mag­nif­i­cent ho­tel that proudly bears the great man’s name. Jus­tine and I loved it.

Truly, I can­not rec­om­mend the place strongly enough. In terms of char­ac­ter, re­lax­ation, style and sheer plea­sure, while it may seem al­most glib to say so, the Beaver­brook boasts many of the qual­i­ties that I rel­ished in the Rolls-royce Dawn. And while in my dreams I might covet own­er­ship of a Dawn, the prospect of the ed­i­tor and me re­turn­ing to the Beaver­brook is a like­lier re­al­ity to wake up to. The Dawn Drop­head Coupé, as driven, £296,120, Rolls-royce (www.rolls -royce­mo­tor­cars.com). Beaver­brook (www.beaver­brook.co.uk).

WE DROVE FROM HAMP­TON COURT TO THE SUR­REY HILLS, ONE OF THE MOST BEAU­TI­FUL PARTS OF ENG­LAND

top: the beaver­brook ho­tel in sur­rey. above: its par­rot bar. be­low: the rolls-royce win­ner of the con­cours of el­e­gance’s club tro­phy

left: philip as­tor in the rolls-royce dawn. top: the morn­ing-room at beaver­brook. above and be­low: the ho­tel grounds

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