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
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