Searching for the “perfect” automotive sound idea is nothing new.
Mercedes-Benz was bragging about its signature door “thunk” six years ago. Porsche has manufactured a particular sound piped into its cabin to augment the otherwise near-silent ride of the electric Taycan sedan. The deep rumble of the Lamborghini Aventador can be identified from blocks away.
But atop the pinnacle of luxury with machines that can cost $300,000 or more – twice the price of an average home in the US – crafting the perfect sound experience is of particular concern. The entrepreneurs and business owners and scions who own Rolls-Royces operate in extremely complex worlds, says Richard Carter, the brand’s communications director, so they value in their cars more than anything a sense of calm and wellness.
Still, there is such a thing as too quiet.
The ultimate luxury space must strike a balance between closing off the chaos of the outside world to create a serene cocoon and being so shut off it starts to feel like a tomb.
In the new, second-generation Rolls-Royce Ghost, early test audiences during its five years of development reported that the car felt so quiet it was disorienting. “Bordering on nausea,” reports the car’s lead engineer, Jon Simms.
It turns out that altering the previous Ghost’s frame from steel to aluminium (which carries less sound than its heavier predecessor), insulating the bulkhead of the car in a double-soundproofed, sound-deadening skin, and filling the rest of the roof, boot and floor with 220 pounds (100kg) of sound-absorbing materials worked a little too well. So did smoothing the insides of the air conditioning ducts, double-glazing side windows with a clear composite centre sheet and lining the tyres with lightweight foam.
So Rolls-Royce engineers had to do something counter-intuitive: Make the ride noisier.