The Ghost That Was Too Quiet

Pictured above is a second-generation Rolls-Royce Ghost, first unveiled by the famed car company in September 2020. It’s very expensive — Car and Driver estimates that if you want a 2024 version, it’ll run you between about $350,000 and $415,000. But despite the price, it’s not intended to scream “expensive.” As CNN reported back in 2020, the Ghost is designed to appeal to customers who want a Rolls, but “no longer wanted an eye-catching emblem of affluence.” In other words, it’s supposed to be a nice-looking car, but not overly flashy.

To warrant the price tag, Rolls-Royce made sure no detail was overlooked. CNN reported that “designers and engineers gave the car a cleaner exterior appearance and a simpler interior with fewer distractions such as embroidery, quilted stitching or logos.” The car’s body was “welded together so that, except where there are doors or other openings, it appears to be made of a single piece of metal.” The interior featured “ extra large sheets of leather (carefully inspected for imperfections) [ . . . ] to minimize stitching.” And to compete with the ultra-quiet electric cars, the Ghost — a traditional vehicle with an internal combustion engine —was outfitted with “220 pounds of sound insulating material into the car, including inside window glass and in the tires,” and sound engineers “looked at things like the windshield wipers and air vents to eliminate even tiny noises that might not be consciously perceptible.” The Ghost was designed to be sleek, flawless, and silent.

And Rolls-Royce did a great job with that — too great, in fact. Initial test audiences loved the way the car looked, but couldn’t deal with how the car sounded. Or, more accurately, didn’t sound.

When driving, we’re used to a certain amount of ambient noise — from the road, from the engines, and from the traffic around us. And when we don’t have those audio signals, our brains struggle. Early Ghost drivers — ones who tried out the car before the car was made available to the general public — felt“that the car felt so quiet it was disorienting,” according to Financial Review. It got so bad that, according to Financial Review, the Ghost’s lead engineer said that testers were saying that experience was “bordering on nausea.” And no one wants to drop $350k on a car that causes you to puke.

The solution? Have the car make some unnecessary noise. But make it sound natural. As Bosshunting explains, the car company’s audio engineers “figure[d] out how they could get the new Rolls-Royce Ghost’s various components to ‘harmonize,’ thereby creating a subtle and non-intrusive ambiance.” CNN details some of the changes: “. The seat frames, for example, naturally resonated along with the body of the car so dampers were added to adjust the level of that sound without entirely eliminating it. Also, a vent was added to the trunk, allowing some of the thrumming bass note created there to escape while, again, not getting rid of it entirely.”

The car was still quiet enough that a driver and passenger could speak in only a whisper — making the second-generation Ghost significantly quieter than its predecessor. But not so quiet that it’ll make you sick. (The price tag, though? That may.)

Bonus fact: If you can afford a Rolls, you may want to spend time actually driving it. But you may also be able to afford a chauffeur, and if so, you may want them to know how to drive it like the professionals they are. In that case, great news! Rolls-Royce offers a “White Glove” training program for chauffeurs that teaches how to drive these in the way they, and their owners, deserve (or, pay for, at least). The course, according to Luxury Launches, includes the teaching of something called a “champagne stop” — “a braking technique that ensures not a single drop of bubbly is spilled by the passengers while stopping.” Car and Driver was afforded the chance to send a writer to take the course, so if you want more details (minus the champagne stop, which isn’t mentioned), click here.

From the Archives: The Sound of Silence: The room that is made to be so quiet, you’ll likely get sick if you sit in there for too long.