Don't want your chauffeur to hear your phone conversation about that upcoming oil deal with Bahrain, or who you're installing as the next defense minister of Ukraine? There's now a solution for that, to use a modern phrase, and it's a soundproof wall that's the latest option in the extended-wheelbase Rolls-Royce Phantom.
At the Chengdu auto show in China Rolls-Royce debuted the Privacy Suite -- a soundproof partition for the interior of the long-wheelbase Phantom sedan meant to keep sound out of the driver's compartment. Seemingly targeted at paranoid oligarchs who still want to be seen rolling around in something as flash as a Phantom, the Privacy Suite also features electrochromatic glass that turns opaque at the press of a button.
"The Privacy Suite also represents a leap forward in sound absorption in a motor car that is already hailed as the quietest in the world, delivering the highest possible levels of acoustic insulation," the Anglo-Germanic automaker says. "A frequency-specific compound inhibits the transmission of conversations in the rear cabin to the front cabin, yet a fully integrated Intercom System allows communication on demand. Controlled by the rear passenger, the Intercom System can be used to open a direct line to the driver at the press of a button whilst the driver is able to ‘call’ the rear occupants, who can choose to answer or reject the communication."
The Privacy Suite will be offered as an option only on the Extended Wheelbase versions of the Phantom.>
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An aperture is built into the partition which allows objects to be passed from the front to the back, like at a gas station cashier's booth in a sketchy part of town.
Strangely enough the Privacy Suite looks a little aftermarket, more like the partition from inside a police car or a taxi than something that was designed specifically for the Phantom. Look at the top right and left corners of the wall: The wall doesn't quite fit flush with the curvature of the upper window beams, leaving strange gaps in the corners. The niches for the front seat backs, meanwhile, have a very industrial, airline-like appearance. Are you in your own Phantom, or on an economy flight out of Minneapolis that doesn't even have free pretzels?
Thankfully, this flight has movies: Two 12-inch screens fold out of the partition.
The upside to this soundproof partition, as we see it, is mostly for the chauffeur or bodyguard: He or she won't be called to testify before a grand jury about some boring insider trading scheme or who is planning to sell surface-to-air missiles to which petrostate, which will be a huge relief for the driver and the passenger (especially the passenger).
But it also raises some questions about who Rolls-Royce thinks its customers employ as drivers and/or bodyguards. Apparently, people they don't trust 100 percent.
Honestly, if you can't trust your driver/bodyguard with your personal business you probably shouldn't be talking on a phone, encrypted or otherwise, in your car in the first place. And you should also get a new driver/bodyguard.
Jay Ramey - Jay Ramey is an Associate Editor with Autoweek, and has been with the magazine since 2013. Jay also likes to kayak and bike.
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