Audio Technology

Metallica, Radiohead help Rolls-Royce take bespoke to new decibel levels

Rolls-Royce customizes the Phantom's audio system using components from premium sound equipment brands, but prefers not to name them.

Photo courtesy of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars

Rolls-Royce cars are the epitome of bespoke luxury automobiles. They can be completely custom crated or, for the more pedestrian buyer, they can simply be customized.

Before buyers place hands on the their new Rolls-Royce Phantom, the company has already tailored its audio system to create an encompassing audio experience for driver and passengers.

Unlike premium automakers who tout available systems from JBL, Bose, Harman Kardon, and B&O, Rolls-Royce prefers not to name its sound system suppliers, letting the system's engineering speak for itself.

It all starts with the car's frame. The Architecture of Luxury is made of aluminum, which was selected, in part, because it has a higher acoustic impedance than steel. This reduces the amount of noise that is passed on to the cabin. Engineers also gave the model a double-skinned bulkhead and floor sections to help keep road and tire noise permeation at bay.

Rolls-Royce Phantom body in white The Phantom is crafted at the company's Goodwood manufacturing facility in England. Photo courtesy of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars

Designers took note of the car's bass speaker size and let it define a resonance chamber in the car's sill section resulting in the car's materials working to turn the entire Phantom into, basically, a subwoofer.

The windows of the Phantom feature 6mm of double-pane acoustically dampened glass. It also has 130 kg of sound insulation throughout the car with a special focus on the headliner, designed to minimize reverberation.

Engineers even went so far as to work with their tire partner to invent "Silent-Seal" tires, which feature a layer of foam inside the rubber that reduces tire noise by 9 decibels compared to a standard tire.

Rolls-Royce audio experts drove thousands of miles in the Phantom before releasing it for public consumption. To determine the parameters in which to tune the system. Here's what they listened to:

  • Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here [1975]
  • From Here to Eternity – Giorgio Moroder, From Here to Eternity [1977]
  • Across the Lines – Tracy Chapman, self-titled [1988]
  • Sad But True – Metallica, self-titled [1991]
  • Bembe / Abakwa – Terry Bozzio, Solo Drum Music II [1992]
  • Klangfarben Melodie – Terry Bozzio, Solo Drum Music II [1992]
  • Know Your Enemy – Rage Against the Machine, self-titled [1992]
  • Fistful of Steel – Rage Against the Machine, self-titled [1992]
  • Passion - Gat Décor (Naked Edit) [1992]
  • Where Did You Sleep Last Night? – Nirvana, MTV Unplugged in New York (Live) [1993]
  • Stimela (The Coal Train) – Hugh Masekela, Hope (Live) [1994]
  • Hotel California – The Eagles, Hell Freezes Over (Live) [1994]
  • Paranoid Android – Radiohead, OK Computer [1997]
  • Lyric Lickin – Del The Funky Homosapien, Future Development [1997]
  • Insomnia – Faithless, Insomnia [1995]
  • Raining in Baltimore – Counting Crows, Across a Wire: Live in New York City (Live) [1998]
  • Safe in New York City – AC/DC, Stiff Upper Lip [Deluxe Edition] [2000]
  • Scrappy – Wookie, Wookie (Deluxe Edition) [2000]
  • Marionette – Matthew Jonson [2004]
  • Intro – Nemesea, Pure: Live @ P3 (Remixed & Remastered) [2012]
  • Bass Solo – Nemesea, Pure: Live @ P3 (Remixed & Remastered) [2012]
  • Drum Solo – Nemesea, Pure: Live @ P3 (Remixed & Remastered) [2012]

The Rolls-Royce Phantom is handcrafted upon order in England and on sale now.

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The 2022 Kia Carnival was designed to look more like an SUV than a minivan.

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

When is a minivan not a minivan? When Kia's marketing department decides its not. Apparently. The 2022 Kia Carnival replaces the Sedona minivan in the company's lineup and instead of being called a minivan, Kia has decided that it's a 'multi-purpose vehicle' or MPV for short.

Kia says that the new Carnival stakes a claim on the "unoccupied space between SUV and family hauler". It's not the first model in that territory. The Ford Carousel may be considered the first modern model to occupy the space, but it was just a prototype.

The Carnival was designed at Kia's California design studio. It's bold and boxy rather than sleek and function-forward, like the bodies of the Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Pacifica, and Toyota Sienna. The Odyssey and Pacifica were both refreshed for the 2021 model year while the Sienna was redesigned.

2022 Kia Carnival: Exterior

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

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Kia carries over many of the design elements of the Telluride, Sorento, and Seltos into the new Carnival. It has the company's new tiger nose grille and integrated LED headlights. At its sides are substantial wheel catches while two-tone mirrors and and cutlines run the length of the vehicle. At the rear, geometric trail lamps, a rear skid plate garnish, and reflectors are positioned to make the vehicle look like an SUV. The model rides on 17- and 19-inch wheels, which are available in gloss black.

The Carnival is a three-row van that seats seven or eight, depending on the buyer's preference. The vehicle uniquely features Side-Flex seating in its eight-passenger variant that allows for multiple configurations. Kia describes it as including "a sliding second row center seat which, when in the forward-most position, allows the front passenger easy access the baby or child riding in it. This seat also converts into a functional table."

Heated and ventilated second row 'VIP Lounge Seating' with power controls, wing-out headrests, and leg extensions is available for seven-passengers Carnivals.

2022 Kia Carnival: Interior

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

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Kia will offer the model in four trim levels: LX, EX, SX< and SX-Prestige.

Kia has given the U.S.-bound version of the Carnival a 3.5-liter V6 engine that delivers best-in-class 290 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. The powertrain is completed by an eight-speed automatic transmission and provides 3,500 pounds of towing capacity.

The van's dimensions offer best-in-class passenger room (168.2 cubic feet) and best-in-class cargo room (145.1 cubic feet behind the front row in LX, EX, and SX grades). Removable second-row seats and fold-in-floor third-row seats help the model achieve its best-in-class cargo room (second row seats not removable in SX-Prestige) title.

Kia will offer the model in three interior color schemes.

The list of standard features includes hands-free opening power sliding doors with Smart Key, and 8-inch infotainment touch screen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

2022 Kia Carnival: Details

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

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A hands-free power lift gate with auto close, Smart Key with one-button open/close functionality for rear sliding doors and liftgate, passenger voice recognition (allows second row occupants to control numerous in-vehicle functions through voice commands by pushing a button mounted on the ceiling), the Passenger Talk intercom system, Rear Passenger View in-cabin camera, dual-screen entertainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android screen mirroring, wireless smartphone charging, navigation, full digital instrument cluster, multi-Bluetooth, up to nine USB ports, a Bose premium audio system, and UVO link telematics are available.

The long list of standard advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) on the Carnival includes: forward collision warning with collision avoidance assist, blind spot monitoring with collision avoidance assist, rear cross traffic warning with collision avoidance assist, rear park assist, lane departure warning with lane keeping assist, automatic high beam headlights, and driver attention monitor.

Buyers can add to the safety technology in the Carnival to include the new 'Kia Drive Wise' ADAS, which includes: Blind-Spot View Monitor, a technology that projects live video view of adjacent lanes in the instrument cluster and activated via the turn signal; speed limit adjustment; navigation-based adaptive cruise control; park assist; and surround-view monitor.

It's the first vehicle Kia is selling in the U.S. with the company's new logo displayed on it. It will go on sale in the second quarter of 2021. Pricing is expected to be made public in the coming months.

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The Chevrolet Trailblazer was added back to the Chevy lineup for 2021 but it's not the same style as the old TrailBlazer - not even close.

Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

When the new Trailblazer was announced, there was a collective groan from auto industry enthusiasts. They wanted a beefy off-roading that was possibly going to rival the Ford Bronco or Jeep Wrangler. What they got was a cute, little subcompact crossover.

There's no question as to why Chevy makes the modern Trailblazer. The subcompact and compact SUV segments are hot right now. Really hot. They needed something to fill the sales space between the Trax and the Equinox. Why they chose the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer's name is another story for another day.

This particular Trailblazer comes with the buyer's choice of two engines - a turbocharged 1.2-liter or a turbocharged 1.3-liter. Both are attached to a continuously variable transmission but neither is what you'd call exhilarating. As tested, the larger engine provides just enough horsepower to not be miserable to drive.

2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer The Trailblazer is advertised as being right-priced but options add to the total quick. Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

Though it feels stable on the ground, the Trailblazer seems to be trying to walk the line between engaging and comfortable to drive. It doesn't work. The Trailblazer is the right size and has the correct center of gravity to want to be thrown through the twisties but its loose steering leads to uninspired handling so that's a no-go.

The suspension, on the other hand, is jittery and stiff rather than supple. Like Vanilla Ice said, "If there's a pot hole, yo I'll find it." Between the road, engine, and transmission noise that is passed on to the passengers and the reverberations from every crack and crevice, prove that Trailblazer's mechanics are more of a failure than anything else.

When it comes to the interior, the Trailblazer earns its praise. Its seats are relatively comfortable though adults won't want to sit in the rear ones for long. The car appears to be well-made with good fit and finish. It has higher than average cargo space.

2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer For ease, the Trailblazer's front seat also folds flat. Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

The model has gotten the good bits from the General Motors infotainment and climate control parts bin. It has a 7-inch infotainment touch screen with an 8-inch available. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, two USB ports, a Wi-Fi hot spot, keyless entry, and a rearview camera are also standard.

The car's safety tech includes forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, and automatic high-beam headlights. Those are all pretty standard for the class.

Test test unit 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer sent for review was an Activ grade model (yes, there's no "e" at the end of "Activ" and no, we don't know why). That's just one fo the five trim levels the Trailblazer is offered in for 2021, it's first model year in existence with the new crossover body style. Chevy checked the all-wheel drive option box on the model, which added $1,500 to this particular model's base $24,245 price tag. Another $3,300 in extras later and the test unit's cost came in at $31,225.

2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer The 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer has a well-appointed interior. Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

That's not cheap. You can get a mid-grade Nissan Rogue, a fully equipped Buick Encore GX, base model Ford Bronco 2-Door, or a mid-grade Hyundai Sonata Hybrid for the same money, and have enough extra to take your family on a road trip for a long weekend away from home.

The problem is, unlike the Encore GX, Bronco 2-Door, and Sonata Hybrid, the Chevrolet Trailblazer just isn't compelling. There's plenty of other options in the class that do nearly everything the Trailblazer is capable of doing, but better.

The Hyundai Kona and Kia Seltos come with a better warranty. Mazda's CX-30 delivers an enthusiastic and dynamic drive. The Encore GX is better appointed. There's also the new Volkswagen Taos, which was developed specifically for the U.S. market and a number of all-electric options that are out now and coming soon.

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