The Truth About Cars » Noise http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 06 Nov 2014 16:11:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Noise http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Piston Slap: A Scion’s Ideal All Season Tire? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/piston-slap-8/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/piston-slap-8/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 12:10:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=935850 TTAC Commentator Sam Hell Jr. writes: Hi, Sanjeev! The first car I bought for myself was a 2011 Scion tC. Compared with some other decisions I made three years ago (cough, cough, career in human resources, cough), this one’s turned out okay — to date, I’ve put 40k on the odo with no repair costs […]

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TTAC Commentator Sam Hell Jr. writes:

Hi, Sanjeev!

The first car I bought for myself was a 2011 Scion tC. Compared with some other decisions I made three years ago (cough, cough, career in human resources, cough), this one’s turned out okay — to date, I’ve put 40k on the odo with no repair costs but regular maintenance, and the hatchback utility and decent fuel economy have both matched up well with my needs. I’ll probably have the tC paid off this year, and I’m looking forward to debt-free living, so the car and I are stuck with each other for some time to come.

My biggest complaint is with the car’s interstate manners. I take a handful of significant road trips every year, and at freeway speeds on anything but pristine pavement (of the kind one does not often traverse on I-80), the ride gets jittery, and the tire noise is, well, tiresome.

I’m still running the stock 225/45R18 high-performance Toyos; based on the treadwear, I’ll be shopping for tires sometime in the next 12 months. I’m willing to trade some responsiveness for a little more comfort and quiet.

Would moving over to a grand touring tire like a Michelin Primacy be a reasonable option for me? Or would I just turn my noisy econohatch into a noisy econohatch with less-capable handling? (All-seasons are my only option — I live in northwest Ohio, and I don’t have anywhere to store a second set of tires.)

Follow-up question — are there some other reasonable steps I’m overlooking which might make this car a little less Celica and a little more Solara?

Thanks so much for your time — I’m a big fan of your columns!

Sajeev writes:

You don’t like being in command of people’s careers as An Almighty HR Professional?  I enjoy blackmailing certain super-cheaty racers as a judge in The 24 Hours of LeMons. You can do that too!

Just get the dirt on key executives, or middle managers hot-to-trot up the corporate ladder. Think about it: you could be bribing your way to a 2-car garage with ultra-plush Mercury Grand Marquis levels of comfort in a matter of months. After a year, LSX-FTW swap on both vehicles! Problem solved!

Sanjeev writes:

Oh that’s just lovely advice, you are such a wise man.  No wonder everyone wants ME to answer their letters, even with YOUR mindless rantings in tow. My friends: listen to Sanjeev.  Sanjeev knows Toyotas.

Sanjeev knows that your tires are old enough to need replacement, no matter their tread life.  Their noise level is tiresome, quite common for worn-out high performance rubber.  You can probably downsize to a Scion/Corolla 16 or 17″ wheel for maximum effect, maybe you’ll regret the lack of coolness in your cool Scion-branded Toyota. Why is Sanjeev right about this?  Because he did a mere tire change after Sajeev failed in his choice for his mother’s Lexus GS430.

Sajeev put a “high performance” all season tire, they drove everyone nuts after 3 years.  So Sanjeev wisely installed a less aggressive “touring” all season tire. Now everyone is happy. Because now it’s a proper V8-powered Lexus, with tires that will last longer, ride better (probably) and stay quieter. So, with Sanjeev’s blessings, switch to a more conservative all season tire!

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: Gently Tapping, Tapping at My Ranger’s Door? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/piston-slap-gently-tapping-tapping-at-my-rangers-door/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/piston-slap-gently-tapping-tapping-at-my-rangers-door/#comments Thu, 05 Sep 2013 12:08:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=505113 Dave writes: Hi Sajeev, This is the second question I’ve asked on here, and while I didn’t even follow the advice I received last time and here I am again! Last time I was asking about a sporty car, and I ended up getting a 2007 Ford Ranger, 2.3L, 5 speed, with all of 35,000 […]

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Dave writes:

Hi Sajeev,

This is the second question I’ve asked on here, and while I didn’t even follow the advice I received last time and here I am again! Last time I was asking about a sporty car, and I ended up getting a 2007 Ford Ranger, 2.3L, 5 speed, with all of 35,000 miles on it. It is a regular cab with nothing extra on it, a real throw back, manual windows, no AC, a nice basic truck with nothing to go wrong right?

Wrong.

In the past two years we’ve put maybe 5,000 miles on it. It’s our second vehicle and it sits a lot except for weekends going to the to the dump, hauling kayaks, bikes, mulch, etc. Just what it was made for. In that time it has developed a serious engine knock (maybe even piston slap?). It runs fine otherwise, especially with a load and at low RPM when empty. Fuel mileage is fine, nothing in the oil except oil, doesn’t use fluids, just makes a god awful knock, especially when shifting. I first thought of detonation, but at low revs with a load in it nothing. I took it to a local shop I trust to see if they could find out what it was. The best they could come up with was it was in the #4 cylinder, they disconnected the spark lead and the knocking went away.

They suspect a wrist pin or main bearing. I suggested dropping the pan and switching the #4 piston, connecting rod and crank bearing out and maybe miking the bearing journal to see if that needs repair. They looked at me like I was nuts. Am I? Seems no one does engine repair any more, are they all throwaways now? They suggested a used or rebuilt engine and a cost of 3-4500$ for the whole job. I wonder if the truck is worth that much, but I can’t really sell it the way it is and it is useful around the house.

Any suggestions?

Sajeev answers:

Well hell…considering my daily driver is a fully optioned (i.e. carpet, A/C and power windows) version of your ride, this has me more than a little concerned. And then this YouTube video.

From what I Google, some Duratec Rangers have a problem with rod knock as they age.  Or maybe it’s a timing chain issue, like the YouTube clip above.  It might stem from neglect and over loading the truck.  Who knows, especially considering the Duratec Ranger’s crank is beefier than an ordinary Duratec I-4 unit.

And while you can easily (so to speak) fix the offending spinny-part with basic knowledge of what parts comprise the Duratec family of engines, the truth is these are throwaway motors to most folks. And most mechanics.  And that’s probably the way it should be.

My advice?  You can try one of the magic oil additives, I once used Lucas to hush-up a growly crank on a 5.0L V8.  But without a doubt, drive it until the motor pukes: don’t spend another dime trying to diagnose this. Then worry about getting a “new” throwaway motor.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: Is it Piston Slap? Ja-nee, baby! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/piston-slap-is-it-piston-slap-ja-nee-baby/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/piston-slap-is-it-piston-slap-ja-nee-baby/#comments Tue, 16 Apr 2013 10:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=484975 Mu-een (from Cape Town, South Africa!) writes: Hi I would like to know what is the difference sound of a tappet noise, or bad rocker, or a piston slap. Thanks regards. Mu-een Sajeev answers: I suspect that –for most engines– piston slap is a deeper, more resonant sound than an out of whack tappet.  Pistons […]

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Mu-een (from Cape Town, South Africa!) writes:

Hi I would like to know what is the difference sound of a tappet noise, or bad rocker, or a piston slap. Thanks regards.

Mu-een

Sajeev answers:

I suspect that –for most engines– piston slap is a deeper, more resonant sound than an out of whack tappet.  Pistons are bigger and buried further in the engine (usually) than tappets, it’s gonna have a different sound by design.  Conversely, you could easily isolate the two sounds with a decent mechanic’s stethoscope, or with a cheap one. So for whatever vehicle you own down in Cape Town, try isolating the noise with a stethoscope…or maybe just a loooooong screwdriver against the cam/valve cover on the top of the motor.

Now on to the important implications of this letter. Put another way, OH MY DAMN SON U KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS? We got us some Piston Slaps from North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Australia…and now Africa!

TTAC RULEZ THE WORLD! This is Panther Love with an LSX-FTW swap: a fantastic combination of wonderful things in a singular moment.

 


Wait…is Antarctica a continent too?

AND they drive cars down there?

Do they read TTAC?

NO???

We were sooooo close to world domination!

 

 

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE FROM ANTARCTICA. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Super Piston Slap: NVH = Killing You With Kindness? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/super-piston-slap-nvh-killing-you-with-kindness/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/super-piston-slap-nvh-killing-you-with-kindness/#comments Tue, 04 Dec 2012 19:20:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=469097 While Noise, Vibration, Harshness (NVH) control built into a modern machine is normally your friend, it often kills you with kindness.  That’s when NVH hides things that should never be hidden.  Shameful. Cowardly. Pathetic. And while I wasn’t expecting this level of deceit when merely replacing the shift knob on the otherwise stock transmission in […]

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While Noise, Vibration, Harshness (NVH) control built into a modern machine is normally your friend, it often kills you with kindness.  That’s when NVH hides things that should never be hidden.  Shameful. Cowardly. Pathetic. And while I wasn’t expecting this level of deceit when merely replacing the shift knob on the otherwise stock transmission in my 2011 Ford Ranger…well it was thrust upon me.  And it can happen to you, too.

There was a time when you could simply unscrew the factory shift knob on any basic machine (cough, 2011 Ford Ranger) and replace it with whatever the heck you liked.  Something with a little more style than stock. Or something with more heft, giving a nicer quality feel in your hands. I had a solid 8-ball shifter remaining from the T-56 swap in my Fox Cougar, and I certainly thought it would look choice on the truck. So I began pulling the factory part off. Oh man, what a mistake THAT was…

So apparently the shift knob isn’t a normal “twist and spin-off the threads” type of deal. The forums mentioned a way to pull really, really hard to pop it off the threads, and I’ve seen that done elsewhere on other vehicles…so I gave it a shot. While those scratches weren’t from my teeth, they sure felt like it. No dice.

I wound up ripping off the rubber knob skin with my Leatherman tool, then attacking the hard plastic covering with a ball-peen hammer.  I was left with this metal hunk, and the remnants of the plastic covering wedged between the shift lever and the shift knob.  How many vibration quelling layers are there to this thing? 

Back to the top photo. I wised up and did what others suggested: remove the shifter assembly.  Which is another multi-layer, sleeved, affair with NVH reducing content. But with one bolt, I made it all go away.  But was I gonna try to remove the factory knob on my workbench?  I already mangled the damn thing up pretty badly, and the scratches could be present when I install the 8-ball knob. So I punted on 4th down. I called in my kicker, eBay motors, and got what I really wanted instead. Sure it cost me a few too many dollars, but…well…

BAM SON!  What you see here is the chrome lever from the Ranger FX4 Level II, the aforementioned 8-ball knob, and the faux-leather boot from a 1991 Mustang LX 5.0 Notchback. (Yes, I had to add the Notchback part, as that makes it cooler).  All this stuff together makes for a far superior design, deserving to be standard issue on ALL Rangers of the U-shift-it variety. Aside from the slick chrome plating (mixed feelings with all this black plastic) and the unbelievably better ergonomics of the FX4 lever, this part has very little NVH interference. To wit:

  • Huge, thick, air tight(ish) noise quelling rubber boot? Gone.
  • Multi-layer Knob sporting chintzy plastic and rubber covers?  Nope.
  • Sleeved shift lever with some rubbery stuff sandwiched between them?  History.

Now remember I said that the stock stuff can kill you with kindness? That doesn’t mean you want to be physically abused: word has it that the Hurst replacement is a bit over the top for most folks, even if the price is nice.  So the Ranger FX4 part has the right look and feel, and it’s a fantastic piece of OEM engineering. I can now shift without my elbow ever leaving the armrest.  The notchy engagement is now faster, and you can feel the notches instead of just wondering WTF is wrong with the gearbox. Vibrations through the shift knob are minimal, but present. Hammer the throttle in first gear and the lever emits a gearbox whine that–with my modified air filter housing and 2010 Mustang GT muffler–gives the DOHC Duratec Ranger a Pre War British sports car’s demeanor.

You can’t help but smile a little as you twist up the little Duratec Ranger through redline in the first three gears.  OR A LOT. This is just so frickin’ cool. And it’s so damn hard to find this anywhere in the world of new vehicles sold in North America.

My point? Just about any vehicle can be de-wronged, fixed to your liking. Don’t be killed by kindness, you need not be a victim any longer!

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The Best Of TTAC: The Art Of Noise http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/the-best-of-ttac-the-art-of-noise/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/the-best-of-ttac-the-art-of-noise/#comments Sat, 06 Aug 2011 05:08:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=406001 [Editor's note: This piece was originally published in February 2009, and like so much of TTAC's content, it's timeless enough to deserve another moment on the front page. Enjoy!] Rolls-Royce used to advertise the fact that their cars were so quiet that the loudest sound you heard was the [analog] clock ticking on the dash. […]

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[Editor's note: This piece was originally published in February 2009, and like so much of TTAC's content, it's timeless enough to deserve another moment on the front page. Enjoy!]

Rolls-Royce used to advertise the fact that their cars were so quiet that the loudest sound you heard was the [analog] clock ticking on the dash. Who said the British don’t do hyperbole? As a quiet car connoisseur, I’d have to say a Clinton-era Cadillac provided the quietest ride I’d ever experienced; if the time was one of peace and prosperity, then so was the car. Nowadays, automakers are telling us that their cars are quiet, or at least quieter than ever before. I’m not buying it. A number of recent drives have been notable for their aural uncouthness. So I set out to find the truth about automotive sonic signatures. Has nostalgia dimmed my memory (if not my hearing)? Is progress on the noise suppression front been less impressive than industry propaganda would have you believe?

The German buff book Auto, Motor und Sport recently opened its archives to tightwads. I’ve spent a few hours perusing the decibel stats. To save space, the table I’ve compiled only deals with interior noise at about 80 mph (130 km/h). It’s a civilized speed (at least here in Germany) at which one would want to be able to hold a civilized conversation, even with a back-seat passenger.

Car and model year Interior noise in dB(A) at 80.78 MPH

1995 BMW 728i 66

1995 BMW 523i 66

2003 BMW 730i 66

2009 BMW 330d 68

2009 Mercedes C350 CGI 68

2009 Renault Megane dCI 69

1996 Mercedes C280 69

2008 Mercedes C250 CDI 69

1996 Citroen XM V6 69

1995 Audi A6 2.8 69

2006 Mercedes E220 CDI 69

2006 BMW 520d 69

2000 Ford Mondeo 2.016V 69

2009 Ford Mondeo 2.5 Titanium S 70

2006 Audi A6 2.7 TDI 70

1996 Mercedes E230 T 71

2003 Toyota Camry 2.2 71

2009 Toyota Auris 2.0 D-4D 71

1995 Honda Civic 1.5i VTEC-E 72

2009 Honda Civic 2.2i-CTDi 72

2002 VW Golf 1.9 TDI 72

2009 VW Golf 2.0 TDI 72

2009 Opel Astra 1.9 CDTi 72

1996 Opel Astra 1.6 16V 73

2003 Toyota Corolla Compact 1.4 73

2009 Porsche Carrera 73

1995 VW Golf Cabrio 1.9TDI 73

1996 Ford Mondeo 1.8GT 73

1995 VW Golf CL 1.6 74

1995 Mercedes E230 74

2000 Toyota Corolla 1.6 76

2009 Ford Ka 76

1996 Renault Megane 2.0 16v 76

In some market segments (e.g., executive cars), you have to ask: where’s the progress? What, for instance, has BMW been doing since 1995? Most cars have gotten much heavier. You think that the extra heft might include some extra soundproofing. But plenty of today;s lumbering leviathans are hardly quieter than their sprightlier predecessors. What does Mercedes expect us to think about zero improvement for the C-Class in twelve years?

VW’s press release for its newest Golf calls it ”the quietest Volkswagen Golf since the model series began” characterized by “first-class acoustic properties.” Yes, “a special sound-damping film in the windshield reduces driving noises, as does the newly developed seal design on the doors and side window guides.”

Significantly less wind noise is generated by the outside mirrors due to their new shape. Furthermore, special modifications were made to better isolate the engine and passenger compartments from one another acoustically. Quiet rolling tires and new engine bearings round out the noise reduction program.

Empirically, the new Golf offers an improvement of 2 dB in three car generations and thirteen years.

Small cars have gotten much better, though. Corollas and Renaults used to be noisy boxes. Intense competition in the compact field seems to be working its magic. The Auris (the more-advanced, Euro-market Corolla) is a quite soothing small car, and the Megane’s low level of noise is a marvel.

Really small cars, like the Fiat Panda or the Ford Ka, are still noisy, and are thus for me un-purchasable vehicles, since they (driven quickly) generate a clamor louder than Occupational Noise Exposure standards would allow.

A noise level of 70 dB(A) seems to be hard to crack in cars for regular folks. But this is, to my mind, a pretty tolerable loudness, unreachable a few decades ago.

You’d think with advanced computer firepower, more precise manufacturing tolerances, double-lip door seals and multi-laminate windows, cars would generally be much quieter than in the 1990s. Why aren’t they? Remember one dirty secret of the car industry: usually, each successive generation of a car is cheaper to manufacture. Cost-cutting means that progress is slow—unless the market actively demands progress.

Or unless the car maker is genuinely forward-thinking. In terms of quietness, the only revolutionary car in recent years may be the Lexus LS 600h, which claims 60db at 60MPH.

On the other hand, where are the technical advancements we’ve been waiting for? Active noise cancellation, once seen as the answer to all things cacophonous and found in Honda’s cylinder de-activating Odyssey minivan, seems to be a pipe dream. This despite the fact that BOSE et al. have been promoting its benefits for years, and Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute says it’s working on auseful system.

And what about a microphone-based, user-friendly and effective interior intercom? I’m tired of shouting at back-seat passengers (although it can be useful in the case of children, dogs and back-seat drivers). A car that used electronics to help you converse with everybody on board, without raising your voice: now, that’s something that would lead me to a showroom, and to ponder a purchase.

 

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Listen To The Sound Of Porsche’s Four-Cylinder Future http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/listen-to-the-sound-of-porsches-four-cylinder-future/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/listen-to-the-sound-of-porsches-four-cylinder-future/#comments Thu, 04 Aug 2011 15:28:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=405809 For the first time since the days of the 912, Porsche will be selling cars with a boxer-four engine. This new engine will power everything from the forthcoming “Baby Boxster” to the next generation of Boxster and Cayman, likely differentiated by different states of turbocharged tune. Here, a mule of the next-gen Cayman (released in […]

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For the first time since the days of the 912, Porsche will be selling cars with a boxer-four engine. This new engine will power everything from the forthcoming “Baby Boxster” to the next generation of Boxster and Cayman, likely differentiated by different states of turbocharged tune. Here, a mule of the next-gen Cayman (released in Europe next year), which is growing to accommodate the new entry-level model, shows off the sweet sound of its new turbocharged 2.5 liter four-banger, which is rumored to put out 365 HP in “S” trim. And by “sweet sounds” I mean, it sounds a lot nicer than the 2.5 liter boxer in my girlfriend’s Impreza… although some of our more discriminating readers might feel that it’s still not up to Porsche standards. What say you?

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The Art of Noise http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/02/the-art-ofnoise/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/02/the-art-ofnoise/#comments Sun, 08 Feb 2009 15:24:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=243512

Rolls-Royce used to advertise the fact that their cars were so quiet that the loudest sound you heard was the [analog] clock ticking on the dash. Who said the British don't do hyperbole? As a quiet car connoisseur, I'd have to say a Clinton-era Cadillac provided the quietest ride I'd ever experienced; if the time was one of peace and prosperity, then so was the car. Nowadays, automakers are telling us that their cars are quiet, or at least quieter than ever before. I'm not buying it. A number of recent drives have been notable for their aural uncouthness. So I set out to find the truth about automotive sonic signatures. Has nostalgia dimmed my memory (if not my hearing)? Is progress on the noise suppression front been less impressive than industry propaganda would have you believe?

The post The Art of Noise appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

Rolls-Royce used to advertise the fact that their cars were so quiet that the loudest sound you heard was the [analog] clock ticking on the dash. Who said the British don’t do hyperbole? As a quiet car connoisseur, I’d have to say a Clinton-era Cadillac provided the quietest ride I’d ever experienced; if the time was one of peace and prosperity, then so was the car. Nowadays, automakers are telling us that their cars are quiet, or at least quieter than ever before. I’m not buying it. A number of recent drives have been notable for their aural uncouthness. So I set out to find the truth about automotive sonic signatures. Has nostalgia dimmed my memory (if not my hearing)? Is progress on the noise suppression front been less impressive than industry propaganda would have you believe?

The German buff book Auto, Motor und Sport recently opened its archives to tightwads. I’ve spent a few hours perusing the decibel stats. To save space, the table I’ve compiled only deals with interior noise at about 80 mph (130 km/h). It’s a civilized speed (at least here in Germany) at which one would want to be able to hold a civilized conversation, even with a back-seat passenger.

Car and model year Interior noise in dB(A) at 80.78 MPH

1995 BMW 728i 66

1995 BMW 523i 66

2003 BMW 730i 66

2009 BMW 330d 68

2009 Mercedes C350 CGI 68

2009 Renault Megane dCI 69

1996 Mercedes C280 69

2008 Mercedes C250 CDI 69

1996 Citroen XM V6 69

1995 Audi A6 2.8 69

2006 Mercedes E220 CDI 69

2006 BMW 520d 69

2000 Ford Mondeo 2.016V 69

2009 Ford Mondeo 2.5 Titanium S 70

2006 Audi A6 2.7 TDI 70

1996 Mercedes E230 T 71

2003 Toyota Camry 2.2 71

2009 Toyota Auris 2.0 D-4D 71

1995 Honda Civic 1.5i VTEC-E 72

2009 Honda Civic 2.2i-CTDi 72

2002 VW Golf 1.9 TDI 72

2009 VW Golf 2.0 TDI 72

2009 Opel Astra 1.9 CDTi 72

1996 Opel Astra 1.6 16V 73

2003 Toyota Corolla Compact 1.4 73

2009 Porsche Carrera 73

1995 VW Golf Cabrio 1.9TDI 73

1996 Ford Mondeo 1.8GT 73

1995 VW Golf CL 1.6 74

1995 Mercedes E230 74

2000 Toyota Corolla 1.6 76

2009 Ford Ka 76

1996 Renault Megane 2.0 16v 76

In some market segments (e.g., executive cars), you have to ask: where’s the progress? What, for instance, has BMW been doing since 1995? Most cars have gotten much heavier. You think that the extra heft might include some extra soundproofing. But plenty of today;s lumbering leviathans are hardly quieter than their sprightlier predecessors. What does Mercedes expect us to think about zero improvement for the C-Class in twelve years?

VW’s press release for its newest Golf calls it “the quietest Volkswagen Golf since the model series began” characterized by “first-class acoustic properties.” Yes, “a special sound-damping film in the windshield reduces driving noises, as does the newly developed seal design on the doors and side window guides.”

Significantly less wind noise is generated by the outside mirrors due to their new shape. Furthermore, special modifications were made to better isolate the engine and passenger compartments from one another acoustically. Quiet rolling tires and new engine bearings round out the noise reduction program.

Empirically, the new Golf offers an improvement of 2 dB in three car generations and thirteen years.

Small cars have gotten much better, though. Corollas and Renaults used to be noisy boxes. Intense competition in the compact field seems to be working its magic. The Auris (the more-advanced, Euro-market Corolla) is a quite soothing small car, and the Megane’s low level of noise is a marvel.

Really small cars, like the Fiat Panda or the Ford Ka, are still noisy, and are thus for me un-purchasable vehicles, since they (driven quickly) generate a clamor louder than Occupational Noise Exposure standards would allow.

A noise level of 70 dB(A) seems to be hard to crack in cars for regular folks. But this is, to my mind, a pretty tolerable loudness, unreachable a few decades ago.

You’d think with advanced computer firepower, more precise manufacturing tolerances, double-lip door seals and multi-laminate windows, cars would generally be much quieter than in the 1990s. Why aren’t they? Remember one dirty secret of the car industry: usually, each successive generation of a car is cheaper to manufacture. Cost-cutting means that progress is slow—unless the market actively demands progress.

Or unless the car maker is genuinely forward-thinking. In terms of quietness, the only revolutionary car in recent years may be the Lexus LS 600h, which claims 60db at 60MPH.

On the other hand, where are the technical advancements we’ve been waiting for? Active noise cancellation, once seen as the answer to all things cacophonous and found in Honda’s cylinder de-activating Odyssey minivan, seems to be a pipe dream. This despite the fact that BOSE et al. have been promoting its benefits for years, and Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute says it’s working on a useful system.

And what about a microphone-based, user-friendly and effective interior intercom? I’m tired of shouting at back-seat passengers (although it can be useful in the case of children, dogs and back-seat drivers). A car that used electronics to help you converse with everybody on board, without raising your voice: now, that’s something that would lead me to a showroom, and to ponder a purchase.

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