By on August 6, 2011

[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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56 Comments on “The Best Of TTAC: The Art Of Noise...”

  • avatar

    “Noise is a form of energy, the less you hear the more you use in propulsion”
    –Ulrich Baretzky, Developer of the Le Mans winning Audi R10 TDI engine

    • 0 avatar

      As comparison data, it’s meaningless unless all cars measured were using the same tires and driving on the same road under the same conditions.

      That said, the MB W140 series was one of the quietest cars I’ve driven. The double glazed windows and two-ton mass had something to do with it.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s a pretty cool quote, and I suppose there’s some truth in it regarding making a quieter engine. But that’s only one path towards a quieter interior. Noise absorbed by sound dampening materials also isn’t used in propulsion, and the added weight makes you slower.

  • avatar

    Funny, but I’m seldom bothered by my own car’s noise. It’s all the other cars, driving by my house that I’d rather not hear. Even a Prius coasting downhill makes the same whoosh, proving once again that it’s the tires that cause most of the noise. I feel for you folks in rainy climates, because tire noise is multiplied by the splash of a wet road.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if active noise cancellation were used to reduce a car’s external noise? Put some speakers in the body, facing outwards, and feed them inverse waves until the noise subsides. I’m sure the military is working on this, if not the carmakers. It would be very challenging to correct the cancellation signal for all the ambient sounds, including the cancellation waves of nearby vehicles. So it might be silent bliss once you perfected the technology, but unbearably weird if the cancellation was “off” a little bit…

    Short of that electrickery, I’d welcome tire designers paying more attention to designs that tread softly.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s all the other cars, driving by my house that I’d rather not hear. Even a Prius coasting downhill makes the same whoosh…


      By amazing coincidence, when we added a very short, dry-stacked stone wall in front of my house, the sound of passing cars at least seemed to be less, although I couldn’t prove it.

      I’ve always assumed it’s because the stones (and perhaps to a lesser extent, the small hedges planted behind it) block or absorb the tire noise.

  • avatar

    Better window seals and redesigned mirrors only go so far. They do nothing to alleviate the greatest source of NVH, which is from the tires. There may have been some great advances in tire technology that I’m unaware of, but the extra weight along with the semi-recent trend of larger wheels and shorter sidewalls has done nothing towards NVH elimination.

    Some of the tire/wheel/low tire pressure combinations cause the tire to compress and flex at the road to absurd dimensions causing already saggy radials to look like they’re all but flat. Surely this added flex/mushiness in the wheel assembly is an attempt to quiet cabin noise while increasing heat generation in the tire, killing efficiency and increasing fuel consumption.

  • avatar

    You are using a very limited metric. Sound pressure level as measured in dB(A) is hardly the final word in noise scales. It has limitations, and it is certainly not perfect. You can have two cars, with two entirely different types of sound frequency character, with the exact same dB(A) level; the two cars will not sound equal in noise. If you’re tired of shouting at the people in the back seat, then you need to compare the vehicle’s noise in units of the ‘articulation index’. The rankings you show here will be entirely different if you used AI. Why do most car magazines just/still use dB(A)? Laziness and precedent. P.S. The clock in the Rolls was loud.

    • 0 avatar
      Seminole 95

      Where would one find the AI (or dB) for cars? I am thinking about switching from Hondas because the noise in some of them is terrible. I test drove the Accord Coupe and it is a nice car except for the terrible roar.

      • 0 avatar

        Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s AI is ever published or analyzed. (Once the sound recording is done, you can analyze it many ways (dBA, AI, etc.), but what the magazines use always seems to be dBA for the reason mentioned above.) Your best tool to find a quiet car is to drive a benchmark vehicle known for it’s emphasis on quiet (like a Buick LaCrosse or Regal) on a stretch of road you know very well. Pay special attention to coarse road noise. Use this vehicle as a reference to the others.

        Another trick to compare cars is to put your media player device in the back seat when you drive playing the same news story (i.e. voice only, no music) out a speaker. Set the volume to a level where it’s hard to hear in your noisy Honda. Repeat for all cars. Use the identical speaker location (like taped to a headrest), same news track, same volume level, same road, same speed, while you test drive the car. Give it a rating on paper, like five stars, right way so your memory doesn’t fool you later. This is a repeatable test.

      • 0 avatar
        Seminole 95

        Good idea, thanks

      • 0 avatar

        Yes, Honda Accords have no isolation from road noise.

        Drive from Bellevue, WA to Snoqualmie on I-90 and you are deaf with ears ringing in 45 miles. I just paid $750 to strip the interior of one and put in the sound insulation Honda left out.

        Prior, I’ve always had to wear ear plugs as worn pavement made the interior noise level intolerable.

  • avatar

    A 1995 728i had 15 inch wheels with high-sidewall 205 tires

    A 2011 7 series rides on 19 inch wheels with low-sidewall runflat 235 tires, or even wider ones. There’s your difference.

    • 0 avatar

      That has been my conclusion as well. Put road tires on Land Cruisers, and even the newer pickup trucks, and tire roar is less than in 7 series Bimmers. Some of that may be due to the greater vertical distance from the road to the cabin and softer suspensions and bushings, but surely at least some is due to saner section tires as well.

      Wind noise is a different matter, of course. That’s one area where the newer, more aerodynamic cars excel. But it is also a less bothersome noise than tire roar.

  • avatar

    Because of the decontenting that is running rampant in the industry, sound control, hidden to most eyes, hits the chopping block early on. Multiple seals, once quite common, are rare in average cars. And the slap at Honda in this regard is justified.

    Detroit-X is correct in his assessment of noise and perception. The frequency plays a huge part. If anybody still has a home or car stereo with an equalizer, put on a song at a decent level, then cut all frequencies except 1kHz, which gets boosted to full. Obnoxious and painful. This is especially bad in cars as I was told that 1kHz is a resonant frequency in most cars. I’m not sure I buy that but it does sound awful.

    Bottom line is this: Sound control is hitting the same scrap pile as folding side view mirrors, full rear seat pass-thrus, folding trunk hinges, etc, etc, etc…the beancounters are in control. That is until the consumer demands something better. In the past, Japan gave us these things and Detroit/Europe had to follow. Sadly today it is the Japanese who are leading the charge in the beancounting department.

    How much engine and exhaust noise should be transmitted into the car? I like the bit of rumble from the exhaust, yet others I know think exhaust sound should be as minimal as possible. I find the sound of a V8 to be very pleasant, yet high strung fours do nothing for me.

    • 0 avatar

      Since we’re ragging on Honda’s and high strung fours, I have to say those guys do make the best sounding fours out there.

      And not all V8s sound particularly good. The 4.6 Ford is one example. While their new 5.0, at least in the Mustang GT, sounds epic. Can’t imagine what it must sound like in the Boss. The AMG 6.3 liter may well have them all beat. What a perfect combination of soothing at low rpm and exhilarating at full stonk.

      The I6 layout is still the one to beat for both sound and general pleasantness. Those sound good everywhere; in old pickups, in new Volvos and in Bimmers of any era and any output. And, while most great sounding V8s tend to be of a very racy, short stroke design, even long stroke I6s are wonderful.

      • 0 avatar

        How ’bout a GMC 305 V6?

      • 0 avatar

        Absolutely nothing beats the sweet sound of a Chevy small block V8. Ask the man who used to drive one! Ford, on the other hand, especially Mustang V8’s, sound like they’re underwater.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        “Ford, on the other hand, especially Mustang V8′s, sound like they’re underwater.”

        I will confess that a SBC sounds just about the best in stock form of any V8, but in defense of Ford a carburated Ford V8 (IMHO) and a 289 or 302 can sound pretty whicked when properly “exhausted.” I planning on giving my F150 a cat-back exhaust treatment, I’ll let you know how it sounds.

      • 0 avatar

        Yes. I assume the Mustangs in question go back to the exhaust system. F-150’s do sound different, so I stand corrected, and await your modification result!

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        No problem, Amigo. I will fully admit that a Chevy truck/Tahoe/Suburban/GMC Sierra/Yukon sounds better bone stock than just about anything not designed by it’s manufacturer to be a sports car.

      • 0 avatar


        I think that a major portion of the 4.6 Mustang’s underwater exhaust noise is caused by the header. A co-worker of mine has been slowly modding his ’01 GT since he bought it new. Stock was ok, nothing to write home about. Cat-backs were noisy and only seemed to enhance the glub-glub sound. Then he put on aftermarket headers. That freed the beast. Outside still doesn’t sound as good as a GM V8, but inside is pure heaven. Coupled to a tight snick-snick five speed the thing is pure joy to drive.

      • 0 avatar

        The most recent Denali does sound amazing. The exhaust is so right. My dad had one with the 17″ wheels, it was a serene place to be.

        The microphone and speaker idea to aid conversations would be nifty though. I’m a bit of a quiet talker. In a suburban sized vehicle, the third row passengers are quite far away!

  • avatar

    Excellent post, thanks for the re-read. I drive a new caddy dts, it’s quiet on the raod. I like that. I really like that. Now if it was a little more fun (or ANY) fun on the twisties. But I have a Golf for that.

    I wish that decibel levels at various speeds were included with other car info, like fuel milage, airbags, etc

  • avatar

    60-70 db is… pretty quiet. If you have to shout to be heard, your probably closer to 80 db.

  • avatar

    My summer project for my daily driver was installing dynamat. I really wish I remembered to check the sound levels before and after but I was too eager to install it and forgot. Subjectively, the biggest difference in noise was two layers under the hood, with the foam hoodliner on top. This reduced the engine noise quite a bit. I installed 3 layers in the doors, one on the exterior metal, one on the interior metal layer (enclosing the window glass when down), one on the plastic trim. Road noise was most reduced after installing dynamat on the exterior metal. I also put a layer in the front fenderwells, both the plastic trim above the tire and also the metal wings and what I could reach on the body. The difference in tire noise was small, if any. I haven’t yet done the roof, floor or trunk. I don’t have any special audio equipment, just the stock speakers and a replaced headunit. No other major modifications to the car. I did it mostly because I couldn’t hear the radio, especially on the highway.

    Overall I am happy I did it. When idling the engine sound is greatly reduced, as well as during acceleration and at highway speed, so I can listen to the stereo at a slightly lower, but still elevated, volume. Overall I would estimate I have installed so far about 60 sq ft of insulation material (dynamat extreme, hoodliner, and dynaliners), at a combined weight addition of less than 40 lbs. The most interesting difference I have noticed so far was when I ran to get into my car in the middle of a parking lot during very heavy rain. After sitting for a few moments I realized I couldn’t hear any of the usual plodding of raindrops all over the metal body. I later found out the dynamat only works on metal surfaces, but somehow absorbs vibrations in metal. Amazing, considering the dynamat extreme is less than a 1/8″ thick.

    If this aftermarket solution worked, if even only reducing a few dbs of noise, I would think it would be much cheaper for manufacturers to install sound deadening. The market seems to demand power/performance in all classes of cars, but I would estimate there is a market for people interested in buying a “quiet car.” I am definitely now more sensitive to noise levels and will look for a quiet car when looking for a replacement.

    • 0 avatar

      You would do well to add thick absorber material. In many places this would do better than Dynamat, which is more of a barrier material (not meant to absorb sound).

  • avatar

    It’s not just the absolute level of noise that’s important – it’s also the quality of the sound – the steady low hum of an engine or low rumble of road noise would probably be less annoying to many than gear whine, valve thrash, or wind noise. Also, intermittent sounds are often more bothersome than a steady sound.

    According to Road & Track, the quietest car they ever recorded was a Lexus LS400 with a cruise reading of 65 dB(a) at 70 mph. I’ve been in a few and they do seem to be almost spookily quiet.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t mind wind noise nearly as much as tire roar. Even mechanical noises don’t bother me that much. Driving old Jeeps, while absolute noise buckets from idle and up, doesn’t bother me nearly as much as a “quiet” car with roaring tires.

      It’s so long since they came out, but back then, I remember being stunned by the quietness of the LS as well. It just seemed to be made to a higher standard than anything else on the road. Makes me wonder how the Toyota Crown, where they supposedly have wool seats, since leather makes the cabin too “loud”, is. At least below speeds where wind noise dominates all.

    • 0 avatar

      The silence of the Lexus LS is both hyperbole and understatement.

      If you’re driving on grooved concrete or if you’re expecting a huge difference between that and a modern day family car, there’s really not much difference between a Malibu or Sonata and an LS, maybe only 3 to 5 dBA.

      Not that there isn’t a difference, my former Camry (a quiet car by any means) has the same sound reading at 50km/h as my LS430 at 100km/h. Other cars I’ve driven like the S430, Phaeton, Genesis sedan, and DTS are comparably quiet. These cars are like driving a Town Car that’s shifted into neutral and then have the engine shut off while coasting.

      The understatement and wow factor comes when you go full throttle on an LS, it’s as silent as a DVD-ROM drive booting up.

      And I agree with other posters that tires make a significant difference. The quietest tire I’ve experienced is a winter tire, believe it or not (Michelin X-Ice Xi2).

      • 0 avatar

        I owned an ’86 Pontiac 6000-STE for a while, and I noticed it was extremely quiet running around, except for the racy 2.8 exhaust note. I read up on it, and found it was 65 or 66db at 70mph, just like an LS. Then I sold it and bought a 95 Explorer and it’s not nearly as quiet, but still fairly quiet.

        Then I bought a Contour and you had to crank the radio up to 3/4 volume just to hear it, and forget even listening to it on a rough textured road.

        Now my ’77 Chevelle is fairly noisy in the rear quarters and it’s BOF, most of its noise though comes from wind noise around the rear corners of the car. The stock SBC under the hood with the factory exhaust is quieter than most new cars now. though if I swap in a straight pipe for the converter, it gets more rumbly in a good way.

  • avatar

    I love a quiet car. It is surely a by-product of technical advancement. The 70s Cadillac that seemed so quiet was, don’t forget, a BOF (body on frame) construction. The problem with today’s cars is unit construction. No matter how sound-proofed the interior may be, the whole structure acts like a giant tuning fork, transmitting tire noise everywhere. Some makers use subframes, front and rear; it seems to help. Concurrently, engine and wind noise have effectively been eliminated, making tire noise all the more noticeable. I have an 06 MB E350 that is ROAD NOISY! When it came time to replace the original Michelins, I did research and found that Bridgestone had a tire called “Serenity” that was supposed to reduce road noise. Not. I think they are even louder.
    And where are the road designers on this? So many California freeways have the coarsest surface you can imagine. I don’t think noise reduction (both within the car and without) is even part of their criteria.

    • 0 avatar

      I too love a quiet car Will. In fact I am in the market for a quiet highway cruiser and just yesterday drove a 2010 Mercury Grand Marquis and WOW I loved it. I don’t care if it’s old technology, I’m not car “snob”.

      I’m driving a Buick now and I might just buy this Merc. I like to think of myself as “old fashioned” anyway so I guess it would fit my self image just fine. If people have to judge you by the car you drive, so be it……I could give a damn. Personally, I firmly believe alot of older “stuff” was alot better than newer hi-tech “stuff”.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        Yeah I love a quiet ride too, I’ve got a job that can be stressful and for my next ride I’m thinking “isolation”. That just means I’ll have to upgrade my two wheeled ride (read: motorcycle) for those days I want to have fun!

  • avatar

    I think wheel size is a big factor.

    For Euro-luxo-sports cars such as BMW’s, Mercedes, etc image is most of the selling point. In the US now big wheels are a pretty important image component.

    Less durable, more-unsprung weight, more expensive to replace, louder. Big wheels are the vinyl roofs of the 2nd millenium. This is the topic TTAC needs to discuss.

    • 0 avatar

      It sure is. Stiff, low-sidewall tires transmit lots of noise, and wide tires are noisier too. Todays stiff bodies transmit more noise in the AI frequencies as well. I’m not a fan of huge wheels at all. They look nice, but the trade-off is lower fuel economy, increased compromise on ride vs. handling, increased noise level, and oh those high prices to replace. Look nice, but in most other respects they are a pain, like some of my past girlfriends. The driver sitting in the car not seeing his own wheels, is akin to shutting the lights off in the bedroom.

      • 0 avatar

        Not to mention hitting a pot hole at around 50MPH, with a 20″ wheel that is about 2″ from the pavement…..

        ….ouch, $1,000-$2,000 ouch with some of the tire/wheel combos on the road today.

    • 0 avatar

      The move towards huge wheels and minimal sidewalls is pretty funny. Personally, I like to see the tires. And I also appreciate the comfort a taller sidewall can bring.

      My 4Runner had 16in wheels. My Camry that replaced it has the same. A few days ago, when we bought my wife’s Veracruz, I wished we could have had the “lesser” trim’s smaller wheels. They are lighter, quieter, and less expensive to replace. 

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        @joeveto3, I can see budget minded customers choosing the lowest trim package Sonata to get the 16in steel wheels with covers and keep their tire replacement costs low. My future mother-in-law has a Pontiac Torrent with 17in wheels and when it came time to replace a tire (the sidewall was damaged) I thought she was going to need a doctor’s care when quoted the price.

      • 0 avatar

        From Tirerack, the 17″ tires for the Torrent are $109 each and up. The 16″ tires for the same vehicle are $103 and up. For the same model of tire, the price difference is $15 or less between the two sizes. Big deal. You probably got the price of the ripoff OEM tire from a ripoff shop. Don’t blame the tire size for that.

    • 0 avatar

      “Big wheels are the vinyl roofs of the 2nd millenium”….Good one.

      I’ll take the “Cordova Top” or maybe the “Landeau Top”….can’t decide.

      And don’t confuse a cordova top with a Chrysler Cordoba. LOL

      …..Back on point, I too believe wheel size and the extremely low profile tires of today have a big effect on cabin noise in the newer cars.

  • avatar

    I live in a northern city near a couple busy streets and about 1/2 mile from a major freeway. I never found it to be objectionably noisy there; my street runs next to a park and is somewhat isolated.

    But then dump a foot of snow on it. The silence is, to borrow a cliche, deafening. Remove tires hitting the pavement from the equation, and it’s astonishing how much less noise there is.

    Frequently when I read about vehicles like the Leaf and the Volt, I read about how the engineers are challenged in removing wind and road noises that were formerly masked by the engine.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve done highway noise assessment and modelling in accordance with FHWA and Florida DOT procedures and the basic assumption is that in most cases, the greatest producer of external vehicle noise at any speed above 25 mph is the tires.

      • 0 avatar

        Too bad it doesn’t snow in Florida, you could have saved the taxpayers lots of money via JREwing’s method! So what’s the punchline? Did Florida ban tires?

    • 0 avatar

      JRE, the snow thing is so true. So was 4 inches of World Trade Center dust. After 9/11 the city sounds were so damped it was unbelievable. There was a hush that I never thought I would hear in a crowded urban center.

  • avatar

    My Dad worked for the ad agency that created that RR ad. After the ad first ran in Britain, one of RR’s lead engineers reportedly said, “We’ll have to do something about that damned clock.”

  • avatar

    Most cars, even Hondas, will be relatively quiet on freshly-paved asphalt. It’s the poorly maintained, worn asphalt with a rough surface and lots of cracks and potholes that is problematic (Honda would do well to test their vehicles there, since it’s representative of many typical roads in the US). The only solutions are quieter tires, more sound deadening (like Lexus and Buick), and rubberized asphalt, which a few states are beginning to use, but hasn’t caught on everywhere yet.

    Rubberized asphalt promises to be quieter and longer lasting than conventional asphalt, but I don’t think it’s a complete substitute for adequate sound deadening.

    • 0 avatar

      East of Seattle on I-405 just south of Bellevue they have been doing some testing of “quiet asphalt” surfaces over the past year. I drive over these surfaces twice daily. The initial DOT reports are that the sound levels are lower initially, but tend to increase as time goes on. This tends to agree with my personal observations (I switch between driving a quiet 2001 Lesabre and a loud 1997 Civic).

      I don’t know how much actual rubber they are using in the formulation. I believe that the porosity of the surface also has a lot to do with how much sound is absorbed into the surface as opposed to being reflected off of it.

      I’m also not sure that rubberized formulations will actually last longer. In my neighborhood park they use a mixture of shredded tires suspended in some kind of glue as a safe surface around playground equipment, and they have recently replaced the surfaces around the rotating platforms (what are they called?) due to heavy wear. And this is just from 50lb. kids running around them.

  • avatar

    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.

    I believe that it got a little bit noisy in the Balkans during Clinton’s presidency. We may not have had boots on the ground but American military personnel were in harm’s way in that conflict.

    • 0 avatar

      There was that little bit in Somalia during the beginning of the Clinton era as well, but considering the turmoil we’ve seen in the years since, I’d rank the Clinton administration head and shoulder’s over those that have followed it.

      Hillary in ’16 (or even better in ’12…)

      • 0 avatar

        Can’t say I agree Nullo

        “Save The Nation – Ron Paul 2012”

        Looking back, although I dislike Hillary immensely, I would take her in a heartbeat over the clown we have in the white house now.

  • avatar

    Our 2002 CR-V scared me half to death one day, as I drove it to work, all windows down – it was a nice day – anyway, I kept hearing this noise that sounded like either a bad tire or wheel bearing. After trying different things – this was a different route at a different job – I finally discovered it was the outside mirrors! Noisiest things ever. The engine has gotten noisier in recent years, too.

  • avatar

    LS is the quietest.

  • avatar

    Two points:

    1. I agree that tires, especially the trend toward 18″-20″ low profile rubber, are a big source of noise in newer cars. I would also argue that the trend toward lower-end OEM tires (eg: the Pirelli P/Zero 17″ crap that came with my ’06 A3) are major factors here. Once I swapped those with some nice Continential DWS, the reduction in rolling noise was considerable.

    2. There is a fine line in automotive noise. Personally, it is wind and road noise I hate, but I like to hear the engine a bit under heavy throttle – just not when cruising. As an example: what I loved about my MK IV R32 was that under normal conditions the motor emitted a nice burble and the 18″ wheels were more than tolerable; Road noise wasn’t bad, but not as good as my followup A3. However, punch the throttle, enter a nice highway on-ramp or gun it through some twisties and that damned 3.2 VR6 gave out the most wonderful noise this side of an AMG. I still miss it (but not the dismal fuel economy…)

    That said, I was in a MK VI 2012 GTI over the weekend and I was very impressed with the sound dampening in that car. Even with 18″ low profile tires over newly poured grooved concrete here in sunny Northeast Ohio, the noise was easily on par, if not slightly lower than my existing 17″ based A3.

  • avatar
    Mr Butterfly

    I know this is an article from couple years back, but still I’d like to offer an amendment to it. Particularly regarding the quotes on “the newest Golf”. Assuming that it was a quote on MkVI Golf (which was indeed vastly improved in sound insulation area), the empirical conclusion that “the new Golf offers an improvement of 2 dB in three car generations and thirteen years” may not be correct, since the 2009 Golf seen in the db chart is likely to be MkV model, and not MkVI with the above mentioned improvements.
    Although MkVI officially started production in 2009, it became widely available closer to 2010 and I doubt that it was available for decibel stats tests. But I could be wrong.

    I’m actually going to test drive the Golf in the next few weeks and judging by what I’ve read about it, the general consensus is that it is a very quiet car. After sitting in it in a showroom, I tend to believe it. And as many people here, I do value a quiet car rather highly, so the Golf should be a suitable car for me (for various reasons, not just soundproofing).

  • avatar

    The biggest sources of noise in todays breed of cars is the switch over to noisier, higher stressed 4 cylinder engines and crappy China built tires that start howling as little as 5k miles into there wear cycle. If you don’t rotate them every oil change the problem is even worse. The reason those earlier Caddys were so quiet was the one inch thick carpet sitting over pounds of insulation on the floor, a smooth quiet V8 instead of a tuner stressed 4 banger and loads of thick padding in the doors.

  • avatar

    I do a lot of long distance driving, and I’ve found that road noise is like carbon monoxide poisoning, after a while you forget it’s there, but at the end of the day you’re bone weary from the continuous droning of various road noise, A/C fans, windshield wipers, etc. and of course the volume of the sound system that is needed to drown out the rest. When you switch to a quieter car the difference at the end of the day is remarkable.

    I agree with those who’ve said that tires make a significant contribution. I’ve noticed a lot of all season tires have a habit of being fairly quiet when new, but get about 10,000 miles on them and then begin to howl and don’t stop until they’re replaced.

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