The Top 30 Quietest Cars – A Cabin Noise Test by AUTO BILD


Car Noise Study by AUTO BILD

In the summer of 2011, German automotive magazine AUTO BILD conducted a thorough noise study. Out of the vehicles tested, they concluded which were the top 30 quietest and noisiest vehicles respectively in terms of the noise level inside the cabin of the car.

Bear in mind that a decibel rating of the interior noise level does not give you the full picture of the sound experience. The dBA decibel rating does not convey information about the frequency spectrums of the sound, which is something that also directly impacts how you as an individual perceive the noise in a given car.

That’s why it is so important to, after having done some desk research to arrive at a shortlist of interesting cars, go for test drives in your local surroundings and listen with your own ears to decide whether you feel comfortable with the sound or not.

As a support to your ears, do bring a decibel meter/sound meter (get one at Amazon here) so that you can measure the noise level in different parts of the car – by the left side of the head of the driver, the passenger seat and the back seat.

Here goes the list of the Top 30 Quietest Cars according to the AUTO BILD test. The top positions were snagged by the BMW 730d, Jaguar XJ and Audi A8.

Noise level in decibels (dBA) at different speeds100 km/h130 km/h
BMW 730d Blue Performance5862
Jaguar XJ 3.0 V6 Diesel S Luxury 5863
Audi A8 4.2 TDI DPF quattro tiptronic5964
VW Touareg 4.2 V8 TDI DPF Automatik5966
Jaguar XF 3.0 V6 Diesel6066
Audi Q7 3.0 TDI DPF quattro tiptronic6063
BMW X6 ActiveHybrid6065
Mercedes R 350 CDI L DPF 4Matic 7G-Tronic6065
BMW 520d Touring6165
Mercedes S 400 Hybrid 7G-Tronic 6166
VW Sharan 2.0 TDI BlueMotion Comfortline6165
Audi A4 2.0 TDI DPF Ambition6165
Saab 9-5 2.0T Aero6165
Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid Tiptronic6266
Mercedes-Benz E 200 CGI BlueEfficiency Avantgarde6266
Volvo S60 D3 Summum6266
BMW 135i Cabrio Automatik6268
Audi A7 3.0 TDI quattro S tronic 6269
Seat Alhambra 2.0 TDI Ecomotive Reference6265
Citroën C5 HDi 165 FAP Exclusive 6266
Ford Galaxy 2.0 TDCi DPF Titanium6267
VW Touran 1.4 TSI Comfortline 6267
Mercedes C 180 T BlueEfficiency Avantgarde6270
Mercedes-Benz ML 250 BlueTec 4Matic 7G-Tronic6271
VW Tiguan 2.0 TDI DPF 4Motion DSG Sport & Style6267
Audi A6 Avant 2.0 TDI DPF6267
Lexus RX 450h Impression Line 6370
Land Rover Range Rover Sport TDV66366
VW Polo 1.2 TSI DSG Highline6367
BMW X3 xDrive28i Automatik6368

Were you surprised by any of the cars in the list? Which car do you drive?

To learn more about cars and sound/noise, get your copy of the Quiet Cars eBook – Your Guide to a Quieter Ride – plus join the Quiet Cars online community.

Quiet Cars - An Introductory Guide to a Quieter Ride (eBook and online community)
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  • Rossi

    Could not have agreed more, you still need to test drive, decibel levels is just a guideline, but a very useful guideline. Different people have different threshold of noise, or may tolerate different frequencies of noise better.
    Apart from the complicated theories different frequency, and how it may not accurately transmit to general decibel readings, another problem with decibel ratings is that, I guess from different sites, the test is not properly done in a controlled environment.
    Are all the cars been driven on exactly same road surface? To have the best real world analysis of different car’s quietness, it has to undergo complete test –
    – idle engine speed
    – smooth road surface
    – coarse road surface (if possible, throw different level of coarse surface).
    – cruising, higher speeds,..maximum acceleration.. etc etc.
    A lot of sites or magazines do give idle speed, cruising speed 60mph, 70mph and full throttle, but the thing is,…are they all done on same road surface?
    If I am to consider testing a new vehicle to purchase, the best is that the different car showrooms are all located close to each other, so that you can test them on the same roads.
    If testing new cars on exactly the same roads is not possible, I would personally drive my own car around the roads near the showroom to understand the level of coarseness in the road surface before hoping into the test drive car. It should be a good benchmark when you use your own car, because you understand it best…..and if your own car is a noisy car,…that’s even better, because it is more sensitive in terms of noise level when road surface changes.
    A lot of new car launch for journalists always choose the location with smooth freeway and smooth road surface.

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  • Johan Tervoort

    For a much longer list check out:

    • Hi Johan, thanks for the comment. I have visited that site and when comparing various vehicles I found that at least some of the numbers aren’t very reliable. There’s data saying that a BMW 5-series is pretty much as quiet as a Lexus LS600h, which definitely isn’t true. Do you know what the source of the data is? My assumption is that the data has been collected using various methodologies which would explain the inconsistencies.

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  • Ian M.

    dBA DOES give you information about the frequency spectrum of the sound. A-weighting is specifically designed to model how humans perceive sound. There are some other weighting methods that may have slightly better modeling of sound perception, but the dBA scale has been an industry standard for a large percentage of the 20th century.

    • Melanie

      Very dangerous to pedestrians who rely on their ears and eyes to avoid getting run over. An Audi ran over my daughter’s foot when she was getting in the car.

      • Melanie

        She was getting in my car I mean. An Audi pulled out beside us and ran over her heel. We never heard it. Thought it wasn’t even on.

  • Eric McNamara

    total German bias, has anyone ever driven a Lexus……German cars are the most over rated in the world of automotive.

  • Roosevelt

    1975 Lincoln Continental Town Car: 70 mph (112 km/t) 63.8 to 65 db depends of the test from different magazines. Indeed this was and is a very quiet car even today.