Tired of Cabin Noise? Here Is Your Guide to Getting a Quiet Car

Quiet Road

If you are a first-time visitor, I would like to wish you welcome to Elevating Sound – a site dedicated to the world of sound.

This is the first post in Elevating Sound’s newly launched Quiet Cars section – a section that will be dedicated to covering the ins and outs of quiet motoring and the quest to reduce cabin noise.

Quiet Cars – An Overlooked Need

Increasing numbers of car buyers are looking at noise as one of the key factors when looking for a new vehicle. Car manufacturers indeed have to take numerous aspects into consideration when designing a vehicle – safety, road handling etc – but it’s nevertheless astonishing that modern cars are not quieter than they currently are. The manufacturers have failed to recognize a sizable and growing market segment that highly values their car providing a quiet ride.

It seems to me that the automotive manufacturers and, even more so, the automotive journalists have put too much emphasis on sporty road handling, which have resulted in vehicles with stiffer chassis and suspension that deliver good handling when driving fast in steep curves, but as a downside, makes the cars too noisy.

The options are too few for drivers who love the idea of soft, smooth long-distance rides that make them feel fresh and relaxed upon arriving. Think the Bentley smoothness but in other price categories. There’s Lexus LS600h – perceived as the world’s quietest passenger vehicle – but it’s also out of reach to most people. Another quiet vehicle is the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

There can be many different reasons for why someone has problems with too much noise inside the car. It can cause headaches, tiredness/fatigue, stress, irritation etc. And people with tinnitus, hyperacusis and other ear disorders may find driving a noisy car outright painful, forcing them to wear ear plugs or ear muffs to make it bearable.

When talking about noise in the cabin of the car, I am primarily referring to these three areas:

  • Engine noise
  • Road noise, i.e. the noise transferred into the car from the tires rolling on the road
  • Wind noise

Besides these, you will have noise from other mechanical functions in the car, such as ventilation. And you may also hear different squeaks and rattles from the interior. But the focus here will be on engine, road and wind noise.

The subjectivity of noise

In order to assess the noise situation in the cabin, it is essential for you to test drive the cars you are interested. You need to get a feel for everything first hand, and not just listen to what others have said as to whether a car is noisy or not.

When it comes to sound and noise, it will be subjective in terms of how you actually experience it. The noise level in the cabin of the car can be measured in decibels (dB) which is an objective measurement of how loud it is.

But it will be insufficient for you to just look at the number of decibels, since that does not say anything about the frequencies of the noise at hand. People subjectively experience noise differently, since they react to high and low frequencies differently. When you test drive a car, you can both bring a decibel meter to measure the noise level (some meters will also include frequency) and you can, by listening with your own ears, conclude whether you react well to the nature of noise inside the car or not.

While there are no truly quiet cars below the luxury level, there are still a number of factors to take into consideration to help you out when seeking the quietest vehicle that meets your particular needs and budget.

The Essential Quiet Car Checklist

The Car

Do your own research on which car brands and models that are seen as quieter than others. As a general rule of thumb, larger vehicles are quieter than smaller. Some manufacturers will be attempting to position themselves as having quiet car models and you will be able to read about what noise-reducing measures they have taken in terms of the chassis, suspension, engines, windows, sound proofing in the doors etc.

The Car Platform

Many successful car models are long-lived and every so often, the model is overhauled through the launch of an entirely new platform/generation. In-between, throughout the lifecycle of a platform, there will be one or a few minor updates. The updates will in most cases have no impact on the noisiness in the cabin, but the noise level can vary considerably between different platforms/generations.

Hence, it is important to jot down the model year – and ideally also the platform name (or you can just ask about that at the car dealership) – if you read about a car being quiet so that you look at the right platform if you consider buying the car. As an example, the BMW 5 series has launched a new platform called F10 (Sedan) / F11 (Station Wagon) (2009-present), which is considered to be quieter than the previous platform, the E60/E61 (2003-2010).

The Car Type – Sedan vs. Station Wagon

As a general rule of thumb, Station Wagons are perceived as noisier than Sedans due to the acoustic resonance generated in the large open space at the back. However, most perceive the difference to be fairly small. If it’s important to you to bring down the noise as much as possible and you are ok with foregoing the extra space of a Station Wagon, then go for a test drive and see whether the Sedan is quieter.

The Car Type – SUVs, Trucks etc

SUVs, Trucks and other larger vehicles will – with their larger and higher surfaces – generate more wind noise. Depending on the type of windows and how well-isolated the doors are, you will get more or less of that wind noise transferred into the cabin.

The Chassis

Some vehicle models have a sportier configuration, often encompassing a sporty feel to the chassis by having it lowered. As a general rule of thumb, the sportier the vehicle is, the more road noise you will get inside the cabin. A stiffer, lowered chassis means more road noise when the road surface is a bit rough.

The Suspension

If you want a driving experience that is smooth with a car that does not transfer vibrations from the roughness of the road surface straight into the cabin, you should look for a softer suspension. Inquire about what kind of suspension is used and ask about its characteristics.

Again, it is important to test drive yourself. If you notice that road roughness is making the ride ‘hard’ and that almost none of it is ‘absorbed’ by the suspension, then it is probably quite stiff. Based on my experience, most modern cars seem to go with too stiff suspension. Maybe manufacturers believe that’s what consumers want, but I think it is sad that people who enjoy driving a car fast like a sports car down curvy roads have such an impact on the car market. There are lots of us who prefer an enjoyable motoring experience that is smooth and soft.

The Engine

It goes without saying that the electric engines are the quietest. Then comes the hybrids – i.e. the mix between electric and gas/petrol.

Historically, the diesel engines used to be very loud but the modern ones are substantially quieter and they are even quieter than gas/petrol engines when driving at highway speeds due to the fact that diesel engines work at lower revs. However, when driving at lower speeds, diesel engines are still audibly noisier than petrol/gas.

Besides the actual engine, it is the degree and nature of sound proofing that will impact the engine noise in the cabin. Go for a test drive to hear it for yourself.

The Windows

Some manufacturers offer laminated windows as standard or option. This feature constitutes layered glass in which the plastic laminate material provides an additional sound barrier, helping to reduce outside noise inside the cabin.

If you are unsure of the relative benefits of laminated windows, try test driving one car with and another without.

The Tires

The choice of tires is incredibly important. Merely changing tires on a car can really change the driving experience dramatically in terms of the level of road noise.

As a general rule of thumb, you get less road noise…

…the narrower the tires are

…the smaller the wheels are, e.g. 16-inch wheels are quieter than 18-inch – the reason being that the thicker the tire is in terms of height of rubber rolling on the road, the less noise will be created. 16-inch wheels will leave more room for a thicker tire than the 18-inch ones.

I will be going into explaining car tire sizes in detail in a later post.

It is also essential to note that the noise level of different tires with the exact same dimensions can vary substantially. This is due to tire manufacturers launching tire models with differing rubber contents – some tires are harder than others. Softer tires are generally quieter than harder.

Then the tire patterns also come into play – some patterns are noisier than others.

The European Union has launched a rating system in which tire manufacturers can submit decibel ratings of their tires (the number of decibels generated outside the car). I don’t know about elsewhere in the world, but I am sure similar systems exist or will be emerging.

I think this is great, but I have recently discovered that dB ratings from the manufacturers may not accurately mirror how they actually perform on the road. So it will be important for you to exchange experiences with other drivers, tire workshops etc to find out which tires that roll quietly in your particular surroundings (the road conditions and asphalt roughness/smoothness differs widely across the world).

Sound Proofing

Besides changing tires as a very effective measure to reduce cabin noise, you can also go about sound proofing your car by applying sound dampening/deadening materials throughout the vehicle. There are numerous companies that offer great solutions for this – two examples are HushMat and Dynamat. HushMat talks about creating a luxury ride in every car.

You basically install these materials by cutting out patches and sticking them to places like the firewall (the wall between the engine and the cabin), floor, doors, roof etc. If you feel uncomfortable about removing the inner door panels etc, then look for a local expert. However, many of the easier-to-get areas such as the floor and the boot, you can easily do yourself.

You can also treat the chassis and wheel acres with Tectyl (from Valvoline) or a similar product to prevent corrosion. As a by-product of that is claimed to be reduced road noise. However, Swedish automotive magazine Vi Bilägare conducted a detailed test of Tectyl treatment and the maximum difference measured between a treated and untreated vehicle was 0.7 decibels. So it does not seem to live up to its claims, but if you want to shave as much noise as possible, this could still be something to throw into the mix.

Please, comment below and share your experience of cars and noise. Is there an important parameter lacking from this checklist? Have you sound proofed your vehicle – how did it go?

And if you already own a quiet car that you are happy with, please recommend us your ‘optimal configuration’ based on the parameters above.

Image: Nicholas_T

 

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  • Mr Observer

    This article states that trucks are noisier. Baloney. I have a 2003 Ford F-250, and it is significantly quieter than my 2009 Toyota RAV 4.
    Where does the article get its information ?

    • http://magnuskahler.com/ Magnus Kahler

      No, the article doesn’t state that trucks are noisier than other cars. It’s not possible to make that type of generalized conclusion. However, what the article states is that larger vehicles, such as trucks, generate more wind noise than smaller vehicles, due to a larger surface hitting the wind. BUT it also says that “depending on the type of windows and how well-isolated the doors are, you will get more or less of that wind noise transferred into the cabin”. Hence, you may drive a truck and not perceive the wind noise as high if the vehicle is well-isolated and maybe even has extra noise-absorbing windows.

      It was meant for that comment to be yet another thing to consider if looking for a quiet car – i.e. if you’re in a market for an SUV or truck, be conscious about the relative wind noise level when going on test drives.

      When talking about cabin noise in a car, there are three main types of noise to consider: engine noise, wind noise and road noise. I only talked about the wind noise aspect when referring to trucks, and the perceived cabin noise overall has to consider wind, road/tires and engine, so I didn’t argue that trucks are noisier than other vehicles. It depends on the specific model and what you compare it with.

      The article is based on my aggregate knowledge of cars and cabin noise – I’m not an authority on the subject, but have spent a few hundred hours researching it, including test driving and measuring decibel levels in most of the quietest cars in the world. It’s not an exact science and I am hoping that my article puts across that one has to consider multiple parameters in order to obtain a car that is as quiet as possible, provided that is what you are looking for.

      • marvinmcconoughey

        The complexity of noise reduction is very great. Apparently there is not much an owner can do to reduce the noise of his or her car. Do you have noise results on some of the Mercedes-Benz vehicles?

        • http://magnuskahler.com/ Magnus Kahler

          I’ll see if I can write a post with some ratings on Mercedes-Benz vehicles. There is of course edmunds.com, but some of their ratings have had me confused since they varied so much from other ratings I had seen. Not sure which one to trust.

          Have you ordered a Mercedes? Which model?

          • marvinmcconoughey

            We ordered the E550 4matic sedan. Road tests leave me uncertain as to the sound levels that we will experience. The cars can come, factory choice, with Pirelli or Continental tires which have somewhat different characteristics. Reported sound levels have varied.

          • http://magnuskahler.com/ Magnus Kahler

            Are you getting the latest model year of the Mercedes E Class? A dealer told me that the latest update amongst others encompass laminated windows as standard (but it probably varies across markets), which is great for reducing wind noise. Also, you picked a Sedan which is quieter than the Station Wagon. While it’s not as quiet as the larger (and much more pricey) vehicles such as the S Class/BMW 7 Series/Audi A8/VW Phaeton, it is likely to be a very significant improvement compared to the Subaru. The AUTO BILD study had the E Class placed at no. 15, BUT that was an Avantgarde version which is sportier with lower suspension (hence more road noise) and the car that was test driven likely had sportier, large rims/wheels on (further impacting the road noise negatively).

            What tire dimensions are you getting for your Mercedes? It’s worth doing the extra research in terms of tires to further optimize the driving experience. It’s hard to find that one person to give excellent advice since many people aren’t as knowledgeable about tire noise as they are about other characteristics of the tires. But speak to the Mercedes workshop and a few tire dealers. I understand that it’s tricky to choose between the factory choice tires if not finding conclusive evidence in favor of one of the options. It’s one of those things one has to try out. And it’s of course annoying if one would end up feeling the need to replace almost new tires, but it may be worth the money in the end since it’s proven that varying tires produce different experiences in terms of road noise. I’d advise you to make a choice after having done some research and then see how it feels when driving the car, without getting stressed about it beforehand. It’s better to mentally prepare oneself that changing tires could be an extra expense if one highly values the minimization of cabin noise. On the other hand, maybe the Mercedes dealer will be customer-oriented enough if you end up being dissatisfied with your tire choice.

            I checked out photos of the E550. What a beautiful vehicle! :-)

          • marvinmcconoughey

            Thank you, Magnus. The model year is 2014, the latest available. Here, the tires will be P245/40R18 all season. The 17″ wheels are not an option and one person said that the E550 has larger brake disks that will not fit in 17″ wheels. On the Subaru I went up one size larger cross-section which helped, but with a 2 percent odometer error which I mentally compensate for.

          • Kerry Maras

            Hi

        • http://magnuskahler.com/ Magnus Kahler

          I just posted results from a German cabin noise test: http://elevatingsound.com/the-top-30-quietest-cars-a-cabin-noise-test-by-auto-bild/ You’ll find various Mercedes models in their list of the top 30 quietest cars. Earlier today, I wrote about the VW Phaeton, but it seems to have been excluded from this test.

    • http://magnuskahler.com/ Magnus Kahler

      By the way, I just read a 2008 Ford F-250 review and it sounds like it is nicely isolated, although still louder than many passenger cars.

      “From inside, engine noise is almost imperceptible. This is due in part to Quiet Steel, a composite laminated steel sheet that’s used for the instrument panel. There’s also a rear bulkhead panel to attenuate sound plus thicker side glass and extra sound-deadening padding in the IP and on the floor. At 70 mph cruise I recorded a noise level of 73 db(A), one dB less when coasting. This is passenger-car territory and exceptionally low for a diesel pickup.”
      (Source: https://radartest.com/article_2.asp?articleid=100565)

      I think it’s great with thicker side glass. I wish more cars had it. It seems – at least in Europe – as if it is getting more common for premium cars to come with laminated windows, as a way to dampen noise. Although, I find laminated windows to be insufficient. I recently drove a Volkswagen Phaeton – the flagship model of VW – and it is equipped with extra thick glass throughout and it had a great dampening effect on the wind noise.

  • ronnie

    Great Post Thank You..Looking forward to the one on tires..too

    • http://magnuskahler.com/ Magnus Kahler

      Hi Ronnie! I’m glad you liked the post. Will try to post a post dedicated to tires soon. What car are you currently driving?

  • Wendell

    Hey thanks for your article.

    I love music, my car stereo and a quiet place to hear it.

    I had added soundproofing to a 97 Honda civic back in 2005 and had less
    than impressive results. Since that time I have wanted to give it
    another shot at a time when I could work with a higher budget.

    I
    recently bought what I refer to a $1,200 Prius. It is a 1995 Geo
    metro. It is 18 years old and still delivers 37 mpg doing 75 mph on the
    freeway. However, it is loud.

    I researched the rubber/metal
    dynamat, fatmat, and other thin layer stick on sound deadening material
    but I could not find any consistent or reliable noise blocking ratings
    for them. The more I read and called and spoke to specialists the more I
    was directed to mass loaded vinyl. It was hard to work with and time
    consuming but it is a soundproofing industry standard and it has an STC
    rating so it can be compared to other materials.

    I
    stripped the car to the metal. Dashboard and all. I added structure
    and support to all cabin body panels that had potential for resonance. I
    sealed off the cabin from the outside walls of the car. I then covered
    it in closed cell foam, (Polyvinyl Chloride Nitrile) to act as a
    vibration damper and barrier. I applied a 1/8 inch layer of mass loaded
    vinyl on top of it (1.2 lb per sqft) and welded all seams together to
    prevent noise leak. Finally I reassembled the interior using extra
    padding and silicone glue in any areas that appeared to have potential
    to rub or rattle.

    The results were not
    remarkable. The car is quieter but still does not match my stock 05
    “New” Jetta or my 1999 Nissan Frontier. I use an iphone app by studio six digital for a db meter and have average readings of 87 to 90 db at 75 mph.

    One of the most effective sound blocking additions thus far has been a heavy set of Rubbermaid car floor mats. I was only adding them to cover a carpet stain but am still impressed with the difference they made in noise.

    There
    are still areas on the cabin floor that can take more padding but I
    plan to address the engine compartment and tires next.

    I
    appreciate your post and was able to gain some valuable new insights. I
    am looking forward to your article about tires. I hope you will
    include a section relevant to the US market.

    • http://magnuskahler.com/ Magnus Kahler

      Hi Wendell! Thanks for sharing insights on your soundproofing efforts. Did you include the firewall, i.e. the wall between the engine compartment and the cabin?

      Will write a post on tires soon. It’s great to see that there are some news coming out of the tire industry in terms of noise reduction, e.g. http://elevatingsound.com/new-continental-contisilent-tire-technology-to-sharply-reduce-road-noise

      I have also read about some academic research looking into very different tire patterns than the ones available today, as a means of drastically reducing road noise. But I think there’s still a long way to go until it reaches the marketplace. More on this to come.

      Thanks again for your comment.

      • Wendell

        The firewall had existing soundproofing on it and I left that in place. I put an additional layer over the top of it. I focused on sealing off all the areas where there was a breach in the wall.

        I have not addressed the engine compartment side of the firewall at this point. It came with no sound deadening material from the factory.

        It will be the next area of major focus.

        • http://magnuskahler.com/ Magnus Kahler

          Cool, good luck with that!

  • Helen

    I have a 2003 toyota camry. Since I have hyperacusis ( very low sound tolerance ) driving really makes it worse. Road noise wind noise and engine noise all too loud, would sound proofing, getting better tires, etc really help? Or should I go with an older buick etc Do cars usually get significantly louder as they get older.? thanks

    • http://magnuskahler.com/ Magnus Kahler

      Thanks for commenting, Helen. Am sorry to hear about your hyperacusis. I am also suffering from tinnitus and hyperacusis. When I drive, I wear foam earplugs, often combined with industrial-grade earmuffs. Does ear protection help you, or do you anyway feel unwell due to vibrations going through other parts of your body?

      You know, choosing other tires can sometimes give you the experience of driving a different car – thus, the impact on the noise level can be pretty substantial – especially if you go from larger wheels, e.g. 19-inch, to smaller ones like 16- or 17-inch – but also if you just change tire model with the wheel size unchanged. BUT it will still probably be perceived as insufficient by you, so you are likely to be better off getting a different car that is quieter throughout.

      People tend to say that as cars get older, they get noisier but I think they then mainly talk about rattles and shakes in the interior, and maybe a slightly different sound coming from the engine. My experience is the contrary, at least based on cars in Europe, i.e. the newer vehicles tend to be noisier than many of the older vehicles. The reason being that the safety and road handling has improved over time on most newer cars, and better road handling tends to encompass a stiffer chassis and suspension, which in turn generates more road noise.

      In the US, the Lincoln Town Car is perceived to be a quiet ride. One issue though is that you may not want to drive around in such a large vehicle. I haven’t driven any Buicks but from what I understand both older and newer Buicks are supposed to be quiet rides. Then you have various premium makes such as Lexus, BMW, Audi, Jaguar etc, which have some well-isolated and quiet cars.

      The best advice is to draw up a shortlist of cars and then go for test drives. That way, you’ll be able to compare them with the Camry to find out whether you actually perceive a large enough difference to warrant the purchase of a different car.

      A lot depends on the budget you have and the car size you prefer. To get a really quiet vehicle you will mainly need to be looking at larger-sized vehicles.

      In terms of soundproofing a car yourself (through a professional), reports do say that some have achieved substantial reductions in the noise level, so yes, it does seem to be a path worth trying out. But if a car is already a very noisy car, you may first want to get a quieter car and then try to make that one even quieter via soundproofing. There are many different types of sound absorption materials and techniques to soundproof a car, so it’s best to seek professionals with experience and ask them to explain what methods they have found to be the most effective.

      Hope this was of some help. :-) Please, let us know what you decide to do.

      • MG

        Wearing ear protection while driving is illegal. Please, take off the earmuffs, at least!

        • http://magnuskahler.com/ Magnus Kahler

          MG, I wish it was just that easy. I appreciate your comment and agree that, generally speaking, one should respect regulations, but in some areas they may not be well-designed. You know, in many areas of society, laws and regulations show lacking empathy towards people with severe hearing damage/handicaps. If a person has severe hyperacusis, I believe that person should be able to use ear protection as needed. The laws may also differ across countries in the world; do you reside in the US? While it seems appropriate for people not to use earmuffs while driving, I think there should be exceptions to the rule.

          It is incredibly difficult to really shut out noise, so even when using earmuffs, I have no problems hearing neither ambulance sirens nor people honking. So in that sense, I don’t feel that I am posing any added danger in traffic.

          You also have to understand that a lot of people with tinnitus and hyperacusis have extremely sensitive hearing so they will still hear a lot more when using earmuffs than you would with earmuffs on, assuming you have ‘normal’ ears.

          To sum up, I think it’s crucial to consider traffic safety. But I also protect the rights for people with tinnitus and hyperacusis to be able to drive a car. Those individuals can do their part by getting a vehicle that is as quiet as possible. Society could do their part by providing quieter road surfaces; especially in Sweden – where we have some of the world’s loudest roads due to rough asphalt – there is a particularly large problem for people with ear conditions like tinnitus and hyperacusis.

          • http://magnuskahler.com/ Magnus Kahler

            It may be irrelevant to compare one thing to another, but I wanted to add that I see it as far more dangerous in traffic with drivers using their mobile phone. It’s incredibly common. Speaking on the phone with a headset is still legal in many countries, despite research saying loud and clear that speaking on the phone, even if not holding it, poses a clear safety risk. Now that’s one regulation that must be updated!

  • chad w.

    Good article overall! Any recommendations to use a dynamat like product wil be misguided. Sound deadening sheets work well to convert rattles. But to actually quiet the car down you need to be looking into mass loaded vinyl and closed cell foam. I know on my older acura ive went to fairly extreme measures to quiet the car down (ive got a mixture of deadening sheets, mass loaded vinyl, closed cell foam, and expanding foam inside, the rubber weatherstrip has clear surgical tube inserted to prevent crush, etc. I’ve noticed that spraying some rubberized undercoating to the wheelwells helped reduce some tire noise as well! I just found this site, and I look forward to browsing the rest!

    • http://magnuskahler.com/ Magnus Kahler

      Thanks for the comment, Chad! It sounds as if you have a lot of experience from soundproofing. What’s your take on the Crutchfield test where they actually claim to have achieved a great noise reduction in a Ford F-150 by installing Dynamat? See: http://elevatingsound.com/how-to-significantly-reduce-road-noise-with-dynamat-noise-dampening-solutions/

      You list different types of sound deadening materials. Would you be interested in writing a guest post where you explain the roles of and differences between different types of materials that can be installed in a car with the objective of reducing the cabin noise? I think that would be of great interest to the Elevating Sound readers.

      There is unfortunately no financial reward for guest posts, but feel free to include a information promoting a website or company if you have one.

  • Alex

    Hi, I have a 2011 Honda Jazz and its engine is quiet but the tyre noise at high speeds is annoying. Actually I cant say it’s excessive (when speaking inside the cabin I don’t have to raise the voice), but still the tonality has something bothersome – and here I agree that it could well be due to the type of tyres.
    The summer tyres are Michelin(they came with the car) and the winter ones are Yokohama, and although I was expecting the contrary, the winter ones are quieter – or rather, their noise is less bothersome, due to lower tone (probably the continuous higher tones are more tiresome for the ears).

    I haven’t tried so far any soundproofing method, because I drive mostly within the city – where the car is quiet. Problems appear only when I go over 80-90 km/h, and especially over 110 km/h.
    My main concern is that I may invest a lot of money in soundproofing materials, only to find out the result is less than satisfying. Anyway, I wouldn’t do it myself and have to ask a specialist for the job – which will only increase the costs. Thats why I’m still undecided.
    Anyway, I’m glad I’ve discovered this site and congratulations for running it!

    • http://magnuskahler.com/ Magnus Kahler

      Alex, thanks for the comment and I’m glad you like the site!

      I fully understand you being undecided about soundproofing your vehicle due to the unpredictable effect it will have on the noise. And there are many hypotheses as to what methods and materials respectively that will have the biggest impact. If you find a local expert that you can trust, maybe it could be worth going ahead – and ideally, the expert can outline a few areas to start with for you to explore whether it seems to have a noticeable effect before you go ahead and treat the entire car. You also need to evaluate how much of a nuisance the noise is and what it would be worth for you to have it reduced. One simple action could be for you to insert some sort of earplugs in order to give you a more comfortable ride when driving on highways. Make sure that you still hear enough of the traffic around you so as not to make the driving unsafe.

      Maybe you could start with exploring how far you can go with changing tyres. Make research in your particular market and see which tyres that are supposed to be the quietest.

      It is actually most common that winter tyres without spikes/studs are quieter than summer tyres. I believe the winter ones generally use a different, softer rubber, producing less road noise. But variations may also be substantial between different winter tyres, so doing research beforehand is valuable.

      What tyre dimension are you currently using? Would it be possible for you to get smaller wheels, which will allow you to use tyres with more rubber between the rim and the road? I always advise people to get the smallest wheels that can be fitted to a particular vehicle. It doesn’t look as cool as larger wheels, but in most cases, the smaller they are the less road noise will be generated.

      • Alex

        Well, Honda Jazz is a small car (15 inch tyres) and, as you’ve noticed, if I dislike the cabin noise I shouldn’t have bought a small car to begin with :)
        I don’t wear earplugs while driving as I like to listen to music from the radio. Actually thats the most disturbing inference of the cabin noise – it spoils away the pleasure of music listening.

        I think the new ContiSilent from Continental are silent tyres, but they are not yet available here (I live in Iasi, Romania). As soon as I see them on the market I might consider buying them for the summer trips, I guess that should be next year (when the Michelins will be 3 years old, so probably due to be changed anyway).

        I wonder, if the Swedish highways have rough surfaces, are the Swedish-made cars (like Volvo) better soundproofed against tyre noise? I’ve checked the wheel wells on my Jazz and they already have a rubber treatment on the inside. Wind noise doesn’t bother me much, so I guess some Dynamat-like material should only be applied on the bottom of the car (and maybe on the boot area). I think I’ll wait to see the effect of tyre changing first though.

        • http://magnuskahler.com/ Magnus Kahler

          True, small cars are inevitably louder than larger ones. But there are of course advantages in terms of driving around with a small car in cities. :-)

          I understand – there seem to be a lot of people who wish to reduce the cabin noise to be able to better enjoy listening to music.

          You pose a very relevant question. If Swedish roads are so noisy, why does Volvo – whose home market is Sweden – not develop a vehicle with excellent soundproofing against tyre noise? I strongly feel that Volvo should care about its home market enough to develop a substantially quieter offering than the current S80 and V70. They are not bad in terms of noise, but also not particularly good. Hey Volvo, where is my Volvo V70 Quiet Edition!?

  • Rossi

    Hallo Magnus, good day to you,..
    This is one brilliant site that you build. I have surfed the net, and at the beginning, I was reluctant to even click to open it, because my gut feel is that this site must be designed to sell products, as I was reading the first few opening lines. It sounds so much like a typical site promoting its own product.
    But my apologies, I was damn wrong, now the truth is that this site is created by someone who has the passion of good refinement in a vehicle, and that person (you) is sharing ideas and information to the general public. …And I guess its the first of its kind on the internet…Congrats on that. Your site is going to be a great source of information to people like me and many others (who are just like you, in the sense that we are the type who prioritize comfort in their vehicles).

    And yes, you do give plenty of great insights into the word of car refinements. I am seriously glad to have found this site. Thank you for your effort and passion.
    In view of your passion, I am very keen to share my inputs as well (though I may not be that knowledgeable),…but I thought it could well still be an interesting info from me.
    I am having a very busy week, and weekend,…so I may have to wait until next week or week after next before I put down my two cents into the post here. No, I am not asking to be paid, I am just like you, found a great platform to share and exchange inputs with many others.
    Till then,…and keep up the great job.

    • http://magnuskahler.com/ Magnus Kahler

      Hi Rossi!

      Thanks a lot for your comment. Am very happy that you ended up clicking on the link and that you like the site… :-) Would you mind giving me feedback on how you would recommend me to revise the intro text to make it seem more like a genuine, content-driven site? I’m thinking I should make the ‘About’ section more personal by presenting myself and explaining why I started the site.

      As you can see, I do have some advertising on the site, and occasionally, when writing about specific products, I may include links to Amazon for more product information. But I want this site to primarily be about knowledge and provide a great resource on a topic that too few pay attention to, despite the fact that millions of people crave quieter experiences than what they are getting at present. Noise is becoming an increasingly large problem to people, especially in urban areas, and it is well-documented how much it directly and indirectly affects people’s lives, even leading to many people dying from conditions related to the negative impact of noise.

      My aim is to make this site a resource for people interested in the world of sound, connected to cars and other areas – ideally delivered in an easy-to-understand way. The idea originated from me personally having had a lot of problems finding things out about products and sound/noise. My story is that I suffer from tinnitus and hyperacusis, so sound affects me in many ways throughout many different contexts of life. It’s interesting to see that there seem to be something happening in the marketplace where more and more people and companies alike start to talk about the need for and value of quiet/less noisy products and experiences. Unfortunately, there is still a long way to go when it comes to cars. But as manufacturers start to understand that there are millions and millions of car drivers who crave a less noisy ride, they will hopefully pay attention and start to address that rather untapped/unsatisfied customer need.

      I would definitely be interested in more input from you, so please write again when time allows. If you would like to write a longer text, and provided that the contents could be of interest to the Elevating Sound readers, it could be considered for a guest post – that is, if you’d be interested in that. But your additional thoughts in the comments section would be perfectly fine as well. :-)

      Am curious, where are you from? And what car are you currently driving?

      • Rossi

        Hi Magnus,
        I think an “about” section could be nice. But overall, your site is nicely done, when I said it sounds like a site selling products, its not your fault. The problem is, many of those sites selling products do have such a nice write up to lure people visiting them, so it does not mean its the problem with your site ..:)
        So its sort of like a compliment to you because its nicely written.
        I am from Malaysia, a South East Asian country. I am currently driving a Toyota Vios (its called Yaris in US, not sure if they sell this car in Europe). It has horrendous NVH, I am not exaggerating. I am planning to change to a better car next year, depends on how budget permits.
        And many of you folks there in Europe and US can at least feel “luckier” when you listen to stories from people like me from this part of the world.
        In my country, cars are heavily taxed (due to protection policy of below par national car, and corruption issues), so majority of the buyers here drive much worse cars than average buyers in Europe and US.
        As a brief idea to you, a minimum wage earner earns USD 300 a month, a middle income earner about USD 1300 to USD 2000 a month.
        Cost of a Honda Accord 2.4 / Toyota Camry 2.5 – close to USD 60,000.
        Cost of a BMW 520 – USD 120,000
        Cost of a Honda Civic 2.0 – USD 42,000
        Well, when I am more free next week and so on, I would share some input, it may be long, but I guess I will write it here, if you think any part of content is seen useful enough, feel free to use it in any other post in the site, be it part of your other topic, or a separate post by itself, it doesn’t matter
        . Feel free to edit and restructure any points so that it is better laid out.

        • Rossi

          Hi again Magnus,
          Do you think having a properly structure discussion forums is gonna be useful?
          Could it be easier for general public to share thoughts of sound proofing ideas?
          And most importantly, start topics to compare which car is quieter vs another car?
          When you have car vs car NVH level topics in forums, this would likely generate a huge following, and when that happens, wouldn’t it start to get attention of car manufacturers?
          I have no experience in building sites and forums, but I guess the key importance is how to ensure the most interesting key words can be easily googled when they surf the net. Find out what are those important key words you think general public would use when they google the net in search of car refinement levels.

          • http://magnuskahler.com/ Magnus Kahler

            Rossi, I agree that a forum would be a great place for interesting, structured and easy-to-search discussions to take place. That is an idea that I have been considering for a long time, and I intend to launch the Quiet Car Forum within the near future. I am still evaluating different online forum software/solutions. Do you have any suggestions?

        • http://magnuskahler.com/ Magnus Kahler

          Interesting that you are from Malaysia. Unfortunately, I still haven’t visited your country but hope to do so in the future.

  • Kerry

    Hi Magnus
    What a fab site!
    I was beginning to think I was the only one who was bothered by noisy cars.
    Whenever I would speak to car dealers about which car was the quietist I would either get fobbed off by generalisations or they would look at me like I was bonkers.
    The quietist car I had was when I bought my first Mercedes. It was in 2001 and it was a 1997 Mercedes C class C180 petrol. It was so quiet and I just loved the way it wafted along. It felt really special driving it and I would arrive at the end of the journey refreshed and not tired at all. I thought it was because it was a Mercedes and naturally assumed they were all like that.
    Later on I moved ‘up’ to a Mercedes E Class E 220 cdi 2006 model which I thought would be even better still as it was bigger, newer and an even more luxurious car than the C class. I had seen them cruising up and down the motorways and thought that they would just be so quiet. However,I knew I had made a big mistake as soon as I drove it away from the garage. The car seemed to fill up with noise as soon as the wheels started to roll and the noise would change constantly according to the road surface. It was on standard 16 inch wheels and had the correct tyres fitted (Continental MO). I took it back to the dealer and they checked it over and drove it and said the car was fine and the noise was normal. I have since test driven other Mercedes cars including the latest c class, clk, cls and other E class models and they are all the same now. I can’t understand for the life of me how a prestige luxury car manufacturer like Mercedes can produce cars that are noisy! It just doesn’t make sense to me. I even changed the tyres on recommendation of a tyre dealer to winter tyres as he said that they a used softer compound and they would be quieter – but it made little difference.
    Anyway, eventually I couldn’t put up with the road noise any longer (which is a crying shame as the car was superb otherwise) and have changed it to a BMW 330i petrol (e90 MODEL 2005 TO 2012) as I’ve had BMW’s before and never noticed any road noise. Unfortunately, the road noise was as bad as the E class but I thought it was maybe because it was on 17 inch wheels with runflats on so I intended to change the wheels to 16 inch and change the tyres to non runflats. However, as the 330i has bigger brakes, 16 inch wheels wouldn’t fit (pity) but at least I got it off the awful runflats and onto some Yokohama ‘Decibel’ v550 low noise non runflat tyres as recommended by the garage. The difference was immediate. The ride was more comfortable, more pliant and it was a bit quieter. But it STILL has road noise (booey).
    Its such a shame as its a really nice car and the 3 litre engine is soooo smooth and quiet but like the E class the whole thing is ruined by the road noise. I really don’t want to be driving a prestige car listening to all the different tunes coming up from the various road surfaces we have here in the uk.
    As I said, I’ve had BMW’s in the past and don’t remember them having road noise so I took a test drive recently in a secondhand 2001 BMW 325i (the old E39 model 1996 to 2003) and there was no road noise at all (just like my old Mercedes C class). I then took a test drive in a new latest model BMW 530D and guess what – road noise! I couldn’t believe it.
    It almost seems like a case of if you want a quiet car don’t go ‘Back to the Future’ but go ‘Forward to the past’ lol.
    But joking aside, It seems, like you say, that modern cars are noisier because manufacturers are concentrating on other things like performance, handling, weight saving and fitting big wheels with fat low profile tyres (that old C class had little 15 inch wheels with skinny tyres (although I didn’t really take much notice of it at the time).
    Why don’t the manufacturers (particularly prestige luxury car manufacturers) realise that quietness is a big plus point but it seems like they don’t seem to care.
    I really like my BMW 330i and don’t want to change it but I don’t want to sit listening to road noise either so I’ve been looking at tyres. The Yokohama v550 Decibel ‘low noise’ tyres I have on now have been superseded by v551 tyres which are supposed to be even quieter. And then there are others claiming to be quiet too. But you don’t really know until you have had them fitted and drive away and then if they haven’t made much difference you’ve spent a lot of money and your stuck with them as they won’t take them back even if you just drive down the road and back.
    So what do you do? I see Continental have just announced their ‘Contisilent’ tyre which is their existing range of tyres but fitted with foam rubber bonded inside giving a claimed 9 decibel reduction in noise. This sounds great if they work. It seems like the last hope.
    Or do I have to go backwards and get an older car again.
    I look forward to yours and other readers comments.
    Kerry Maras. Canterbury. UK.

    • http://magnuskahler.com/ Magnus Kahler

      Hi Kerry! Thank you so much for your comment. I’m very happy that you are finding the site useful. :-)

      Kerry, you are in good company with millions of car drivers who have the same needs as you – but it certainly does feel as if one is alone. Most of us have the same experience of not being properly understood and taken care of by car dealers. I have visited tons of dealers this past year and asked them questions about noise. Their level of knowledge and engagement in terms of noise is surprisingly low. And out of the many tyre shops I have spoken to, a majority have very little knowledge about the relative noisiness of different tyres (despite it often being a parameter in tyre tests). They know more about fuel economy and other aspects.

      Like you, I also have a hard time understanding how the premium makes can be so poor at noise reduction; road noise in particular. It’s not satisfactory that only their top-end luxury models can offer decent noise levels.

      I really enjoyed reading about your history of cars owned and the different experiences you have made in terms of noise. Your experience further confirms the picture of older cars generally being quieter than new ones. I refuse to accept that a newer car, with better road handling and safety than earlier, can still not also be a substantially quieter car than what we can see coming out of Mercedes, BMW etc. The statement of ‘Going Forward to the Past’ certainly has a lot of merit to us valuing a smoother and quieter driving experience. :-)

      While I am hoping we’ll see quieter car offerings within the forseeable future, I also place hope on news coming out of the tyre manufacturers. Let’s hope ContiSilent and other similar offerings will soon be more widely available and that they actually live up to their promise.

      I hope you get some comments from other readers here and please keep us posted on what you decide to do. I understand your reluctance to let go of the BMW, but that you can’t let go of the noise issue you’re experiencing.

      By the way, it must be very pleasant to live in the beautiful city of Canterbury. :-) As I lived in London, I had the opportunity to visit the area and really enjoyed its beauty.

    • Rossi

      Hi Kerry,
      About your points that prestige manufacturers (and non-prestige manufacturers alike) don’t seem to care to prioritize placing refinement as number one priority, I would mainly lay the blame on car magazine or site reviewers.
      These folks (the reviewers) are placing too much emphasis on fun factors and drivetrain technology advancement, and they analysed too little on quietness or comfort level of the car. Reviewers do not go at length to test the refinement levels.
      So, any car built without being hastily criticized as noisy, would have been considered by manufacturers as refined enough, and they don’t have to spend anymore budget in that area.
      Another factor, as pointed out by Magnus, I would say is the general public desires for cool looking big wheels. Manufacturers started fixing those bigger than necessary wheels for the vehicles, and buyers loved it, and there’s no turning back from there. No one wants a 16 inch rims anymore nowadays.
      This is a sad case, as I do believe that any manufacturers do have the ability, technology and know how to make a very refined car without really adding too much to the overall budget. Over the past 10 years, we have seen such a huge leap in drivetrain technology, engines become ever more powerful, usable torque and at the same time more fuel efficient, gearbox likewise made similar improvements. But why can’t the NVH refinement level, must be easier to achieve I would assume.

      If Buick could achieve such a great refinement level, why can’t the other manufacturers, I would assume they have much better resource and technological know how, but not willing to put in the budget and cost as they deem it as not necessary because their NVH is considered good enough in their opinion, thanks to lack of criticism from car reviews.
      So I think (and hope) a site like this can start to make more “noise” that can be heard by car manufacturers.

      • Kerry

        Hi Rossi
        What a great point you make!
        You’ve definitely hit the nail on head here.
        When I read the test reports in the car magazines they pay very little attention to noise levels and refinement even in the car segment where you would expect to find such comments i.e. the luxury car sector.
        All too often over a 5 or 7 page spread there is possibly just one sentence about it ,and that is usually very ambiguous – such as reasonably quiet or low road noise etc. Low road noise is not NO road noise or silent, and also LOW compared to what? Even under the section titled ‘Refinement’ they don’t really address it at all – just a couple of lines at best and most of that referring to the seats, instruments and air conditioning etc.
        Its so frustrating. When your looking to buy a quality car or a prestige car or a luxury car surely NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) has got to be TOP priority. Its a no brainer surely!
        And Mercedes, of all the manufacturers, you would think would be producing super quiet cars. But no! They are probably the worst in my opinion. When I buy a Mercedes, I don’t buy it to race the kid in his souped up hatch off the lights, or corner on the door handles, or try and beat my best time on every trip (anymore). I want that special feeling you get by wafting along in silence and comfort. But the road noise is terrible. It actually beggars belief that any luxury prestige manufacturer can just ignore quietness in their cars. ‘You couldn’t make it up’ as they say!
        But going back to your point Rossi, if the motoring journalists were to start making more of an issue about noise in their test drives and reviews it would force the manufacturers to do something (well you would think so anyway). Quoting decibels as well as impressions would be a start.
        But the thing that gets me is that surely its not exactly rocket science to produce a quiet car – is it? It can’t be beyond the whit of man to isolate road and tyre noise from the inside of a car. It doesn’t even have to cost much money. For example, off the top of my head – 15” wheels, narrow width high profile tyres made of special silicon rubber with a quiet tread design and with a foam rubber insert, softer bushes in the suspension, axles and subframes insulated from the body and extra soundproofing in the cavity behind the wheel wells – for a start.
        The thing is as well that they used to do these things. The BMW 5 series made between 1996 and 2003 (E39 model) had a separately insulated rear subframe which carried the rear suspension and had 15” wheels and good soundproofing. Go onto the Autotrader website and look up readers reviews of their cars and you will see the words quiet and silent and glide a lot in their comments. I used to have one of these cars and the way things are going I will end up buying another one. Its just such a shame that I will have to buy an old car in order to get a quiet drive. Of course there is always the option of buying a quiet car in the guise of Mercedes S class or Lexus LH600 but these cars are too big (in the uk anyway) and way too dear both to buy and to run. Also, and this is interesting, if Mercedes can make their S class quiet why can’t they make their E class quiet? (which is nearly as big) Hmmm…..

        • http://magnuskahler.com/ Magnus Kahler

          Rossi & Kerry, I completely agree with the points you both raise. I see the automotive media’s role in terms of what the car industry prioritizes as substantial – they have a lot of power and have taken the industry into a noisy direction. Let’s hope the car industry starts to figure out that there is a sizable mid-segment that can be won by offering a superior quiet car experience.

          • Rossi

            Had just read an Autocar UK magazine comparison test of an Infiniti vs BMW 320d. Nearly 3 pages dedicated to fun factor, steering feel, handling etc. While ride quality is probably one or two sentences.
            I noticed that the media describes refinement in more details (still not enough), when they test larger more luxurious vehicles like S-Class,…etc.
            But, a lot of “poorer” drivers who can afford cheaper cars also place refinement as top priority, not only S-Class buyers.
            Here’s my wish on how cars are evaluated for comfort by automotive media –
            - more intensive write up on refinement and sound insulation, db readings plus describe in much more detail what the overall ambient felt like inside the car.
            If these media can write so well on the fun factor, they should be able to give equally as good description on refinements.
            - Ride quality, likewise, more detailed analysis on how the car behaves on different road conditions.
            And please….stop the nonsense of typical one liner like
            “firm but comfortable and controlled ride”. Every car is either soft or firm but comfortable.
            And when ride quality is tested, please also do it from rear passenger seat!!!!
            We all know the ride quality of a vehicle varies greatly when you sit on the rear bench.
            A car may be only slight less comfortable compared to another at front passenger seat, but when you sit in rear bench, the difference vs the other car is gonna be heaven and earth/ or hell.
            And I have a feeling that the road testers describe ride quality from driver’s seat, that is the “WORST” ever way to evaluate the ride quality of a car, from a driver’s seat. Lots of overly firm cars feel more acceptable from driver’s seat when you are actually driving the car.
            Likewise, the sound insulation should also be tested from rear bench, some cars are noisier from rear bench.
            AND my other wish list, apart from car manufacturers spending more on refinement and sound proofing, I hope they spend more to improve the seat comfort.
            More padding, more luxurious feeling, especially to the rear bench.
            Whats the point of having ample of leg room when the seat is not particularly comfy enough?

          • http://magnuskahler.com/ Magnus Kahler

            Thanks, Rossi. Our views are completely aligned when it comes to this.

    • Esskay

      Hello Kerry,
      Thank you for the post. I have the same problem. My 2013 MY Mercedes E 300 is very noisy compared to my previous E 230. I checked with the local agent of Mercedes and have been advised that there is no remedy to reduce the cabin noise and that I have to live with it. I’ve done Ziebart sound barrier coating but not much of a difference. I’ll check with the local supplier of Dynamat to install sound proofing sheets. I will revert with my observations and remarks after the installation.

      • Kerry

        Hi Esskay,
        I fully sympathise with you. Its a right sickener to spend a lot of money on a prestige luxury car (especially a Mercedes) and find that its noisy! Its the last thing you want isn’t it. I think the only answer though is in the wheels and tyres. Are you on the standard 16”/17” wheels or is the car fitted with 18” or 19” wheels? If so the first thing to do is swap them for the smallest wheels that will fit. That will mean that the tyres that fit the smaller wheels will have a higher profile which means more rubber in the sidewalls to insulate the noise (and giving a more comfortable ride also). The second thing to do is find out if the new Contisilent tyres are out yet. They claim to offer a reduction of up to 9 decibels (which is huge). They have invented a special foam insert that’s fitted inside of their normal range of tyres so that there is no reduction in performance/wear etc. I’m in the process of trying to find out if they are available for my BMW at the moment. Let me know how you get on. Regards Kerry (tel 07810 884082)

    • OldCroc

      Hi Kerry. I realise this post was some time back but I have just found this site. I have contacted Continental and they only make the ContiSilent for two cars – both Audis and they are specific to them. They stet that no other car manufacturer is interested!

  • Rossi

    Hi Magnus,

    As promised, though a little late. I am offering my humble 2
    cents about my knowledge of car sound insulation. As I have written in previous
    posts, I am driving a Toyota Yaris sedan version, and the one in Malaysia is
    having horrendous sound insulation. Buyers
    here are being ripped off by being offered below par quality vehicle, as in
    Malaysia, brand name and reliability is the upmost priority, resale value is
    highly prioritized. The version of Yaris I am driving is even noisier than the
    previous generation.

    So what I have done is see some sound proofing specialist to
    improve the car (a well known specialist who is very highly recommended on the
    local internet world).

    The result, is rather a mixed result, and I regretted doing
    it.

    Areas done in two phases –

    Phase 1

    -
    Addition of “roar buster” into front wheel well

    -
    Sound proofing mat on 4 doors (its not Dynamat),
    I can’t remember the brand, but was told by the specialist that the one used is
    preferred because it absorbs mid frequency sound better than dynamat, which
    absorbs lower frequency sound

    -
    A pillar chassis foaming injected

    -
    Sound proofing mat stuck into boot area and some
    soft wool type of cloth (claimed to be used in Lexus)

    Result – slight improvement overall,
    especially in airborne sound

    Phase 2

    -
    Chassis foaming injected into B pillar, C pillar
    and undercarriage.

    Overall result –

    Positives

    – during idle, very
    quiet and calm, outside ambient noise very well subdued, only slight engine
    rattle heard

    -
    Quiet a noticeable improvement over smooth road
    surface.

    -
    Overall noise level more controlled (but still
    loud) at highway speeds

    Negatives

    -
    Still very noisy on coarse road surface,
    probably highly frequency road roar is alittle bit better, but low frequency
    structure borne noise still as bad as before, probably you feel it intrudes
    into the cabin more because other frequency noise is lessened, and does not
    mask the low frequency structure borne noise so much. Thus it has become slightly more obvious.

    -
    Chassis foaming badly screwed up the ride
    quality of my car, it makes the chassis way to rigid, all the minor road
    imperfections that were previously softly felt, were much more noticeable. I am
    beginning to feel every bumps on the road. Sharp intrusions that were well
    absorbed previously, felt very harsh now, as if the tire is changed to low
    profile and over-inflated.

    I regretted my decision, I bought this car for its ride
    quality, I like soft suspension setup, the chassis foaming transformed the ride
    much worse. And the road quality here, is mostly 80% of the roads has coarse
    surface, and poor road conditions. So I only get to really enjoy the “benefit”
    of the sound proofing done about 20% of the time, while I have to suffer the
    harsh ride quality.

    I shall continue in a separate post in a couple of days to
    share what I thought may be some interesting inputs from what I had learned.

    • http://magnuskahler.com/ Magnus Kahler

      Hi Rossi! Thanks again for sharing your experience! Am sorry to hear that the soundproofing efforts haven’t worked in the way you had hoped for. I look forward to hearing more about your learnings!

  • http://magnuskahler.com/ Magnus Kahler

    Finally a new post is out, see: http://elevatingsound.com/the-lack-of-quiet-cars-why-the-automotive-press-bears-responsibility-for-cars-being-too-noisy

    Would love to hear your thoughts on the role of the automotive press in terms of their car reviews lacking meaningful insights on NVH (Noise, Vibration and Harshness).

  • Eric

    After reading through this article and comments, I am happy that there are many people in the world who hates excessive cabin noise just like me. I have a car with low profile tires (215/45 18R) and it is painful for me to drive the concrete based highway to go to work every morning.
    Do you have any recommendation for a tire which has low noise? I currently have Continental ExtremeContact DWS (215/45 18R) and I am hearing a lot of road noise when I am driving through concrete highway.

    • http://magnuskahler.com/ Magnus Kahler

      Hi Eric, great to hear from you! And yes, there are lots of people all over the world sharing your sentiment about excessive cabin noise.

      Which car are you currently driving? Do you know how small wheels that can be fitted onto your particular vehicle (usually what steers the minimum wheel size is the size of the brakes)? My first advice would be for you to change to 16-inch wheels if possible; if not then go with 17-inch.

      In terms of the dimensions, choose the narrowest dimension possible, i.e. go with 195 or 205 instead of 215. And by lowering from 18-inch to 16- or 17-inch, you’ll also be able to increase the thickness of the tires, going from 45 to maybe 55 or even 65 – that will also be able to reduce the level of vibrations/noise being transferred into the cabin.

      In terms of specific tire/tyre models, the naming and availability will differ across markets so try to find independent tire/tyre tests in your local market (in which country do you live?) and ask around at tire/tyre dealers which tires/tyres that are seen as extra quiet. That research will pay off since the noise can differ a lot between different tires/tyres, with all the dimensions staying the same.

      A last piece of advice is to make sure to also pay attention to the ‘speed code’ of the tires/tyres. A letter will indicate what the maximum speed is and the higher the maximum speed the stronger, and also more noisy, the tires/tyres will be. A lot of people make the mistake of driving around in a regular passenger car, maybe going max 180 km/h, yet using tires/tyres that can be used for up to 240 km/h. That’s unnecessary – instead choose tires/tyres with a speed code with a maximum speed that is more suitable to your driving behaviour/style.

      Please, let me know how it goes! A tire/tyre with the dimension 215/45 R18 sounds very noisy, so you’re bound to be able to get a noticeable noise reduction inside the cabin by merely changing tires/tyres. Many drivers see larger wheels as more aesthetically pleasing, but since you are having issues with the noise, then my advice is to disregard the design aspect and rather prioritize comfort.

  • Sardar

    Excellent site, very informative, thank you for your research work.

    • http://magnuskahler.com/ Magnus Kahler

      Hi Sardar! Thanks for the compliments! Which car are you currently driving? Is there anything in particular that you would like me to write about on Elevating Sound? I have a long list of article ideas and aim to publish a lot of new content in the next few weeks.

  • Lachy

    Hi,
    Has anyone tried using noise cancelling headphones while driving? Unlike earplugs they allow you to listen to music while driving. I have tinnitus and find that if I wear earplugs I can just hear my tinnitus, so I’d rather cover it up with the road noise but on long trips the constant noise makes my tinnitus much worse so I wear noise cancelling headphones. (Yes I know it’s been mentioned that wearing headphones/earplugs while driving is illegal – but they really don’t block out important things like horn or sirens, those can still all be heard.) anyway the noise cancelling feature seems to cover the sound of my tinnitus and I can listen to music on my iPhone at volume 2, which is much less than with regular headphones and goes to show how much noise they block out.

    Just my 2 cents on the topic. A $300 pair of headphones is less effort and has better results than installing $300 worth of sound insulating material in your car.

    (I have tried many brands I found Bose to be the best They make in-ear and headphone designs – I use the in ear ones because they are more discrete)

    • http://magnuskahler.com/ Magnus Kahler

      Hi Lachy! I fully agree with you on the merits of using noise cancelling headphones. I’ve got Bose ones as well and I use them in all kinds of situations when I want to block out unwanted noise while wanting to be able to listen to a podcast or music at a low volume. However, when driving a car on the coarse everydy surface where I live, the noise-cancellation is insufficient. It comes down to the car used, the road surface and the degree of sensitivity to noise as to whether Bose headphones will work or not. I think you’re right though in that noise cancelling headphones is really the place to start.

      • Vincent

        It is also illegal to drive in most states while using any kind of headset that covers or fills both ears.

        • http://magnuskahler.com/ Magnus Kahler

          The laws and regulations clearly do not show much empathy to people who suffer from in-car noise. What’s the penalty for wearing e.g. noise-cancelling headphones?

  • Laurie

    Great site! We are vehicle shopping. My husband’s #1 concern is cabin noise…he is very sensitive to it. We landed on a Nissan Murano. We rented one, loved it. Test drove one…loved it. But went back to buy (a new car that arrived in the color we wanted) and test drove it, and it wasn’t as quiet as the others! They offered to swap out the tires, but the inconsistency from one Murano to the other concerned us so we did not buy. ARGH! Very hard and time consuming. We are back to square one now. I know you do not push product, but does anyone have any suggest for a crossover or sedan that is the quietest out there? Thank you very much.

    • http://magnuskahler.com/ Magnus Kahler

      Hi Laurie! Thanks for the comment. I understand your frustration. Are you living in the US? Hopefully some of our readers can suggest other crossovers or sedans available in your market.
      About the Murano, I am sorry you experienced inconsistency in terms of cabin noise. While every vehicle can be seen as an individual, there shouldn’t be any major variation between them if the quality of production has a certain standard. Your experience could potentially be due to the wheels and tires used. Do you remember the size of the wheels and the exact tire model that was on the car you initially test drove? While it may be surprising, the noise level inside a car can substantially be reduced just by changing from e.g. 18-inch wheels to 16-inch wheels. And a highly noticeable noise reduction can also be achieved simply by changing tires. Some tires are much noisier than others. When I changed from GoodYear Efficient Grip Performance summer tires to Michelin X-Ice winter tires without studs, my Volvo became a lot quieter. The car is still too noisy though, but it’s fascinating how much of the road noise that can actually be altered via change of tires. However, there’s still a lot of room for improvement in the tire industry, since tires in general seem unnecessarily noisy.

  • educynic

    Aha, at last a site that takes the quietness of cars seriously.

    Motoring journalists, as one of your other pages says, are certainly responsible for a lot of lies about car noise. The Honda Accord is often said to be ‘refined’ but is one of the noisiest family cars on the road. My last car was a 2005 Passat which I chose because it was the quietest (as measured with a sound meter) car I reviewed. It has proved to be a most comfortable cruiser for that reason. But the new, post 2005, Passat, as well as being unreliable, is a good 4dB noisier. This makes a tremendous difference over an extended journey.

    At the point of sale, the only source of information about noise levels comes from taking along your own sound meter, and so few do that. Experienced salesmen always talk to you during a test drive to distract you from concentrating on listening. My experience is that cars are getting noisier as manufacturers concentrate on reducing fuel consumption. So there is less sound deadening material to reduce the weight, lower profile tyres to reduce rolling resistance and lower suspension, putting the cabin nearer the ground.

    What is not measurable is not comparable and not compared. Only by measuring car noise and publishing tables about it will encourage manufacturers to act.

    • http://magnuskahler.com/ Magnus Kahler

      Thanks for your comment! I completely agree with your analysis. In what country do you live?

      It’s pretty irresponsible of motoring journalists to use the term ‘refined’ without addressing noise, since interior noise inevitably will be something the driver has to cope with, especially on longer journeys.

      It really is ironic how the logic of interior noise in the automotive industry works – that many older cars are quieter than newer ones. I have been considering older models from around 2001-04, but one issue I’ve found is that the wind noise is higher than in newer models where laminated glass is starting to become a bit more common (however, a large majority of new cars do not come with laminated, noise-reducing windows). If it wasn’t for the wind noise, I would instantly have bought an older station wagon with better sound-proofing and a softer chassis with smaller wheels.

      I find your experience very interesting and was wondering if you’d be interested in writing a guest post for Elevating Sound? You could take your comment above and just expand on it a little bit more. We’d love to publish the voices of others to provide further insights on the issue of cars and noise.

      You can either sign the post with your name or stay anonymous. If you’re interested, please send the text to: hello@elevatingsound.com

      Cheers!

      • educynic

        Hi Magnus,
        Yes, happy to write an article. It will take me a few days as work is busy at the moment.
        I am from the UK. I think that you are from Sweden and among the posts on this site I see comments about the gritty nature of Swedish roads. The same is true of many UK roads – though not all. Some of the motorways, like our M54, have a rough concrete surface causing a tremendous racket when driving over them. Some parts of others, like some parts of the adjacent M6, have been resurfaced with something that is about 6 dB quieter inside the car. These surfaces have been installed apparently to please adjacent property owners, but they also are much nicer for the driver.
        One of the things that has struck me is that Japanese cars have so much road noise. I am guessing that Japanese roads are probably very smooth, and the distances that Japanese drive are relatively small. France, where there are long roads, some of which have poor surface, produces cars that are significantly quieter.
        One of the consequences of Japanese cars being noisy is that, with one exception, you can’t buy a quiet and reliable car. The exception is the Lexus LS600, and my pockets are not that deep!

      • vvince

        hi magnus, would it be possible to put up camcorder videos on this website recording road noise while driving on surfaces which seem noisy or quiet, I drive a vw golf 2012 with 15″ wheels with hankook tyres which seem very noisy on worn surfaces compared to 98 opel astra

  • GogogoStopSTOP

    I have a 2004 Porsche C4S convertible. The only category it lost to competitors in Road & Track that year was noise! lol. The tires are the real contributor, from my considerable experience.

    Would you care to comment? Or, HELP!?

  • mick b

    Great site magnus. I thought I was the only one out there. I have recently developed tinnitus and over sensitivity to noise from my career in the Australian airforce. Now I am having problems finding a quiet new car. In Australia our so called quitest cars are large Japanese family sedans like the Toyota Camry. While you can’t hear the engine , the road/tyre noise is still high when driving on that rough concrete highway surface. I have had a terrible time trying to explain to car dealers and even my family my requirements.
    One thing I noticed and I am glad to hear it verified here is some earlier cars are actually quieter than later models. I took a 2012 Toyota corolla for a drive and the road noise was terrible. Then I took a second hand 2006 Toyota corolla for a drive and it was far quieter on the road. I thought it was my imagination but having read all the comments here I was thinking I should go back and buy this car.
    I would like something bigger and newer though but not sure where to look. I also noticed something else may help people especially tinnitus sufferers That offroad 4×4 vehicles eg US or Japanese made are often quieter for me. While their engines and wind may be a bit louder they can have hardly any road noise. I tried to come up with a theory for this and I assume it is two things.
    1.They are a lot higher off the road. And secondly the truck style body means they have the chassis and cabs as separate units, with buffer plates between these units. Normal cars and even small SUVS have monocoque or one piece bodies integral to chassis so I think maybe noise vibration from the road goes direct to the cabin, moreso than the large offroad 4×4;s. Unfortunatley I cannot really afford a big 4×4 as they are quite expsensive even used. I really don’t know what to do. I am currently driving a very old and noisy small Japanese car I need to get rid of as it makes my tinnitus worse. But what to choose.