I would like to leverage Elevating Sound as a platform to really explore the issue of cars being too noisy, in particular the burdensome road noise when driving on rough/coarse asphalt/surface.
My rather grand objective is for the automotive industry to take notice of this site and start opening up to the fact that they are disregarding a very sizable consumer segment who are craving a quieter driving experience than what is available in the marketplace at present.
It is an unsustainable situation that only the largest and most luxurious vehicles have decent noise levels inside the cabin. After all, not only Mercedes S-Class and Lexus LS600h drivers place refinement as a top priority, but also drivers with other budgets – including buyers of e.g. premium cars like BMW 5-series and Mercedes E-Class, which are way too noisy, and also car buyers in other lesser-priced segments.
I fully believe that the car manufacturer that will be first to define an automotive sub-category of quiet cars in the mid-prized segment, including both a sedan and station wagon offering, will reap great commercial success. By creating and then managing that sub-category well, long-term leadership with competition kept at a distance is a very lucrative and possible scenario.
Besides the car manufacturers themselves, who obviously need to step up their game, there is one stakeholder group that seems to hold a lot of power in terms of how the offerings of the global automotive industry evolve.
I’m referring to automotive journalists.
If you have been reading automotive magazines, in particular the car reviews, you will have noticed the great emphasis placed on aspects such as drivetrain technology advancements, the fun factor of road handling and steering feel, legroom, interior design, boot/luggage compartment size, safety features etc.
But the issue of comfort and refinement in terms of cabin noise/silence tends to get just a sentence or two out of a multi-page car review. The comments on noise are usually very broad, lacking any meaningful analysis that will help the prospective car buyer to get an idea of how well the car performs in that area. There is not enough details on noise measurements in the front and back of the car, how the car fares on rough asphalt, the impact of wheel size/tire dimensions etc.
Because of the lacking press coverage and insights on noise as a review criteria, they let the car industry off the hook since they will not invest money in areas that won’t give them sufficient commercial leverage.
But there is a great misunderstanding here. The automotive press does not reflect the needs of a very sizable, and growing, group of car buyers, who are left with a range of sub-standard noisy alternatives and thus are forced to live with a sub-standard driving experience. This does not cut it. Something obviously has got to change.
I have gotten comments from people in the industry saying that it’s very difficult to reduce cabin noise – but rarely do I get any qualified arguments as to why it’s not possible to develop drastic improvements. That it’s difficult is by no means a reason for not making innovative advances. We constantly see advancements being made in a wide range of different automotive areas. The manufacturers need to start prioritizing refinement, sound proofing, acoustics etc more and invest additional resources.
Elevating Sound reader Rossi from Malaysia believes that any manufacturer does have the ability, technology and know how to make a very refined car without adding too much to the overall budget: “Over the past 10 years, we have seen such a huge leap in drivetrain technology, engines becoming ever more powerful, usable torque and at the same time more fuel efficient, gearboxes likewise have made similar improvements. But why can’t the NVH (Noise, Vibration and Harshness) refinement level follow a similar path?”
UK-based reader Kerry suggests that “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”. I fully agree. They would feel a need to step out of the ‘good enough’ mindset and start to really make significant advances in terms of cabin noise reduction.
The Elevating Sound wishlist for the automotive press is to start adding the following dimensions to their comprehensive car reviews:
– Detailed comments on the driving refinement and smoothness inside the cabin on different types of road surfaces and with different wheel sizes/tire dimensions – covering NVH (Noise, Vibration and Harshness) with comments in particular on engine noise, road noise, wind noise, interior vibrations and chassis/suspension harshness when riding over bumps
– Decibel readings both in the front and back of the cabin at varying speeds, including qualitative comments based on the different types of sound frequencies and what the overall sound ambience is like.
If you’re also craving quieter cars, please help us out by spreading the word about this post and feel free to contact your local automotive journalists to get their reactions.
Let’s spread the word about the growing, global Quiet Car movement!