Ratings: Top 10 quietest cars we've tested - 6 cylinders quieter than electric?

Shaun · Apr 29, 2021 10:00 AM

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For the majority of car buyers, comfort is a priority. But comfort is difficult to quantify, it is mostly based on subjective feelings, keyword here being mostly. One aspect that can be quantified is noise level. 

We use a specialized sound level meter to determine the sound pressure level at varying speed intervals – 60 km/h, 90 km/h, and 110 km/h.

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Two things we’d like to note:

  1. The sound level meter only measures one aspect of noise - the sound pressure level, not its frequency. 
  2. Due to feasibility, not every noise test was conducted on the same exact road and traffic condition, which may have affected the readings.

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Our brains are influenced by the frequency in terms noise perception. Higher frequency of sound may be perceived as louder, whereas lower frequencies are less grating to our ears and thus less tiring over a longer period of time.

Which means there is a subjective aspect in how quiet we perceive cars to be. However, subjectivity plays no part in this list as it's driven purely by numbers.

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Some cars are quieter at city speeds while some are still hushed well-beyond the national speed limit. We’re giving the noise level at 110 km/h a higher weightage as it’s a bigger challenge for cars to maintain the serenity at triple-digit speeds.

Without further ado, let’s begin the countdown of the top 10 quietest cars we’ve tested.

10. Toyota Innova

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Toyota Innova noise level
60 km/h 56 dB
90 km/h 61 dB
110 km/h 68 dB

The Toyota Innova’s noise levels are comparable to EVs at city speeds. It has one of the most well-insulated cabins in its price range. However, wind noise does become quite evident at triple-digit speeds, which we suspect the sound level meter picked up on.

Also read: Pros and Cons: Very practical, but the 2021 Toyota Innova 2.0X needs more power

9. Mazda 3

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Mazda 3 noise level
60 km/h 61 dB
90 km/h 64 dB
110 km/h 67 dB

One aspect worth highlighting in the Mazda 3 is the ability to neutralize the variation of sound level during surface changes. Going from a smooth to rough tarmac usually results in a drastic change in noise level, but the Mazda 3 seems to minimize it. So the Mazda 3’s cabin noise level is fairly stable.

Also read: Review: Mazda 3 Sedan/Liftback – Mind says no, heart says otherwise

8. Mazda CX-8

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Mazda CX-8 noise level
60 km/h 58 dB
90 km/h 63 dB
110 km/h 67 dB

Being a diesel, engine noise of the Mazda CX-8 2.2D is present when accelerating, but quickly fades into the background at a cruise. The front windows are laminated, which reduces exterior noises and wind noise at high speeds.

Also read: Review: Mazda CX-8 2.2D High – This over the VW Tiguan Allspace R-Line?

7. Volkswagen Arteon

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Volkswagen Arteon noise level
60 km/h 58 dB
90 km/h 62 dB
110 km/h 67 dB

Cabin noise level in the Volkswagen Arteon is generally low. Mechanical noises such as engine and suspension are well muted. Tyre noise does become noticeable at higher speeds or rough surfaces, which may have cost it a decibel or two.

Also read: Review: 2020 Volkswagen Arteon R-Line - Worth paying more for a reskinned Passat?

6. Volvo XC60 T8

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Volvo XC60 T8 noise level
60 km/h 57 dB
90 km/h 62 dB
110 km/h 66 dB

The test was done with the combustion engine running to level the playing field. Even so, the Volvo XC60 T8 recorded impressive figures. Wind noise is surprisingly minimal for an SUV.

Also read: Review: 2020 Volvo XC60 T8 Inscription Plus - Out-badged by rivals, but outshines them

5. Porsche Taycan 4S

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Porsche Taycan 4S noise level
60 km/h 55 dB
90 km/h 60 dB
110 km/h 66 dB

Unsurprisingly, the Porsche Taycan 4S aced the noise test. Cabin noise level at city speed is about as good as it gets. Being an EV, tyre noise becomes noticeable at highway speeds, but it's far from intrusive.

Also read: Review: Porsche Taycan 4S - an electrifying, synapse-frying performance car

4. Audi A5 Sportback

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Audi A5 Sportback noise level
60 km/h 58 dB
90 km/h 62 dB
110 km/h 65 dB

As expected, the Audi A5 Sportback and its Teutonic insulation landed it close to podium in our list. No complaints in terms of noise here, with all sources of noise impressively suppressed.

Also read: Review: Audi A5 Sportback - When you find the BMW 4 Series too boring

3.  Lexus RX 300 

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Lexus RX 300 noise level
60 km/h 58 dB
90 km/h 62 dB
110 km/h 65 dB

The Lexus RX 300 recorded identical numbers to the Audi A5 Sportback. But being an SUV, there is an inherent disadvantage in terms of noise level due to the 2-box design, so we’re giving the honour of podium finish to the Lexus RX 300.

Also read: In Brief: 2019 Lexus RX 300 - Who needs air suspension?

2. BMW M340i

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BMW M340i noise level
60 km/h 57 dB
90 km/h 62 dB
110 km/h 65 dB

Well, it's not exactly quieter than the Porsche Taycan per se, but the BMW M340i edges the Taycan by just 1 dB at 110 km/h. And given the higher weightage for 110 km/h, the M340i outranks the Taycan.

Also read: Review: BMW M340i xDrive, is this the four-door Toyota GR Supra?

1. Lexus ES 250

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Lexus ES 250 noise level
60 km/h 56 dB
90 km/h 60 dB
110 km/h 63 dB

We've said it before and we'll say it again, think of the Lexus ES as a mini Lexus LS rather than a posh Toyota Camry. The interior feels as plush as a Lexus should, with premium materials and craftsmanship.

Noise level wise, it's EV level of quietness and even quieter than the Porsche Taycan at 110 km/h, making it the quietest car we’ve tested so far. Windows are double-glazed all round so exterior noises are impressively muted.

Also read: New 2022 Lexus ES facelift debuts - Reloads its ammo against 5 Series and E-Class

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