Because sometimes you just want to relax on a journey.
We're as guilty as anyone for celebrating the noise of a car. A large part of enjoying a car as an enthusiast is how it stimulates all of the senses. A sonorous engine emphasizing the feeling of acceleration or deceleration has a visceral effect on the driver. An engine wailing enthusiastically as it reaches the top of its rev range heightens the sense of frantic speed. For a performance car, the sound of the machine is intertwined with its identity.
But what if you want to sit back and relax? Sometimes, you just want a sensory deprivation tank on wheels.
You don't necessarily have to substitute power for quietness, as some of the quietest cars on the planet have massive engines under the hood. Examples include all combustion-powered Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, and high-end Mercs.
This feature was originally published in 2020 but has been updated with the latest information.
Rolls-Royce, for example, pays incredible attention to eliminating noise, vibration, and hardness (NVH), so the only time you hear the engine growl is when the throttle is buried in the deep and sound-reducing carpet.
The secret to reducing sound might be electric, but the silent powertrain is actually counterproductive in most cases. Without the vibration and sound of an engine, the interior creaks and rattles are emphasized. Just drive a Tesla, and you'll know what we're on about. It will be interesting to see how Rolls-Royce gets around this problem once the Spectre, pictured above and below, hits the road.
For now, let's look at more traditional cars CarBuzz has tested that proved much quieter than expected.
Sure, the S-Class is expensive, with a starting price of $110,000, but we're still only a third of the way to the cost of the cheapest Rolls-Royce.
However, the German luxury sedan has been the benchmark for traveling business class on four wheels for decades, and it all starts with exterior design. The shape of the A-pillars and side mirrors are designed to disturb the wind as little as possible, resulting in less wind noise. Mercedes then adds thick glass, carpets, and hundreds of pounds of sound-dampening materials.
The latest version of the S-Class also comes with a sound system with active noise suppression. It's like driving around in over-the-ear headphones with noise cancellation. These are just some of the highlights of a car that is a technological masterpiece.
Germany may be the go-to country for quiet yet powerful luxury, but America also scores some entries on this list. As a bonus, American cars are also better built than ever before.
Ruling the roost is the Lincoln Navigator. The Navigator is powered by a twin-turbocharged V6 engine discretely producing 440 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque.
The interior is packed with well-crafted premium materials. The level of detail going into noise reduction is impressive, with an Active Noise Control system mitigating road noise. The laminated windows also help to keep the cries of the proletariat from disturbing a pleasant journey.
To get people to buy the vehicle they need rather than a big SUV, automakers have been cranking up the quality of their other models over the years.
It's now reached a point where minivans are entering into premium and luxury territory at affordable prices. Honda's Odyssey ranges from roughly $38,000 to $50,000, and along with a high amount of technology and practicality, you get one of the quietest rides around.
It's positively serene inside a moving Odyssey, but only when the kids have their headphones plugged into the rear-seat entertainment system.
The Lexus ES doesn't even try to play the sporty card, competing against rivals like the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Instead, Lexus leans hard into refinement and comfort. Driving the ES, you get the idea that an engineer would have been executed on the spot if they brought up the "S" word.
The ride is soft, the gear changes are imperceptible, and the power from the V6 goes to the front wheels. And the ES is all the better for it. The ES provides smooth, unruffled, and hushed progress by not trying to be too many things.
It's incredibly close to the Mercedes S-Class but less than half the price.
Hyundai is showing the world you don't need to drop big money on a quiet ride. Like Cadillac, Hyundai uses steel to keep vibration in the chassis to a minimum, along with a sub-frame mounted suspension.
Unlike, say, Honda and Toyota, Hyundai isn't stingy about using sound-deadening material to reduce road noise and uses thicker glass in the windows. The result, along with the well-tuned suspension, is an affordable car with a ride comparable to more expensive German vehicles. The Elantra is easy on the ears and the wallet.
Just don't go for the Elantra N because that's rowdy enough to upset California cops.
Another car that's perfect for listening to intricate music at high speed is the Audi A8.
Sure, you'll hear the forced-induction enhanced 335-hp V6 growl as you punch it. Still, at cruising speeds, the dual-pane acoustic glass, high-end sound-damping material, and vibration-soaking air suspension will let you hear every subtle tone coming through the standard 14-speaker Bose surround system. If you're interested in moving a bit more speed, the S8 does exactly the same job but faster.
With Audi's high level of engineering applied, you'll never hear a tiny rattle or squeak.
Mazda wants to move more upmarket, which is pretty evident the moment you start driving the CX-50. It oozes style, quality, and sophistication but is packaged in a rather attractive body. It has a sport mode and can hustle both on and off-road, but when you dial it back it simply becomes a comfortable, quiet urban cruiser.
The Japanese automaker is already struggling to keep up with demand, and after experiencing the car, we fully understand why.
Genesis is one of the unsung heroes of the premium market, competing with Mercedes and BMW in quality and refinement. The luxury carmaker uses all the usual tricks and materials to keep the cabin quiet, and the active noise cancelation technology in the G80 is the icing on the cake of one of the most peaceful rides around.
Like in your headphones, active noise cancelation technology uses the car's audio to take audio signals you don't want to hear, invert them, and push them back through the speakers to cancel the noise. That's an oversimplified explanation of an exact science, but it is close enough for this article's purposes.
Like the Lexus ES, Kia didn't bother to make the Sorento something it's not. It leaned hard into what makes a luxury SUV great, and it sells the resulting car at a reasonable price.
We wouldn't bother with the base 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder because it can sound harsh when you push on. But the 2.5-liter turbocharged engine provides loads of low-down torque and settles down nicely.
A truck does not have to be noisy. Well, not until it has some serious work to do, anyway, and Ram has been leveling up on luxury with the 1500 to the point its interior has become a benchmark for premium trucks. Every model comes with acoustic insulating glass, and Ram also has active electronic noise cancellation available.
The Ram 1500 mild-hybrid is particularly quiet, even though the hybrid system is connected to a loud 5.7-liter V8 engine.