2016 Lincoln MKX profile ・ Photo by Lincoln
Regardless of their rough-and-ready origins, the quietest SUVs today can be just as quiet as a luxury sedan. That’s especially true when you’re talking about luxury SUVs; of course, even some mainstream choices can showcase cabins that are as silent as a library. In any case, two chief strategies to shut out unwanted noise are particularly popular: physical changes, such as the use of acoustic glass and extra soundproofing, for example, and for a more advanced approach, there are a variety of active noise-cancellation technologies. These create their own sound waves, which are fine-tuned to cancel out the typical ambient traffic noises. For serious silent running, many machines leverage both, and that does include some from the mainstream brands.
The Tri-shield brand has been building some of the quietest SUVs in the industry for a while now, leveraging its proprietary QuietTuning process. Developed specifically to reduce noise, vibration and harshness, QuietTuning involves engineering upgrades such as triple door seals and acoustic-laminated glass. And to be clear, that’s for not only the windshield, but also the front side windows. For the 2017 Buick Enclave—the brand’s 3-row entry—the suspension, intake and exhaust systems also were specifically tuned to decrease noise. The wheels and tires, too, have been chosen to provide a quiet and refined cabin experience. This year, Buick builds on that advantage with a quietly impressive Sport Touring Edition highlighted by Satin Black Ice exterior accents and 20-inch chrome-clad wheels.
Photo by General Motors
The 2017 Cadillac Escalade continues to turn up the volume on bold SUV design, yet it’s also one of the quietest SUVs in terms of interior environment. Cadillac engineers give some of the credit for that to the same thing that gives the Escalade its robust, “real SUV” capabilities: a strong body structure. The brand also boasts about the “enhanced use of noise-attenuating materials,” along with doors that are triple-sealed against exterior sound, exterior mirrors that have been wind tunnel-tested to reduce wind noise, and acoustic-laminate glass. The Escalade also features a high-tech resource for reducing intrusive noise, with the brand turning to Bose for active noise cancellation. Bose additionally serves up the Escalade’s 16-speaker CenterPoint audio system, which has been tailored for optimum sound in the vehicle’s cabin.
Photo by Cadillac
Active noise control also is an important sound-suppression measure for the 2017 Lincoln MKX. Here, the system relies on unobtrusive cabin microphones that are constantly monitoring the sound profile of the MKX cabin. That, according to Lincoln, is then “replicated and inverted to by a signal processor to create an opposing acoustic wave through the speakers. When the opposing wave meets the original sound wave, the result is a quiet cabin.” But like many of the quietest SUVs, Lincoln’s sleek 2-row option has been engineered to decrease road noise in the first place. Thus, the MKX noise-control technology is only one part of a comprehensive Lincoln Drive Control system that adjusts suspension damping in mere milliseconds, smoothing bumps in the road that can bring unwanted cabin noise.
Photo by Lincoln
Given the Jeep brand’s well-deserved reputation for off-road capability, it can be easy to forget that the 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee delivers a full-on luxury experience in its Summit grade, complete with a hushed, high-end cabin. For instance, Natura Plus leather seating is standard in the Grand Cherokee’s range-topping trim, the driver and front-seat passenger enjoy heated and ventilated seats, and the second row is heated. Jeep further upgrades the interior ambience with its own active noise-cancellation technology for the Grand Cherokee Summit—and the Grand Cherokee SRT. Yep, Jeep’s most powerful SUV, packing a 6.4-liter, 475-horsepower V8 engine, has the same sound-elimination tech as the quietest SUVs from the more traditional luxury brands—bolstered by a 0-60 time of 4.8 seconds and a top speed of 160 mph.
Photo by Jeep
The 2016 Land Rover Range Rover Sport is an ideal illustration of how some brands go all-out to engineer the quietest SUVs on the market: The most athletic player on the roster—the Range Rover Sport SVR—gets the silent treatment from front to rear, starting with a special “comb” that’s located beneath its front bumper to reduce wind noise (and front-end lift, for better aerodynamic performance). Meanwhile, at the back, the vehicle has an electronically controlled, 2-stage active exhaust system. The first emphasizes the roar of the vehicle’s supercharged V8 to “enrich” the sound quality of the interior, and the second enables a dedicated, quiet cabin model. Land Rover also lavished much attention on creating a “premium sound quality” for everyday functions, like the way the doors sound when they’re closed.
Photo by Jaguar Land Rover
Backed by body-on-frame construction, available 4-wheel drive and a top trailering capacity of 8,400 lbs., the 2016 GMC Yukon is a fullsize sport utility vehicle that more than lives up to that name. Yet in its Denali trim, this Pro Grade performer can compete with the quietest SUVs for cabin refinement, too. As you might expect, active noise cancellation is on board the Yukon Denali—for blocking out sound waves that can negatively affect the interior environment—but there also are more engineering efforts of note, like a windshield and front door windows made from acoustic laminated glass. And all doors, and the exterior mirrors, have an inlaid design to decrease wind noise. The finishing touch comes at the rear, where a valved exhaust system “drastically” cuts interior NVH levels.
Photo by General Motors
Among the quietest SUVs from the mainstream brands is the 2017 Honda Pilot, and that’s because it has some of the same sound reduction technologies as those from the luxury brands. Indeed, active noise cancellation is standard on the entry Pilot LX trim, which starts at $30,345. Also standard throughout the Pilot lineup are active engine mounts. These address NVH issues from the powerplant by blocking out irritating harmonic vibrations—by generating their own, higher-frequency vibrations. Next, Honda deploys acoustic glass for the front windshield of all models, and for the front door windows in the up-level Touring and Elite trims. Suspension upgrades to deal with noise, vibration and harshness included the debut of amplitude reactive dampers for this generation of Honda’s award-winning 3-row SUV.
Photo by Honda
The Blue Oval’s quietest SUVs, like the 2017 Ford Flex, put a smart spin on the matter by using what are essentially audio test dummies. They have built in speakers that are designed to “hear” just like the human ear, and Ford engineers put them in Flex prototypes to evaluate such things as wind noise. The vehicle itself also benefits from thick hood insulation, an acoustic windshield, and sound absorbers in places like the shock absorber towers and rear wheel well liners. These are engineered to prevent sound from entering the Flex at locations that are prone to possible road noise intrusion. However, the Flex remains a relatively affordable choice for a 3-row vehicle, with an MSRP of $30,025.
Photo by Ford
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class follows the time-tested engineering principles that have long been hallmarks of the brand’s quietest SUVs. This means paying attention to both the absolute noise levels in the cabin and the sound frequencies that are most annoying to vehicle occupants. It also means the GLC is distinguished by sophisticated sealing systems for the doors, windows and body shell, as well as an acoustic windshield, 3-point engine mounting, and top-notch sound insulation measures for the floor. These include extra beading and reinforcements that are aimed right at reducing tire noise and vibration. As a result, the GLC has the same wind noise index as the all-new Mercedes-Benz E-Class luxury sedan.
Photo by Mercedes-Benz
The 2017 Acura RDX closes out our list of the quietest SUVs by coming with the brand’s Active Sound Control technology. It debuted for the current-generation RDX and dropped noise levels in the cabin by what Acura called “an impressive 10 dB” versus the previous version. Moreover, the RDX doesn’t have to be on for the system to function: Anytime the vehicle is running, Active Noise Control “creates a precisely timed reverse-phase audio signal” that helps to cancel out bothersome cabin sounds. A system bonus: Active Noise Control is linked to the RDX powertrain so that an aggressive V6 soundtrack comes to the fore during dynamic driving.
Photo by Acura