With a plug-in electric car, you experience a quarter of the interior noise levels of those experienced by your grandparents.

Ford took some time off to look back into history and compare several of its cars, from 1966 to 2020, to see how much progress has been made in terms of making cars quieter.

A few decades ago, drivers and passengers had to shout to make themselves heard. Today, modern cars - especially plug-ins - are pleasantly quiet (basically almost silent in all-electric mode).

The comparison at a speed of 50 km/h (30 mph) indicates that the Ford Kuga PHEV (Ford Escape PHEV in the U.S.) is rated at 69 dB (peak internal noise). A lot less than the old ICE models (10 dB difference usually is perceived as twice as loud).

Vehicle

Max decibels dB(A)

1966 Ford Anglia

89 (89.4)

1970 Ford Cortina

81 (80.9)

1977 Ford Granada

83 (82.5)

1982 Ford Cortina

79 (78.5)

2000 Ford Mondeo

77 (77.3)

2020 Ford Kuga Plug-In Hybrid

69 (69.3)

Ford notes that Kuga PHEV occupants "experience interior noise levels that are just one quarter of those experienced by their grandparents in a 1966 Ford Anglia" (20 dB difference).

In all-electric mode, the measured interior road noise level, in controlled tests, was just 52 dB(A) – "equivalent to gentle rainfall".

Ford Kuga PHEV - quiet
Ford Kuga PHEV - quiet

Ford explains that its “Whisper Strategy” is based on multiple small noise improvements around the vehicle. In the case of Kuga, Ford says:

"For the new Kuga SUV, Ford examined noise‑generating elements from the suspension to the door seals to help find ways to optimise interior refinement.

Adding perforations to Kuga Vignale leather seat bolsters reduced the total area of flat surfaces inside the cabin, helping absorb rather than reflect noise.

Aerodynamically-tuned sound shields are added underneath the body of the vehicle that help limit road and wind noise entering from outside.

Ford engineers spent two years testing more than 70 different tyres over surfaces from smooth Tarmac to rough concrete and cobbles, in wet and dry conditions and at a range of speeds to find the exact specification that kept road noise to a minimum while still delivering high levels of comfort and grip.

And channels behind the exterior panels that allow hidden wiring and components to pass from one area to another are smaller and narrower to limit airflow inside the body."

Interestingly, the top of the line trim Vignale is equipped with Active Noise Cancellation system:

"The system works just like popular noise-cancelling headphones – detecting unwanted low-frequency cabin sounds through strategically-placed microphones and counteracting them with an opposing soundwave from the B&O Sound System."

As a side note, we just found out that the Kuga PHEV all-electric range is now officially up to 56 km (35 miles) under the WLTP test cycle, compared to 50 km (31 miles) reported initially, a few months ago. That's a nice surprise.

Gallery: Ford Kuga PHEV

Ford Escape/Kuga PHEV specs:

  • up to 56 km (35 miles) of all-electric range
  • 14.4 kWh battery pack
  • front-wheel-drive
  • system output of 225 PS (2.5-liter petrol engine)
  • full recharge in 3.5 hours
  • anticipated 1.2 l/100 km fuel efficiency and 29 g/km CO2 emissions
  • towing capacity up to 2,250 kg depending on powertrain configuration
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Ford is on a Mission to Make Cars Quieter with a New ‘Whisper Strategy’

Where once drivers had to shout to make themselves heard above certain speeds, modern day cars are comparative oases of calm where conversations and music are clearly audible, even at low volumes.

Ford’s “Whisper Strategy” delivers lots of small noise improvements around the vehicle that add up to a big difference, helping make journeys more comfortable and less tiring for drivers and passengers.

Whisper strategy

For the new Kuga SUV, Ford examined noise‑generating elements from the suspension to the door seals to help find ways to optimise interior refinement.

Adding perforations to Kuga Vignale leather seat bolsters reduced the total area of flat surfaces inside the cabin, helping absorb rather than reflect noise.

Aerodynamically-tuned sound shields are added underneath the body of the vehicle that help limit road and wind noise entering from outside.

Ford engineers spent two years testing more than 70 different tyres over surfaces from smooth Tarmac to rough concrete and cobbles, in wet and dry conditions and at a range of speeds to find the exact specification that kept road noise to a minimum while still delivering high levels of comfort and grip.

And channels behind the exterior panels that allow hidden wiring and components to pass from one area to another are smaller and narrower to limit airflow inside the body.

“Our ‘whisper strategy’ is designed to make journeys as quiet as they can possibly be – from absorbing sound through perforated seats to testing that involves listening carefully to the different sound patterns created by dozens of different tyres.” Glen Goold, Ford Kuga chief programme engineer

Electric refinement

The ability to drive without a petrol or diesel engine enables quieter journeys. The Kuga Plug-In Hybrid combines a petrol engine, electric motor and generator, and 14.4 kWh lithium-ion battery for zero-emission pure-electric driving capability.

Using the EV Now selectable drive mode switches off the petrol engine and powers the vehicle using battery and electric motor alone, achieving interior road noise levels of just 52 dB(A) in controlled tests – equivalent to gentle rainfall.

The Kuga Plug-In Hybrid Vignale also features Active Noise Cancellation technology. The system works just like popular noise-cancelling headphones – detecting unwanted low-frequency cabin sounds through strategically-placed microphones and counteracting them with an opposing soundwave from the B&O Sound System.

A generational divide

A test* carried out by Ford showed that occupants in the new Ford Kuga Plug-In Hybrid experience interior noise levels that are just one quarter of those experienced by their grandparents in a 1966 Ford Anglia.

Most people perceive one sound to be twice as loud as another one when approximately 10 decibels higher.

Peak internal noise at approximately 50 km/h (30 mph) measured in 3rd gear (for manual models):

Vehicle

Max decibels dB(A)

1966 Ford Anglia

89 (89.4)

1970 Ford Cortina

81 (80.9)

1977 Ford Granada

83 (82.5)

1982 Ford Cortina

79 (78.5)

2000 Ford Mondeo

77 (77.3)

2020 Ford Kuga Plug-In Hybrid

69 (69.3)

We had a clear vision for the Kuga from the very beginning – an approachable and sleek exterior design and an interior that provides a sanctuary space. The result is an SUV that connects with your life in a positive way.” Amko Leenarts, director, Design

*Ford conducted an unofficial test to compare the maximum noise levels experienced in differing generations of vehicles from inside the cabin. The results may not reflect those of official tests in controlled environments or laboratory conditions using calibrated machinery.