A home sweet home on the road
June 11, 2010 11:42 PM   Subscribe

Help me identify my next car based on maximal 'sound proofing', 'ride comfort', and 'window tinting'.

It's about time for a new car, and I'm all over the place in deciding what I want. Don't have a particular make or model in mind. Easy enough to search for top luxury/SUV/AWD/Hybrid, etc. Not easy to locate the most tinted, soundproofed, and comfortable.

-maximal amount of factory installed tinting on windows
-maximal amount of soundproofing
-maximal overall ride comfort

- SUV (roomier, multi-purpose, safer, raised road visibility)
- AWD (snow, mountains)
- hybrid (cool, counteract SUV-impact)
- advanced options

Budget up to $70k, lower the better.
posted by hedonic.muse to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total)
A quick search on Edmunds turns up a good handful of options with your features and price point.

Re: tint, it seems to me like getting it tinted yourself at a qualified shop would not only save you time in your search (this isn't published data that I've seen?) but also allow you to achieve the maximum legal tint level for your state--rather than the factory level, which is likely to be on the conservative side.
posted by ista at 11:57 PM on June 11, 2010

Lexus RX 450h AWD?
posted by sharkfu at 12:13 AM on June 12, 2010

You think SUVs are safer, and that's fine, but have you taken into account SUV rollover?
posted by dance at 12:21 AM on June 12, 2010

There are only so many luxury SUVs, why don't you just go test drive them?

If you want the most comfort, you probably either want a Benz or a Lexus.
posted by wongcorgi at 12:26 AM on June 12, 2010

ista: I don't see specific features like tint and noise level as a search criteria on Edmunds.

I'm specifying 'factory installed tinting', and not an 'aftermarket installation', specifically because of the small legal amount allowed for aftermarket installation.

sharkfu: The first car I looked into was Lexus RX 450h Awd, but -- has the brake failure/recall issue been resolved?

dance: By safe, I mean the relative safety of being in a bigger car. Suggestions for alternatives fitting characteristics 'roomier, multi-purpose, safer, raised road visibility'?
posted by hedonic.muse at 12:47 AM on June 12, 2010

I'm specifically looking for cars fitting items on my "must" list. I can compromise any and all items on my "preferred" list.
posted by hedonic.muse at 12:53 AM on June 12, 2010

The Toyota Highlander is comfortable and quiet. Mileage is terrible, 13 or so city, 18 highway, but you can offset that to some degree with the hybrid model. I believe it has an AWD option as well. The middle seats fold flat, so you get an enormous cargo area. (The lower-end RAV4 is quite noisy, so you probably wouldn't like it.)

If you're willing to sacrifice more of your 'preferred' list, the Toyota Avalon is a remarkably good car. It's very large, with a huge trunk, but it doesn't look large from the outside. And short of a Lexus, you can't get much quieter... Avalons in many ways are baby Lexii. The primary focus of the car is to insulate you from the road, wafting you along in your own little bubble, and it does an amazing job. I love the keyless entry and pushbutton start options, they're really handy. And laser cruise (auto speed-match on the car ahead) is sure nice for those long highway drives.

Mileage is surprisingly good for such a big and powerful car. Stop-and-go traffic averages about 22, which isn't too bad for the sheer amount of weight it's pulling around, but when it can stretch that big engine out and settle into a nice lope at 75 or so, mileage goes up to 34 or 35.

Window tinting I don't know anything about. I think that's usually a dealer-installed option. In the desert and in the South, people are really into the tinting, but in other areas of the country, it's much less important, so it tends to get handled by local dealer networks.

Those are two I'd put on your short list. They're quite similar, both plush, soft-riding, and focused on insulating you from the road. The Highlander is much larger and offers a lot more cargo room, but gets much poorer mileage, and gets more wind and road noise. The Avalon is noticeably quieter, more luxurious, and goes much further on a gallon, but carries much less. However, for a sedan, it's pretty amazing how much you can jam in there.

Avalons get used in rental fleets a lot, so there's a constant supply of used ones, driving down resale prices. New ones are $35K or so, but a 2-year old model with the same features and 30K miles will often be under $25K, if you shop carefully. I bought mine in the middle of the Toyota scare, and that drove the price even further down. (I was also considering a Highlander, but I got a good price on a loaded Avalon and took that instead.)

Another one to look at is the Ford Fusion Hybrid. It's very high-tech, with lots of cool features, has shown superb reliability, and has the reputation of being eerily quiet. When I was car-shopping early this year, I tried to go find one to test drive, but nobody ever had one in stock. Mileage is amazing, actually better in stop and go than on the freeway. They claim 44mpg, and Consumer Reports seemed to think it was pretty close to that.

The biggest compromise in the Fusion is the lack of space. The trunk is small, and the seats don't fold down, because the battery pack is behind them. There's no passthrough even for skis. The passenger room is fine, but the trunk is very small.

I really wanted to look at one. I was really, really interested. But I just couldn't find one. What really caught my eye was the stellar reliability ratings; all the Fusions are doing well, and the Hybrid is doing better than almost anything on the road. It's loaded with tech-style goodies, like blind-spot warnings and a super-advanced stereo head unit. There's even a 110V AC outlet available in one of the option packs, which I thought would be super cool for using a laptop in the car.

If I could have found one, I think I probably would have bought it.
posted by Malor at 1:40 AM on June 12, 2010

Sorry, I misremembered the mileage number... it's 34mpg overall for the Fusion Hybrid, not 44.
posted by Malor at 1:45 AM on June 12, 2010

By safe, I mean the relative safety of being in a bigger car.

Yeah, this is really wrong. Bigger != Safer. At all. Just saying. Focus on actual safety ratings on cars you like rather than narrowing your search to SUVs for "safety" reasons.

Good luck with your search!
posted by InsanePenguin at 4:39 AM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

hedonic.muse: "By safe, I mean the relative safety of being in a bigger car."

By buying a bigger car, you're sacrificing manoeuvrability for mass. This tradeoff is not guaranteed to be a net positive: a smaller car can can (all other things being equal) change lanes quicker, brake harder & accelerate faster than any SUV. Having a better chance of avoiding an accident at all may well outweigh any safety benefits that accrue from being in a larger car, even assuming the the extra size of the vehicle doesn't make it unsafe in other ways (rollover risk being the main problem with many SUVs).

Personally, I'd go looking at the smaller vehicles in the Lexus range. Quietness & comfort are the Lexus' defining characteristics.
posted by pharm at 5:37 AM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I wrote the same thing in another thread last week, but I wouldn't trade my Volvo XC70 Wagon for any reasonable alternative.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:01 AM on June 12, 2010

Consumer Reports rates each of the vehicles they test on noise levels and the other characteristics you value.
posted by reddot at 6:49 AM on June 12, 2010

Aftermarket tint can be significantly darker than factory tint--laws about window tint vary from state to state, and so most manufacturers, as stated above, provide fairly conservative options.

Besides aftermarket tinting, there is also such a thing as aftermarket soundproofing--Dynamat is probably the biggest commercial brand. If you don't want to do this kind of work yourself, a good car-stereo shop will be able to handle it.
posted by box at 8:24 AM on June 12, 2010

Also, if ride comfort is the priority, you'll do better with a sedan than with an SUV.
posted by box at 8:26 AM on June 12, 2010

Yeah, this is really wrong. Bigger != Safer. At all. Just saying.

Not necessarily true. In a given accident a smaller car will fare worse in an accident with a larger car than if it were to have an accident with a similar sized car. In that instance, your bigger car is indeed safer than the smaller one. Assuming the largest car is relatively new (ie of contemporary crash legislation, rather than a massive old dinosaur, which is the case in this question) then the crumple zones on a car are designed in proportion to the mass the car itself has and are of the same standard as said smaller car. So it will be essentially stiffer (gross over simplification) than the smaller car - basically, the smaller car has to crumple more than the larger car to absorb the same impact. The more crumple, the more chance of your being interfacing with something you don't want to.

In addition, the smaller car will hit lower on the larger car and the most structure available is at the lowest point (bumper level) of the chassis. So if you hit the larger car at bumper level, and this is above bumper level on the smaller car, bigger car wins. Also, there is a chance the larger car will be forced up in the impact and ride over the smaller car and so crumple less.

Of course, this is absolutely no guarantee that your larger car will be having an accident with a smaller car, but the larger your car, the greater your chances of that being the case. So if you have the biggest car, you are essentially 'safer' (to some non-linear degree) than the other cars. However, there are trucks, semi's, buses walls, trees and various other solid objects that you can merrily crash into and then all bets are off, you lose the size advantage and the accident ratings of the particular vehicle come into play.

So yes, there is something in the 'my bigger car is safer' argument. In addition, there is very much something of merit in the primary safety element - the, as mentioned, significantly lessened ability of an SUV to brake, swerve or otherwise react to avoid an accident. This disadvantage can be reduced by driving standards, though. If your SUV doesn't drive like a sports car (which it doesn't) then don't drive it like one. Drive more cautiously, plan further ahead and give yourself more space, and that issue is greatly lessened; not removed, but lessened.

So larger vehicles = safer is not a myth. It is basic physics as long as both cars are comparable in terms of design philosophy. This is why the famous footage of the 1950's huge car against the compact new car lets the new car win - the advance of crash design has outstripped the pure mass argument. But within the same design boundaries, the physics prevails.
posted by Brockles at 8:44 AM on June 12, 2010

People driving or riding in a sport utility vehicle in 2003 were nearly 11 percent more likely to die in an accident than people in cars

How about a Mercedes E-Class Estate 2010 (Video)
posted by Lanark at 12:40 PM on June 12, 2010

Coming late to the party but my BMW X3 and my husband's BMW X5 are both like riding in a vault. Very soundproof and very cushy ride, especially if you turn off the sport suspension (which takes a push of a button). Moreover, his X5 Diesel gets 32 mpg on the highway so it is very fuel efficient for such a monster of a vehicle. Lastly, anyone who is worried about rollover in these two vehicles doesn't know what the hell they are talking about-we both went to BMW driver safety school and I couldn't roll that mother even when I tried-the Dynamic Stability Control is top notch. They water polished concrete and tell you to have at-with the DSC on, I couldn't even skid, much less roll it. I flew around corners at 60 mph and my car didn't even blink at me. It's really a nice ride and would fit your price range.
posted by supercapitalist at 7:38 PM on June 12, 2010

I personally am rather fond of "yank tanks". To me, a Lincoln Town Car hits all those items you like in terms of sound levels, ride, and safety. And, a black one with dark tint just looks smoooooth. I know people in bigger cities think of them as livery cars, but they get relatively decent mileage, have huge trunks, and are rated high for safety. Oh, and they run for a very long time.
posted by midwestguy at 11:56 AM on June 28, 2010

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