Which car is quiet, fast, and reliable?
August 19, 2010 6:30 AM   Subscribe

Which car is quiet, fast, and reliable?

I'm looking for a very smooth, quiet car that isolates me from road and wind noise. I would also like to have good power for getting up to freeway speed quickly.

So these are my main priorities: quiet, fast, and reliable.

I'm looking at used cars, like 2006 to 2008 models.

My budget is $30,000, though of course I'd rather spend less.

I tried the BMW 328i, which was too noisy. I guess that one is intended more as a sports car. I also tried a Lexus RX 350 SUV. It was better, but not great.

Any recommendations?
posted by eeby to Travel & Transportation (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Buicks are ridiculously quiet & smooth ride. The Lacrosse (I have a 2005 model, before the facelift) is *very* nice. Get the bigger engine and you've got the speed & power. You could get a used 2008 just coming out of lease for 15-18k I bet.
posted by ish__ at 6:34 AM on August 19, 2010

For your criteria I have been very happy with my Prius. The battery gives the gas engine a boost when you need highway-style acceleration.
posted by markmillard at 6:36 AM on August 19, 2010

I'd go with a Buick or Lincoln. You could get a Lincoln MKZ for about $18 to 20k in your year range.
posted by sanka at 6:36 AM on August 19, 2010

You might want to look into Consumer Reports for this research. I used them almost exclusively to do my car research, and I am very happy with the result, including the rejected options I gleaned from their reviews.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:39 AM on August 19, 2010

To clarify, you don't care about engine noise, you just want a car that quiets road noise?
posted by InsanePenguin at 6:51 AM on August 19, 2010

Just my $.10 worth - most modern cars tend to be quiet and comfortable. Unless it's stupendously heavy, anything with an engine size of more than 2 liters is going to have decent enough poke. My car is 10 years old and yet road noise is negligible. Low profile wheels exacerbate bumps and so forth on the road. Diesels are typically noiser than petro cars.

But - but - choice of tyre makes a key difference too when it comes to road noise.

In short: if you get a modern sedan/saloon with an engine size above 2 liters, that isn't fitted with low profile tyres you stand a good chance of getting a car that fits your bill.

Ride quality, on the other hand, is quite variable. Here you're looking for a personal compromise between handling and ride quality. Some cars have both, of course.

A very underrated car is the Mazda6, for example - both the existing and the previous version. If you don't much car for car image, it's a great buy. Lexus models are famed for being quiet. But in both cases, car nuts occasionally complain about the sharpness of the handling. Most of the big German models - Audi, Volkswagen, Mercedes and BMW have good sound proofing. Toyotas are well-built across the ranges and typically quiet, but few are particularly go-faster.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:06 AM on August 19, 2010

Cadillac CTS or STS. Those assholes are fast.
posted by broadway bill at 7:22 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Consumer Reports does rate cars for cabin noise, reliability, and speed (among other things). I'd definitely recommend checking them out. It may cost a little money to get to their full ratings, but I found it useful when buying a car a few months ago.
posted by statolith at 7:49 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was going to recommend a Prius, because I thought you meant that the car itself was quiet (not road noise). My 2008 Prius does have more road noise than other cars I've driven, but a lot of this depends on the tires and the quality of the road I'm driving on (usually I just turn up the stereo anyway). The car itself is very very quiet.

How fast do you want to go? The Prius is governed at ~108 mph. I find that it accelerates fine (god knows I am always passing people in the Bay Area -- slowest drivers ever) but if you want to drive like it's a Porsche, it ain't gonna happen. Driving like a regular person with normal to hard acceleration I get 44 mpg. You can get 48-50 mpg if you drive like a grandma and piss people off.

You can't get much more reliable than a Prius, though. I'm pretty sure it's been rated the highest in reliability and customer satisfaction for at least the last several years.
posted by buckaroo_benzai at 8:28 AM on August 19, 2010

My wides Audi A3 might fit your bill. She's got it without the sport suspension and it's smooth, zippy and pretty damn quiet.

Might be a bit underpowed with a 4 cylinder bu I think the tranny makes up for it. I'd give one a spin.
posted by bitdamaged at 9:07 AM on August 19, 2010

Nthing a Mazda. I have a Mazda3, which has a sporty suspension and is apt to take a lot of road bumps, but the Mazda6 is tuned much more softly. Both are rather light cars and have a 2.3 liter engine and a fast-accelerating gearbox.
posted by TeslaNick at 9:23 AM on August 19, 2010

Might be a bit underpowed with a 4 cylinder

Are you kidding? VW/Audi's 2.0L Turbo is stupidly fast, considering that it mostly goes into smaller cars. Good gas mileage too.

I'm not sure where I'd rate the A3/A4 in terms of cabin noise, but they're very comfortable for long trips.

$30k will easily get you a 2-3 year old certified-used A4. Unless things have changed recently, the CPO warranty is very lucrative, and it's an absolutely fantastic car.

Oh, and because it's an Audi, you'll probably want to sell it the day the warranty runs out.
posted by schmod at 9:42 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Have you driven an Acura?

I am very partial to the brand - the same reliability as Honda plus a very quiet ride. Almsot all Acuras have some punch in the gas pedal department.

I would look for RL's and TL's in your geographical area.

(My previous car was an Acura. My current car is a Buick. My next car will be an Acura.)
posted by cinemafiend at 10:01 AM on August 19, 2010

In addition to the Audi (some A3's have 3.2L V6s), look at the Infiniti G35 (2- and 4-door avail) and VW Passat (wagon and sedan). Honda Accord V6s are OK, too.
posted by rhizome at 10:01 AM on August 19, 2010

I echo cinemafiend's recommendation. I worked at an Acura dealership and found the newer TL to be one of the most isolating cars I've ever driven. They're pretty quick, too.
posted by tmt at 10:07 AM on August 19, 2010

This morning I rode in a Huyndai Genesis.

I know, I know, a Huyndai. But, it was the quietest car I've ever been in, it is a V-6, and they've got that 100,000 mile warranty now. I learned to drive on a buick roadmaster; my parents and inlaws all drive caddilacs; i've ridden in many a BMW. Holy crap. that is a super nice, super quiet, beautiful, well appointed, quick car.

(It is, apparently, however, rear real drive. So, that might take it out of the running?)
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:08 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding Buicks, seconding choosing good tires, and I'll add that you can enhance any car by using sound-deadening materials like dynamat under the carpeting. Car stereo folk use it to cut down on background noise when they're installing a system.
posted by Wild_Eep at 10:53 AM on August 19, 2010

Acura TL. It's the greatest contemporary car on the market. It is reliable and fun to drive. It will also make you breakfast.
posted by WhiteWhale at 11:39 AM on August 19, 2010

Well if by fast you mean "get up to highway speeds quickly" then I can say I've never had problems with my Honda Accord 4cyl. Everyone's tolerance for noise is different but I think a lot of the variability depends on the type of tires the car has and making sure they are always properly inflated.
posted by mmascolino at 11:48 AM on August 19, 2010

Toyota Avalon. I test drove 3 last month- 2001 XLS @ 216k miles, 2000 XL @ 106k miles, and a 2008 XLS @ 40k. All 3 were very quiet with little road, wind, and engine noise. The v6 engines offered, especially the newer, torquier 3.5 liter in the newest models have enough power to get up to freeway speeds. The 2008 xls was loaded and going for 20k at a dealership. Reliability should be great.

A friend of mine bought a 2006 BMW 745i last year @ 90k miles IIRC for $15 and praises it after several road trips. Allegedly, at 145 there is but a slight whistling from the sunroof. For $30k you could get a very nice 7 series under warranty.
posted by Giggilituffin at 7:51 PM on August 19, 2010

If you think a BMW is too loud inside, you probably have higher standards for quietness than $30k will satisfy. However:

Look at Mercedes and Lexus cars. Also, Volvos can be pretty quiet as well. SUVs are always going to have more wind noise than cars because they are less aerodynamic.
posted by twblalock at 8:42 PM on August 19, 2010

Um, wow, up there "rear real" = "rear Wheel". I have no idea what happened there.
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:21 PM on August 20, 2010

i know this is kind of late, just saw it.
I vote for the Acura TSX 2-door coupe, or something in general from Acura. very reliable, no major issues, and fast, except for leather seats. if you can get cloth seats, i'd do that. the leather are very hard and not good for long trips.
posted by foxhat10 at 10:07 AM on September 23, 2010

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