Dear Tom and Ray:
We bought a new Camry, but the road noise seems excessive when on certain freeway surfaces. How do expensive cars dampen road noises? Extra insulation throughout? Quieter tires? Is any of that stuff available to be installed after purchase for those of us who can't afford a Mercedes?
RAY: Yes, all of those things affect how noisy a car is. Quieter cars use more sound insulation throughout, quieter glass, better bushings and mounts, and quieter tires.
TOM: Quieter cars often have more mass, too. Mass absorbs sound and vibration. And the Camrys of recent years definitely are lighter and less substantial than the older ones -- those of a decade or more ago.
RAY: How much of this stuff can you add after you buy the car? Very little. There really are only two things you can do.
TOM: One is look for quieter tires. New, low- and mid-priced cars often come with really cheap tires. And if you go to www.tirerack.com and enter the details for your Camry, you'll see an option called Tire Decision Guide. If you set your top priorities as "Quiet and Ride Comfort," you'll get a list of tires that rate better in those qualities -- along with consumer reviews.
RAY: Consumer Reports also rates tires. And if you go to the website (membership required), you can look for tires that it has rated "excellent" for noise.
TOM: New tires might not be a "miracle" cure for your Camry, or it might not be worth the cost to you to ditch the four perfectly serviceable tires you have, but that's a variable that's most within your control. And tires -- especially if you currently have noisy, low-profile tires -- can make a meaningful difference in noise level.
RAY: The other variable within your control is "masking." Or, as it's otherwise known, turning up the sound system! Try some Maroon 5, Winson.