Model 3 Road Noise Evaluation

Model 3 Road Noise Evaluation

Full Disclosure: I am a long-time automotive noise and vibration engineer and live in the Bay Area working at one of the many EV startups (not Tesla). But I did spend nearly 5 years at Tesla developing the NVH behavior of the Model S (and beginning the Model X), so I know well the noise behaviors of these cars. I am happy to say that I just received my own Model 3 (VIN17xxx) and naturally performed some noise benchmarking tests on it. I have access to a Model S P100D (VIN160XXX) and a Mercedes S-550. Below are results of my road noise testing. I test these cars on a moderately coarse surface at 45 MPH (to minimize wind and engine noise), at both the driver's outboard ear and right rear passenger outboard ear locations.

Driver's Ear:
Model 3 - 67 dBA
Model S - 65 dBA
MB S-550 - 61 dBA

Rear Passenger:
Model 3 - 69 dBA
Model S - 67 dBA
MB S-550 - 62 dBA

As you can see, the Model 3 performs well (in general, anything lower than 70 dBA on this road is good), and while not quite as quiet as the Model S, it nonetheless is very comfortable. Of course, the MB S-550 is the champion here and nothing I have ever tested comes close. You'll also notice that the rear seat is consistently louder than the front, but that the S-550 does a better job of balancing that. The Model 3 rear seat does sound a little "open" due to noise coming from the trunk area, but it is not objectionable.

Kudos to the Tesla NVH Team as this is very good performance for a car in this class. I will also mention that wind noise is actually better in my Model 3 than in the Model S I have access to. The door sealing system (especially near the mirror base) is much improved in the Model 3 and it makes a huge difference. Nice job!

phil | April 24, 2018

bryan.whitton | April 24, 2018 "If the sound level is noticeably lower get the kit."

Or make Tesla fix your broken seals?

vmulla - It's good to hear your wind noice was improved, that's been one of my concerns. Sounds like you still have some excess wind noise, if you're looking into the rpmtesla thing. Please let us know how it works out if you try it - I can't find the other thread you mentioned.

cascadiadesign | April 24, 2018

NV - A little off topic. What do you think of Jaguar adding artificial motor sounds to its new all-electric I-Pace?

Trying to mask noise? Trying to hang on to the nostalgia of ICE engines? Seems like a silly gimmick to me.

tri_t_to | April 24, 2018

My 2005 Acura RL comes with active noise cancellation. I wonder if Tesla can implement something like this to remove the road noise.

NVHarmony | April 24, 2018

@cascadiadesign - I wrote an editorial for a Sound and Vibration Magazine which explains my veiw on this. In short, I'm not a fan, but I see its merits in certain situations/vehicles.

NVHarmony | April 24, 2018

@tri_t_to - I think Elon tweeted something like "It's coming soon" when a fan asked about this.

janendan | April 24, 2018

@NVH...Do the quiet tires with the foam rubber inside make a valuable difference? Any suggestions for the M3 along these types, And if I accept a softer, thinner tire that restricts the commute performance to 100mph, will this allow me to select a quieter tire?

H271 | April 24, 2018

@janendan, that is a thing? Foam filled tires aside from runflat?

Frank99 | April 24, 2018
janendan | April 24, 2018

EM Tweets:
Elon Musk

Latest S and X tires have internal acoustic foam
6:25 PM - Jul 13, 2017

Tesla apparently worked with Continental to develope these(Conti-Silent), Anything like this available for the M3? Continental states ( conditionally ) up to 9db reduction. This would push me to 19”.

H271 | April 24, 2018

Some of the reviews I just read on those Continental say the improvement is negligible.

NVHarmony | April 24, 2018

The 19’s on my 3 have the ContiSilent foam. My road noise measurements show that the sharp peak in the frequency spectra that would normally be observed when there is no acoustic foam is gone. Previous testing I have done on these tires has shown pretty unequivocally that they really do work. Keep in mind that the noise reduction happens at a very specific frequency (the acoustic cavity resonance of the air cavity inside the tire), so you won’t hear overall reduction in sound, but it will seem quieter since that dominant tire cavity resonance is significantly reduced and this affects the “perception” of loudness.

vp09 | April 24, 2018

NV you have 19 inchers on your Model 3! Why did you go with 19s rather than the stock 18s? Was noise a consideration? Thank you in advance. Vern

NVHarmony | April 24, 2018

@vp09 - I chose them almost entirely based on looks. The fact that they had ContiSilents on them was a pleasant surprise once I got the car and looked closely at the sidewall. Perhaps the fact that my significant other hated the look of the aero wheels had something to do with it :)

vp09 | April 24, 2018

>>> NVHarmony | April 24, 2018; @cascadiadesign - I wrote an editorial for a Sound and Vibration Magazine which explains my veiw on this. In short, I'm not a fan, but I see its merits in certain situations/vehicles.

NV I just printed a copy, which I will study tonight. Could you not find SMALLER typeface or font for it? Haha. I like the idea of my Tesla sounding like a B-29 taking off ... :-)

NVHarmony | April 25, 2018

@vp09, haha! That’s the magazine’s typesetter who does that. That’s how it appears in print. I guess they assume that sound and vibration people also have good eyesight...

M3forMe | April 25, 2018

NVHarmony | April 24, 2018; @cascadiadesign - I wrote an editorial for a Sound and Vibration Magazine which explains my veiw on this. In short, I'm not a fan, but I see its merits in certain situations/vehicles.

Enjoy the article. I don't like the idea of inducing engine noise in an EV but understood the noise requirement for pedestrian.

msmith55 | May 23, 2018

There are after market add ons to reduce the wind noise.

Ngjl | May 30, 2018

Had the same high pitch whistling noise as @patrick.oconnell. Would start around 50 mph. Per his advice, checked the plastic piece that is around the perimeter of the windshield behind the front hood and found it wasn't flat/flush. Applied a little pressure and it snapped into place. Whistling noise is now gone. Many thanks for the good advice.

chuckie | June 28, 2018

I'm currently driving a Mercedes C300 which is the quietest car I have ever owned (quieter than my past BMW 325 and Audi A4).

Does anyone know how the Model 3 would compare to my Mercedes. If course it's louder than the MB S550 but what about the lower-end C class?

Interior noise is one of the most important factors for me and I am not sure I want to go backward on this no matter how fun the Model 3 is performance wise.

CST | June 28, 2018

Buy another car... check youtube for videos using meters while driving.

nicktrash | June 28, 2018

So, I have a C43 AMG. Even on comfort and inside the model 3 is quieter. Tire noise on the M3 is a tad higher but I think it's only because that is the only thing to HEAR especially on the highway. I'm probably going to try and drop tire pressure on the M3 to 41 just to see what it does for highway noise - but again, it is LOWER than my C43.

If you think the C300 is quite the M3 will be quieter and if you ever want to try something REALLY quieter, get an E or S class loaner sometime and drive that. It's like a concert hall.

CDutch | June 28, 2018


rob.kibler | July 8, 2018

I want to echo what Frank99 said: Thank you, NVHarmony. I love both the real live measured numbers, as well as the expert, reasoned analysis behind them.

vmulla | October 1, 2018


sjsamdrake | November 11, 2018

I did some super informal tests today with the db meter app on my phone. Certainly not calibrated nor as definitive as the OP's excellent ones.

I picked up my MR 3 yesterday, and my first impression was that it was noisier than our pickup truck. So I wanted to see.


On but stopped: 39
30mph on old residential street: 59 to 68
65mph on new freeway: 62 to 68

Ford F350 diesel pickup:

On but stopped: 52
30mph on old residential street: 58 to 65
65mph on new freeway: 59 to 66

Not at all surprised. The noise in my M3 is all tire noise, and varies a lot depending on the road surface. The truck wheels are a LONG way from the cab, so there's much less road noise. The diesel engine runs at very low rpm so it's honestly not very noisy either.

So no surprises and I'm not complaining, but my initial impression that the 3 was noisier than the 350 is plausible.

chuckie | November 11, 2018

Just got my M3 on Friday and compared it back-to-back with the 2015 Mercedes C300. I don't have measurements but the Tesla is definitely significantly louder than the C300 as well as our 2018 Acura MDX. Its all tire noise as far as I can tell. Its so loud on our rough highways in southeast Texas that it drowns out the music and voices at 70 mph.

Still love the car but the road noise is definitely a weakness.

billtphotoman | November 12, 2018

@NVHarmony - Coming late to this thread but thanks for the education. I knew minimizing noise and rattles in vehicles was very complex but learned more about this from you. To your point about some noise reduction measures adding mass to the vehicle Mazda provides a great example: They put a lot of effort into decreasing the noise levels in the CX-5 but the vehicle gained over 200 lbs in the process. I am not sure I would be willing to take the efficiency and performance hit on the model 3 for the reduction in noise a couple of hundred lbs of sound deadening material would bring. Rattles bother me far more than road noise and thankfully my model 3 is free of those so far. The real test will be as the car ages and at colder temperatures. My Volt did well rattle wise until the temperatures got below 40F or.

beki.thomson | November 19, 2018

I didn't do any official testing but have ridden in the S and the Model 3. I had a Model 3 deposit in but cancelled my spot after the road test due to the excessive road noise on the freeway. For a car costing that much, it should be better.

Patrick | November 20, 2018

I took some measurements with the DB meter app last week and posted results on a different thread. Still collecting data, will post more here later.

Patrick | November 20, 2018

In the meantime, our 3D w/19s is a very quiet ride below 50 mph or so, but definitely gets louder at Interstate speeds. Most of the noise we hear at any speed seems to be tire noise, wonder if high-end Michelin’s would be quieter as on previous cars...

October 2018 build date.

ICEMELT | December 17, 2018

The noise definitely seems to be a factor of paving surface/speed and tires. In my case I start noticing the noise difference at around 25 mph. I have 19s tires.

shawncordell | December 18, 2018

Great editorial! I agree 100%.

mabuck | December 18, 2018

I have the 18" aero wheels. Road noise at interstate speeds seems to be minimal. Wind noise definitely overtakes the road noise IMO.

doctorsmile | December 18, 2018

I agree with chuckie about highway noise at 70+ mph esp. compared to MS

rpmtesla model-3-windshield-wind-noise-reduction-kit help? Looks like it's oos?

Also spoke to a tire dealer who said MS has noise foam in tires, but not M3... If so maybe we can replace tires in future to a quieter tire?

CST | December 18, 2018

Ok, weird.
This morning, the car seemed about as quiet as the Model S loaners that we've had.
Later in the afternoon, same roads and conditions, the hollow drum sound returned. I'm wondering if it is the difference between 37psi in the cold morning vs. 40psi in the afternoon.

Or, could it be that at different times, my ears are more attuned to hearing certain frequencies?

sharfstein | December 26, 2018

So 18 inch tires would cause less rear seat noise?