How it Works

Ford reveals 'Whisper Strategy' for hybrid vehicles

Ford has reanalyzed its vehicle lineup to make them less noisy.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Fords are not synonymous with hybrid vehicles in the U.S. However, in Europe, where emission standards are stricter, the company is deploying more electrified vehicles, more rapidly.

Along with a focus on engine efficiency is engine noise. Because the size of the traditional internal combustion engine has shrunk with the innovation and addition of electric motors and batteries in vehicles, there is less engine noise permeating the boundaries between the passenger and the power plant.

2020 Ford Kuga More insulation in the cabin means less road noise is passed on to passengers.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Many hybrid vehicles operate with a four-cylinder engine under the hood. They are typically paired with a transmission. Some cars, like the Honda Insight, have no transmission and instead operate on a two-motor system. That transmission typically comes in three varieties: continuously variable transmission (CVT), dual-clutch transmission (DCT), or -speed transmission.

In the past, CVTs were known for being noisy and operating with what has been called a "rubber band effect". Though they've evolved to get better over time, a large reason as to why they've become more tolerable is the evolution and addition of sound-deadening technology around the cabin of the car.

You won't find details of it in a dealer brochure, but automakers are increasingly adding insulation to vehicles, front to rear and at the sides, to keep noise at bay. Ford is one such automaker, deploying what it calls its "Whisper Strategy" - a series of small noise improvements that add up to a big difference.

For its new Kuga SUV, a small model built on the same platform as the Focus and sold outside the U.S., Ford examined minute details, such as door seals, to find ways to lessen the amount of noise permeating the cabin.

2020 Ford Kuga The car was designed with a drive mode that allows it to run on just electric power.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

From there, the engineering team added perforation to the SUV's Vignale leather seat bolsters, which lessened the number of flat surfaces in the cabin allowing materials to absorb noise rather than reflect it.

Sound shields were added to the underside of the body of the vehicle, limiting road and wind noise permeation, and increasing the car's aerodynamic design.

The manufacturer shrunk the Chanels behind the car's exterior panels that traditionally hold hidden wiring to limit the airflow through the vehicle's body.

It took engineers two years to test more than 70 different tires on smooth and rough surfaces, in wet and dry conditions, and at a range of speeds to find which set best kept road noise at bay while achieving goals for grip and comfort.

When behind the wheel of the new Kuga Plug-In Hybrid model, drivers can opt for EV Now drive mode, which switches off the petrol engine and allows the vehicle to run on all-electric power. Without engine noise, the only sound coming into the cabin is from the road and wind. In controlled tests, that noise amounted to 52 decibels, the equivalent of a gentle rainfall.

Just How Much Quieter is a Hybrid Than the Cars of Yesterday? www.youtube.com

That same model also employs active noise cancellation technology. According to Ford, "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 sound wave from the B&O Sound System."

Ford isn't the only automaker employing these sound deadening techniques. Nissan has had "library-level" noise as a goal for quite some time and the peaceful cabin of the Rogue is frequently noted in journalist reviews. Rolls-Royce prides itself on extra thick, plush carpeting between occupants' feet and the floor of the car, which helps keep road noise away.

The Kuga isn't the only vehicle with these sound deadening features. The practices explored with it are common when a vehicle is redesigned. The biggest difference is that all-electric drive mode, which is only available in PHEVs and EVs.

Trending News

 
 

Custom SUVs

Ford Bronco to rule SEMA this year

The Bronco RTR features a fun livery and several off-road upgrades.

Ford

The annual Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show is an opportunity for the aftermarket and manufacturers to come together on wildly customized vehicles and to show off the latest parts and tech in the space. Now that the Ford Bronco has finally made its way to the public, it's not surprising to see several wild SEMA takes on the hottest SUV to hit the market in some time.

2021 Bronco by Tucci Hot Rods The tracks are said to improve the Bronco's abilities in deep snow and ice.Ford

2021 Bronco by Tucci Hot Rods

The new Bronco is capable and rugged on its own, but Tucci Hot Rods felt it needed more. The shop gave it that boost with a set of tracks in place of wheels, which are said to be great for deep snow and ice. This Bronco features a 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine and a seven-speed manual transmission to go with its Mattracks 88-Series quad tracks.

2021 Bronco RTR Fun-Runner by RTR Vehicles

Vaghn Gittin Jr's RTR Vehicles imagined a Bronco package that could be installed at the dealer. The result is the Fun-Runner, which features several Ford Performance and Ford Licensed Accessories parts. It's based on a 2021 two-door Bronco Badlands, and comes with an eye-catching wrap, an Ultimate Dana 44 front axle, Ultimate Dana 60 semi-float rear axle, RCV Performance CV axles, and a performance intake for its four-cylinder engine.

2021 Bronco by BDS Supensions SEMA presents an excellent opportunity for shops to show off their skill and imagination.Ford

2021 Bronco by BDS Supensions

BDS is a subsidiary of Fox Shocks and has worked with Ford for quite some time. The results of that long-running relationship are on display with the BDS Bronco, which features Fox 2.5 PES coilovers, BDS rear adjustable control arms and track bar, swaybar disconnect, and 37-inch BFGoodrich KM3 tires. The Bronco's bumpers have been replaced with CrawlTek Revolution units that feature a recessed winch mount, recovery hooks and more.

Trending News

 
 

The AWD ID.4 model is on its way.

Volkswagen

There was a lot of buzz when VW introduced its 2021 ID.4 all-electric crossover with rear-wheel drive earlier this year, but there's plenty more now that the Wolfsburg automaker has added an all-wheel-drive version. The 2021 VW ID.4 AWD gets another motor onboard this compact SUV that brings all-wheel-drive traction. The SUV appeals to buyers in the snow belt states but will also tickle the fancy of performance enthusiasts. Now with motors on both the front and rear axle, there is nearly fifty percent more power, with impressive gains to horsepower and torque as well as the added battery-electric boost to that scoots the 5-seater from 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds (the RWD model took 7.5 seconds to achieve the same).

2021 VW ID.4 AWD An extra motor brings AWD to the ID.4.Volkswagen

On sale now, the 2021 VW ID.4 AWD Pro starts at $44,870, before federal or other incentives; this is a $3,680 premium over the rear-drive model. The AWD Pro S starts at $49,370; both models are eligible for $7,500 income-tax credits. It's worth noting that current delivery estimates for the AWD Pro are running into 2022. The AWD Pro trim has been rated by the EPA at 249 miles (only 11 miles less than the Pro RWD) while the AWD Pro S has been validated at 240 miles (as compared to 250 miles). The AWD Pro has been rated at 102 MPGe for city driving/90 highway/97 combined; the Pro S gets 93/98/88. Both are rated at 2,700 towing. Competitors include the Ford Mustang Mach-E and Tesla Model Y.

While the AWD and RWD look the same outside, one exterior badge designates the newest variant with an "AWD" badge, plus it gets 0.6 inches of added ground clearance, slightly bigger brakes and sway bars. From the front, the electric SUV has smoothed jelly-bean styling that is highlighted by standard LED headlights and standard black roof rails that sit atop the body-colored roof. From the rear, it wears hatchback-like looks.

2021 VW ID.4 AWD The ID.4's cabin is tidy and upscale, no matter the model.Volkswagen

We drove both the Pro and Pro S versions, with different premium interior trims and found the Gradient Package ($1500) visually upscale and appealing. It brings a black roof with silver rails, along with 20-inch wheels and the availability of King's Red Metallic paint, as a $395 option. The Pro is well-equipped with attractive trim elements and an impressive collection of communication and infotainment technologies. Pro S comes with a glass roof with an electrically-retractable shade and front seats with leatherette upholstery and 12-way power adjustments (including four-way lumbar support and a massage system).

We drove the new ID.4 AWD over a course of 160 miles along a variety of roads to sample its handling and ergonomics. The interior has a clean and open feel with good visibility. Controls and gauges are well-placed and the seatbelts are height-adjustable, while a configurable console holds different drink sizes and has removable cupholders. A futuristic LED "Light" strip with 10 different ambient lighting selections extends across the dashboard and pulses with directional signals, incoming phone calls, navigation prompts and other in-cabin inputs (optional is 30-color lighting selection on the Pro S). Driving is also a bit futuristic with no stop/start button; the vehicle senses the approaching key and can start climate control, unfold side mirrors, unlock doors and illuminate door handles at night, among a number of other high-tech features. There is 30.3 cubic feet of stowage behind the rear seats and up to 64.2 cubic feet with the second row folded. Under the floor storage holds the charging cable and small items. Pro S has an adjustable trunk floor that can be raised and lowered and a ski passthrough.

Pushing the brake pedal triggers the ID.4 to begin motoring, with the option of a "D" mode for typical driving or "B" for a more regenerative driving experience. Travel Assist brings semi-autonomous driving. Notable is the fun and responsive torque-on-tap, well-balanced direct steering and a suspension system that allows the small compact to maneuver well through traffic and along twisty roadways, as well as an impressive turning radius. The vehicle dynamics control system is integrated with the stability control system and an electronic differential to seamlessly engage the front axle, when needed. Volkswagen has added a different asynchronous motor to the front with a permanent-magnetic synchronous motor at the back for a combined 295 hp. and 339 lb.-ft. of torque.

2021 VW ID.4 AWD The ID.4 AWD will start shipping in early 2022.Volkswagen

Carried over are 82-kWh battery packs and the 5 to 80 percent fast-charging time of 38 minutes, when using 125kW fast-charging. VW says it can add 62 miles of range in 10 minutes; home charging on a Level 2 charger is projected to take approximately 7.5 hours for a full charge.

Of note: VW includes three years of complimentary charging up to 125 kW, with any ID.4 purchase or lease; VW Group's Electrify America charging network has over 650 stations and more than 2,700 fast chargers.

Trending News