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Mirror, mirror on the wall, what's the quietest ride of all?

Seeking a quieter ride, Ford reduces wind noise in the Escape by using an elliptical acoustic mirror to measure noise.

Ford's eliptical acoustic mirror made the all-new Escape the quietest Escape yet. (01/19/2012)

Ford engineers looking for ways to create a quieter cabin in the new Escape have turned to an elliptical acoustic mirror for results.

According to Ford, this is a new approach to reduce wind noise and deliver a quieter interior in a sport utility vehicle. The technology has been used by European luxury vehicle car makers, but is considered a breakthrough among U.S. manufacturers.

The mirror, which resembles a satellite dish with a microphone, measures noises on the surface of the vehicle and in the airflow. "The mirror identifies 'hot spots' where noise penetrates the interior of the vehicle, allowing drivers to listen to music or conversation inside the car instead of external noises," the company said in a press release.

"We previously didn't have this tool available. Essentially we were able to optimize the shape earlier. In noise and vibration, the basic idea is you have noise sources outside the vehicle and you have the path," said engineer Peter Kleesattel in the release. "The path could be through the glass, door or insulation. Now we're able to optimize the shape early on, reduce the exterior source and create a quieter interior."

With the use of this technology, the Escape now sports a new shape designed to be optimally quite. The tuning work on the A-pillar, for example, helps ensure better noise performance in crosswind situations.

Wind noise performance has been optimized through more than 160 hours of engineering. In a typical 8-hour block, more than 20 configurations can be tested, including glass, mirror sealing and door sealing, Ford said.

"Using the elliptical acoustic mirror helped the team pinpoint the source of the noise," said Ford's Bill Gulker. "Previous technologies required more of a trial-and-error approach to finding the issue."

The science behind acoustic mirrors dates back almost 100 years. Acoustic mirrors were a precursor to radar, intended to detect airplanes. Ford