With electric cars, the darn things are so quiet that artificial noises must be piped into the cabins; as we learned with the I-Pace, Jaguar’s designers even took the extreme step of hiring a Hollywood sound engineer to tune the X-Wing-Fighter-like noise that car emits.
Even internal combustion engine cars now have fake noise, as they’re so well-built and quiet that drivers accustomed to engine sounds might be turned off. “Automakers say they resort to artifice,” reports the Washington Post, “because they understand a key car-buyer paradox: Drivers want all the force and fuel savings of a newer, better engine — but the classic sound of an old gas-guzzler.”
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Thus Ford has an Active Noise Control system that magnifies engine noise through the vehicle’s speakers in the Mustang and F-150 pick-ups. BMW uses their more-honestly-named Active Sound Design. Volkswagen’s Golf R has a dedicated speaker in the cabin connected to their growl-producing Soundaktor system.
As examples of this, here’s a BMW 140i xDrive with the fake sound alternatingly on and off:
Here’s a Ford F-150 Raptor, sound on, then off:
In contrast, here are what some classic performance cars largely from the 1960s actually sound like (listen to that sweet Camaro):
And here’s a rundown of cars with fake engine noises:
These skeuomorphic engine sound generators have drawn the ire of purists who, according to The Outline, have populated “internet forums and YouTube channels…filled with instructions about how to safely remove them from new cars.”
I’ll reiterate an argument I made years ago*: Consumers should be able to downloaded custom “vroom tones,” in the manner of ringtones, and control precisely what their cars sound like. This would give rise to mini App Store economy with amateur (or professional) sound engineers creating different medleys. And if, for instance, Hanna-Barbera licensed their Jetsons engine sound, I’d totally buy it.
*– Never mind ringtones–how about vroom tones?
– An update on “vroom tones” for electric cars
– What Do You Want to Hear in a Vroom Tone?