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Our most popular cars have fake engine noise

More and more car manufacturers are secretly enhancing engine noise on their cars using pipes or speakers.

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A few years ago, car manufacturers came up with the fun feature of adding artificial engine noise to small cars to make them sound like a sports car to the driver. Then, Toyota added an artificial engine noise to the Prius because people felt it was dangerous and creepy for the car to be completely silent when running in electric mode. More recently however, manufacturers have taken the concept further; many cars feature artificial engine noises today, often without the owner knowing about it, and it even occurs in larger cars and trucks which shouldn’t need it.

Even in muscle cars like the Ford Mustang, or powerful pickup trucks like the Ford F-150, when you hear the deep rumble of their engines, it’s all trickery. Sometimes, the engine noise is enhanced through special pipes, and sometimes it’s digitally faked altogether. Other car manufacturers are doing it too – in BMW cars, engine noise samples of different pitches is sent through the car’s speaker system to enhance the sound of the engine. In Volkswagen, the fake noise has it’s own speaker, a hockey-puck sized thing they call the “Soundaktor”. Even Porsche is doing it: They have used noise boosting “tubes” to increase the engine noise in the cabin.

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The soundaktor, hiding under the windshield wipers of the Volkswagen Beetle. Image credit Anthony Anzalone

The reason for this development, in the words of car manufacturers, is that drivers want loud cars even though modern cars simply are quieter. Improved technology and economy has led engines to be much less noisy than they were in the past, and a loud roaring engine is, in a way, an indicator of inefficiency – symbolizing high fuel usage and environmental impact. In order to give drivers the best of both worlds, car makers are thus compensating for the lack of noise by adding it artificially.

For car enthusiasts though, it’s not always regarded as the convenient solution it’s being portrayed as. Karl Brauer, a senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book (an American car valuation and research company) says “If you’re going to do that stuff, do that stuff. Own it. Tell customers: If you want a V-8 rumble, you’ve gotta buy a V-8 that costs more, gets worse gas mileage and hurts the Earth,” Brauer said. “You’re fabricating the car’s sexiness. You’re fabricating performance elements of the car that don’t actually exist. That just feels deceptive to me.”

Source: Washington Post

David F.
A grad student in experimental physics, David is fascinated by science, space and technology. When not buried in lecture books, he enjoys movies, gaming and mountainbiking

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