Built on lies: The rise of fake engine noise

23 Jan

Stomp on the gas in a new Ford
Mustang or F-150 and you’ll hear a
meaty, throaty rumble–the same style
of roar that Americans have
associated with auto power and
performance for decades.

It’s a sham. The engine growl in some
of America’s best-selling cars
and trucks is actually a finely tuned bit
of lip-syncing, boosted
through special pipes or digitally faked
altogether. And it’s
driving car enthusiasts insane.

Fake engine noise has become one of
the auto industry’s dirty little
secrets, with automakers from BMW to
Volkswagen turning to a
sound-boosting bag of tricks. Without
them, today’s more
fuel-efficient engines would sound far
quieter and, automakers
worry, seemingly less powerful,
potentially pushing buyers away.

Softer-sounding engines are actually a
positive symbol of just how
far engines and gas economy have
progressed. But automakers say they
resort to artifice 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.

Karl
Brauer, a senior analyst with
Kelley Blue Book, says automakers
should stop the lies and get real
with drivers.

“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.”

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