from the all-sizzle-no-steak dept.
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. Now Drew Harwell reports at the Washington Post that the auto industry’s dirty little secret is that 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. "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," writes Harwell. "Without them, today’s more fuel-efficient engines would sound far quieter and, automakers worry, seemingly less powerful, potentially pushing buyers away." For example Ford sound engineers and developers worked on an “Active Noise Control” system on the 2015 Mustang EcoBoost that amplifies the engine’s purr through the car speakers. Afterwards, the automaker surveyed members of Mustang fan clubs on which processed “sound concepts” they most enjoyed.
Among purists, the trickery has inspired an identity crisis and cut to the heart of American auto legend. The “aural experience” of a car, they argue, is an intangible that’s just as priceless as what’s revving under the hood. “For a car guy, it’s literally music to hear that thing rumble,” says Mike Rhynard, “It’s a mind-trick. It’s something it’s not. And no one wants to be deceived.” Other drivers ask if it really matters if the sound is fake? A driver who didn’t know the difference might enjoy the thrum and thunder of it nonetheless. Is taking the best part of an eight-cylinder rev and cloaking a better engine with it really, for car makers, so wrong? "It may be a necessary evil in the eyes of Ford," says Andrew Hard, "but it’s sad to think that an iconic muscle car like the Mustang, a car famous for its bellowing, guttural soundtrack, has to fake its engine noise in 2015. Welcome to the future."