A lot of new cars fake engine noise through speakers. They are quite silent otherwise.
Stomp on the gas in a new Ford Mustang or F-150, and you'll hear a meaty, throaty rumble, the same style roar that Americans have associated with auto power and performance for decades.
In some of America's best-selling cars and trucks, the engine growl is 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 a positive symbol of just how far engines and the 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.
"Enhanced" engine songs have become the signature of eerily quiet electrics like the Toyota Prius. But the fakery is now increasingly finding its way into even beefy trucks and muscle cars, long revered for their iconic growl.
For the 2015 Mustang EcoBoost, Ford sound engineers and developers worked on an "Active Noise Control" system that amplifies the engine's purr through the car speakers. Afterward, the automaker surveyed members of Mustang fan clubs on which processed "sound concepts" they most enjoyed.
Ford said in a statement the vintage V8 engine boom "has long been considered the mating call of Mustang" but added that the newly processed pony-car sound is "athletic and youthful," "a more refined growl" with "a low-frequency sense of powerfulness."