COLUMBUS, Ind. -- Andrew Pontius, Faurecia’s chief exhaust engineer, sat in the front seat of a BMW 328i sedan. With his finger on an iPad touchscreen and one foot on the accelerator pedal, he showed me how exhaust sounds will be generated in the future.
Pontius revved the Beemer’s 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine. With a touch of the iPad screen, the engine emitted the sensual moan of a V-6 Maserati.
With another touch, I heard the throaty roar of a BMW M3 V-8. Next, the V-8 muscle car growl of a 2014 Ford Mustang 5.0-liter V-8.
With a final touch, the engine quieted to a gentle thrum, especially useful for freeway cruising.
The next day, I told an automotive purist friend about Faurecia’s technology and got an unexpectedly visceral reaction.
“I would NEVER buy a car with that,” he sniffed.
The sound of a car’s exhaust is its sonic signature, especially for sporty cars. People have been tinkering with exhausts forever. In high school, I remember hot rodders using glass packs to put vroom in their mufflers.
But there’s something about outright digitally manufactured sound that crosses a line in the sand for those who like their tailpipes to sound pure and natural.
My friend’s reaction shows why carmakers face a tricky dilemma employing such technology.