As fuel economy and emissions requirements get stricter, automakers increasingly turn to engine downsizing and turbocharging. There's just one problem: many turbo engines don't sound that great. This means some car companies choose to fake the engine noise, and it looks like the 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost is the latest victim of this chicanery.
That's right: the Mustang, the original pony car, an American performance icon, has resorted to pumping augmented engine noise in through the speakers, much like modern turbocharged BMWs do. This makes me kind of sad.
This revelation was made by Road & Track's Jason Cammisa during his recent drive of the car, in which he pulled a fuse on the 2.3-liter turbocharged Mustang that caused both the stereo and the engine to go quiet.
So the folks at Autoblog today asked Ford what the deal was, and here's what they uncovered:
Autoblog spoke with Ford engineer Shawn Carney who confirmed that only the turbocharged four-cylinder Mustang comes with this system, called Active Noise Control.
In fact, Carney is partially responsible for tuning and shaping the EcoBoost's note in the Mustang, and he said the setup serves two distinct functions. First, it cancels out some of the coarse noise as part of the 'Stang's refinement strategy.
It also allows Ford to enhance things by "layering in certain sound characteristics on top of what's already there," he said. To determine the right mix, the engine processor monitors torque output and changes things accordingly. "The intent is to be a natural experience," said Carney.
Active Noise Control, they call it. Granted, it's not like the car is pumping in an entirely fabricated sound, but at the same time it's inauthentic, isn't it? Can you enjoy the engine sound if you know it's not real, and being piped in through the stereo?
The UK's CAR magazine had a mention of this in an interview with Mustang Chief Engineer Dave Perciak last year. I guess this didn't get much attention at the time. Here's the section in question:
With the Ecoboost engine we have both active noise cancellation, and we also amplify the existing engine sound order. We don't create an artificial sound, we don't pluck one off the shelf, we bring in the real sound, process it, and play it through the car's speakers. Today's V6 sounds fantastic, and although the Ecoboost won't sound like a V8, it won't sound like it doesn't belong in a Mustang either.
Ford isn't the only manufacturer to do this, and it isn't done entirely because most turbo engines sound like crap — it's also to keep down noise, vibration and harshness. Today's cars are loaded down with insulation for a reason.
Previous Mustangs have had some sound augmentation as well, but that was done through a resonator pipe between the engine and firewall designed to let in more noise. BMWs go even further than this, playing a recording of an engine sound over the speakers.
The last time I drove a BMW M235i, I loved the way it sounded, but I couldn't allow myself to enjoy it because deep down I knew it wasn't real. Maybe that doesn't matter to everyone, but it matters to me. Noise is an important part of a driving experience, and a car that doesn't sound great isn't worth owning.
It doesn't seem like Active Noise Control is equipped on V6 and V8 cars, which is good. But Autoblog closes with one more disappointing tidbit: this system is integrated into the Mustang EcoBoost's head unit, so upgrading your stereo means no more engine sound.