The Ten Most Distinctive Sounding CarsS

Car designers struggle to make their cars look different from their competition. Jalopnik readers know ten cars that anyone can recognize even before they come into view.

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To most people who don't know cars, there are only two kinds of exhaust noises: quiet and too loud. You have things like a Lexus or a Honda Accord, which are quiet, and that's good. Then you have things like a Nissan Sentra with an exhaust so big you could lose your cat in there, and that's bad. This is how most people understand car noises.

For the rest of us car enthusiasts, there's a whole world of exhaust sound. It's a game you can play to see if you can recognize a car with your eyes closed. There's very little as satisfying as picking out a big block muscle car before it even turns onto your block.

I could argue that car noises are under threat today. High-performance luxury cars are playing to a more comfort-oriented audience, and the new BMW M5 is so quiet, the engineers make up engine noise that pipes in through the speakers. The current 'car of the future,' the Tesla Model S is electric. All you hear on the street is tire noise.

But there are still plenty of fantastic exhausts to pick out. Can you ID all of these cars without looking?

Photo Credit: jorrie2/iPE Innotech Performance Exhaust

10.) VQ Nissans and Infinitis

I turn my head every time I hear the distinctive sound of one of these Nissan V6s, even if it's just a housewife in Infiniti FX.

Suggested By: Viperfan1

9.) Straight-Five Audis

What's cool about straight fives is that when one drives by, you expect to hear a very normal four-cylinder sound, only there's an extra little bassy hum added in, as well. At full throttle you can hear it in base-spec VWs, but old Audi Quattro rally cars are the most recognizable.

Suggested By: ejp

8.) Rotary Mazdas

Given that these are just about the only non-piston engine cars on the road, it's no surprise these things sound different at all speeds. There's an industrial BRAP-BRAP at walking pace and an unmistakable wail at the top end.

Suggested By: Shane Elliot

7.) Two-Stroke Saabs

I suppose you could confuse an old Saab with an old motorcycle, but they're just about the only two-stroke cars you ever see anymore. Unless you're a Trabant collector living in Chemnitz or something. The rally cars typify the sound best, but here's how they sound at idle.

Suggested By: Reborn Pyrrhic

6.) Straight-Six BMWs

Straight-sixes have become a kind of obsolete engine configuration, so you don't see them in everything from base Chevrolet Chevelles to top-spec Mercedes S-Class Coupes like you did back in the day. That means that just about the only time you hear them anymore is in a BMW, and their wail is something you can hear a block or two away.

Suggested By: emanresu

5.) Flat-Plane V8 Ferraris

Nobody matches the sound of midengine V8 Ferraris like the 355, 360, 430, or 458. They're like two Integra fours playing over each other, with an added level of musicality. There's no mistaking their BAARROOWWWWW bark at startup.

Suggested By: DSC Off and jbh

4.) VR6 VWs

"Like Chewbacca on crack," says reader Bruce Bianchi. When your engine sounds like evil Wookiees, that's not a bad thing.

Suggested By: MKIV_GTI_Turbo

3.) V8 Mustangs

You still see hot rod 5.0s around and there are plenty of mod motor 4.6s tooling around as well, so the particular Mustang V8 noise is something that's easy to recognize. Current 5.0s are best described as 'barfing into a tin garbage can' and that's something that you don't mix up with a Camaro.

Suggested By: Monsterajr

2.) Boxer Subarus

While the BRZ is a little muted on stock exhaust, tuned Imprezas are unmistakable. You know an STI or a WRX is going to warble by long before it actually passes you.

Suggested By: Crossdrilled

1.) Air-Cooled VWs

I'm not saying that the hollow, clattery roar of clapped-out slugbugs and hippie vans is the best sounding engine note out there, but they sound like nothing else on the road. With a stinger exhaust they at least look cool.

Suggested By: ranwhenparked