Who doesn’t love a great-sounding car? The Mazda 787's banshee wail, the sututu of a rally car off throttle, even the sharp snap and snarl of a Coyote-powered Mustang. But not all cars are so lucky, and many of them are downright boring — or worse. Yesterday, we asked you for the worst-sounding engines, and boy did you have some opinions. Let’s check a few out.
The Iron Duke
Methinks some of you are too young to remember truly horrible sounding engines:
I give you the Iron Duke. They shake like the car has hydraulics at idle, if you can somehow get the vehicle up to highway speed your eyeballs will vibrate from their sockets, and the exhaust sounds like nearly dead wasps combined with a bucket of bolts being shaken inside your ear canal.
A VQ or GT86 engine sound like a symphony compared with this thing.
The Gumman LLV truly deserved better than the Iron Duke. As did the Fiero. Really anything it came in, honestly.
Harley v twin from the “loud pipes save lives crowd.” One continuous fart.
Did you know that Harley-Davidson once tried to patent its engine sound? It didn’t work, but it remains a distinctive feature of the bikes. The engineering reasons behind it are honestly pretty interesting, too.
The Engines You Hear Most Often
Might russell some jimmies with this, now the engines themselves might not sound the worst, but what’s commonly modified and on the road that sounds awful is likely one of these:
Worst 4 cyl: Honda B/D Series
Worst 6 cyl: Nissan VQ
Worst 8 cyl: Ford 5.0 Coyote
“The worst sounding engine is the one I dislike that I hear the most” is an unexpected, but pretty good take on the question. User mikemc127 got the VQ right too, and I’ll admit there are some pretty bad-sounding Honda exhausts out there. But the Coyote? Bad take.
This is an easy punching bag but a Trabant.
I heard “Trabant” pronounced correctly for the first time last weekend. Did you know the emphasis goes on the first syllable? Blew my mind.
I’d have to go with the Ecoboost Ford Raptors. IMO, this sound does not match the looks of the truck.
The Ecoboost Raptor certainly isn’t my favorite exhaust note, but I always thought it was a pretty good fit for what is essentially a race truck. It’s a sound I can picture tearing through the desert at impossible speeds.
Old Olds Diesels
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the 1978-1985 Oldsmobile 350 Diesel.
When people talk about diesel engines clattering, this is what they mean. It’s not a great sound, all things considered.
Questioning My Magnificent Taste
The VQ shouldn’t even be in the top 10. Every car sounds bad poorly tuned. The VQ is perfectly fine stock.
I could say my old 86 Escort had the worst, but that’s cheating. All tiny carbed 4 cylinders from the era were bad.
I’m going to pick on Mazda. I love Mazda. Have two of them in the driveway now. But the currently ubiquitous 2.5l SkyActive engine just sounds like it’s wheezing all the time. These are cars that look great, and sound like they have asthma. This was the one thing that bugged me (a wee bit) about the Mazda6 I owned. It simply didn’t sound like how it looked, and I found myself envying the comparatively sweet sound of any nearby VQ.
Fun fact: If you search YouTube for “SkyActiv 2.5l engine sound,” nearly every video is using audio to diagnose engine problems. When you have more of those than videos of hot exhausts, something’s not gone well.
What ever that clapped out shit those 16 year old squatting kids use. It sounds as bad as the trucks look. You can hear them coming a half mile away, and going 2 miles away. It’s like a Harley with 8 cylinders, and 5x as loud. I get it. Me and my friends were dumb kids too. But this generation is some next level shit. At least we used our entire lift kit, and had actual exhausts. I hate that I had to ruin my YouTube algorithm for this link, but if I have to be punished with this daily… then those of you who don’t know can at least learn about my pain.
I hate this. I hate this I hate this, I hate. This I? Hate this I hate this.
Fart Can Four Cylinders
Any 4 cylinder attached to a “Fart Can” exhaust sounds pretty bad. Never understood how someone could hear one and say to themselves, “That sounds awesome. I must drive around sounding like a wet fart just left a skid mark on my Wal-Mart seat covers.”
I’ll be honest: I can’t bring myself to hate these. Poorly tuned four cylinders with cheap exhausts were such a part of childhood during the Fast and Furious years, I’ve developed a sentimental attachment. They’re so bad, but so good.
European Four-Cylinder Diesels
I understand this is mainly a US-based audience and as such you didn’t have to put up with it but being European… it’s diesel engines. Especially the ubiquitous four cylinders. They sound pretty much like tractors and the only redeeming feature was being more or less quiet at speed.
Having said that, two honourable mentions: the old N/A 18,000rpm F1 engines (it was just a very loud noise with no changes in tone or depth or melody) and modern three cylinders (at least some of them such as the Renault 900cc turbo) which ironically sound not unlike those diesels.
The engine note here is nothing to write home about, sure, but what about that turbo whoosh? This rules.
(RX-8 owner here)
The rotary. Just a horrific ear-splitting blast of buzzing bees, accompanied by very little actual acceleration. There’s no tone or character to it, just someone taking a 1/5 scale jackhammer directly to your eardrum at 9000 IPM.
Sound is one area where there’s really no replacement for displacement. At under two liters, RX-8 rotaries just sound... bleh.
Hands down, not even a contest. Especially the one that came out with the TRD exhaust. I hear them on the track and it’s like walking past an old lady making walking farts.
Followup is 80s RX-7s. Sorry, they sound like a lawmower.
The VQ is far from the worst sounding engine. I think they sound fine, and with the right (headers) exhaust: amazing.
When I had my FR-S, I always charitably described the exhaust as agricultural. It felt nicer than just saying “clattery, quiet, and boring.”
2.4 Liters of Drone
The 2.4/CVT pairing in the old Jeep/Dodge Compatriliber trio, mainly inside as outside was just meh, the most unpleasant yo-yo to droning piece of crap to have to listen to while driving. The rpm’s were never in the power band so always hunting, unless went full throttle and then that was all noise and no acceleration, just a coarse weak unrefined engine revving. The 2.4 isn’t great with a geared transmission but at least it breaks up the annoyance.
It’s tough to make something sound good with a CVT, since they’ll hold revs perfectly flat when your foot is down. Things get real monotonous real quick.
Crucify me but I despise the sound of the GT-R. The v6 Chewbacca warble is super loud, and any tune or aftermarket exhaust only amplifies it.
The V6's from VAG, M-B, and in most Hondas sound way better, and none of those can hold a candle to an I6 or H6.
See, I always liked that warble. Nothing else really does it, it gives the car a kind of unique character. I still want to drive one.
That is an easy one:
Boy, that sure is the sound of An Car. That’s transportation, right there, if ever I’ve seen it.