Recently, I wrote a story about a 1966 Cadillac DeVille that had undergone a conversion from being 429 V8-powered to using triple electric motors. Reader reactions were mixed: One commenter called the car “neutered,” while another praised the project. Others seemed more amused than anything else.
Not long after writing the story, I came across an advertisement for Borla Exhaust which showed a Ford Mustang Mach-E cruising with a gnarly V8 sound to it. Of course, this seemed out of place, so I had to dig a little deeper. There have, after all, been people who have swapped gas engines into electric cars like Rich Rebuilds in his Chevrolet LS V8-powered 2015 Tesla Model S at the 2021 SEMA show in Las Vegas. But the Borla advertisement did not feature a motor-swapped car. It was selling “fake noise.”
The notion of a “piped in” or electronic exhaust note is nothing new. Manufacturers have been using this technology for years to amplify the aural sensation that goes along with driving a performance car. One example of this was the Kia Stinger (now discontinued) which had settings for “Active” and “Enhanced” engine sound.
The difference now is, people are now making electric cars sound like internal combustion cars. Is it blasphemy or is it brilliance? I’ll be curious to hear your take on it.
Here is the video for your viewing (and listening) pleasure.
Electric cars need to make some sound, there is no doubt about it. Federal regulations specify that electric cars are required to produce sounds ranging from 43 to 64 decibels when the vehicle is moving at a speed slower than 20 kilometers per hour. It makes sense – if you have ever been spooked while walking through a parking lot by having an electric car whiz past you, it is easy to see the need for sound.
Borla has taken the idea to a completely new level. For $1,606, there is an “Active Performance Sound System” available for the 2021 through 2023 Ford Mustang Mach-E. Included in the package are selectable sound levels, the needed speakers and hardware, and access to a Borla smartphone app to control it all. The website says more about how the system was developed:
“Sound for Borla’s Active Performance Sound system comes from professional recordings of actual Borla-equipped internal combustion engine vehicles. Multiple microphones capture all characteristics of ICE audio – including idle, ramps to redline, cruising, throttle lifts, ‘burbles & pops’ and more. Using real-time data from the EV’s internal computer, the Borla system generates a hyper-realistic ICE soundtrack that perfectly matches the EV motor status and other vehicle dynamics.”
I think it is a pretty neat innovation, and of course, it’s fully optional and adaptive. Maybe some days you don’t want to wake up the family, so you take a silent drive away from the house. Other days, you are in the mood for a spirited romp and program car to make obscene noises. Without a doubt, this tool will get the attention of people like me who don’t expect an electric car to make V8 noises.
It just shows you that even when advancing EV technology, many of us still embrace the sound and sensation of a good old fashioned high-horsepower gas-burning engine. And I thank Borla for recognizing that. Let us know your feedback on this polarizing topic in the comment section!