When the Mercedes EQS electric sedan hits the street sometime later this year, drivers will be able to choose between three “soundscapes”—digitally produced noises pumped out of the speakers meant to fill the void created by the absence of an internal combustion engine. At launch, drivers can choose between Silver Waves, Vivid Flux, or Roaring Pulse, none of which directly mimic the sound of an internal combustion engine.
Interestingly, however, Mercedes’ sound team actually did consider giving the EQS simulated vroom-vroom sounds at one point in development but decided against it for several quite understandable reasons. When we asked Benz sound design engineer Dr. Thomas Küppers whether he and his team ever considered including, say, the sound of the company’s old 6.2-liter AMG V8 as an EQS soundscape, he replied, “We discussed the topic of ‘artificial combustion sound’ intense and often: the implementation of an iconic engine sound like the AMG V8 into our EV family, is no easy task.”
“Our customers’ expectations linked to AMG and the unique AMG sound are high. You might know from computer games, that imitating an engine sound is a complex thing, and within the crowd not a single game has met the expectations of (re)producing sounds.”
I gotta agree with him here. Car audio from games like Forza and Gran Turismo has come a long way but still sound a world apart from the real thing.
“Also the driving dynamics from an electric vehicle differ too much from an combustion engine: you miss the characteristic changes in the gearbox,” Küppers continued. “And we learned within our car clinics: if you want to have that unique AMG experience, you turn your head towards Affalterbach. Customers, who buy an electric vehicle, are keen on this new ‘user experience’ and search for acoustic differentiation.”
Another pair of fair points. CVTs get a lot of flack for simulating the gears of a traditional automatic transmission and an EV with fake shifting noises would undoubtedly fall into the same category. And, sure, dweebs like you and I who spend Friday nights browsing Craigslist for old Miatas might find an EV with the sound of an AMG V8 amusing. But to crib an analogy made by Küppers himself during a press presentation, to the people actually ponying up the cash to buy cars like the EQS, it’d be a bit like a new smartphone coming with a keyboard that made fake typewriter noises every time you used it.
And how obnoxiously dorky would that be?
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