Driving has always been a wholly multisensory experience: the simple pleasure of tackling a great road in a great car just wouldn’t be the same without an array of sounds, smells and other sensations.
However, a key part of that cocktail is changing, because electrification isn’t just changing how cars are powered but also how they sound. The merits of that can be argued, but the importance of noise to the motoring experience can’t. So we’ve been thinking of our favourite car noises. But you won’t find a screaming V10, rumbling V8 or mighty flat six here: we’ve left individual engines to one side to contemplate the other great noises cars that make…
Start-up in a British lightweight
It’s an easy one, this: the engine start-up sound when you’re sitting in any lightweight, open-roofed British sports car. I’m thinking Caterhams, Radicals, Ariels, Westfields and the like. The noise is the starting gun for a drive that will stir your soul and really make you feel alive. Cars like this are as immersive as they get and involve more of your senses in a drive than anything else. Just from writing this, I’m off for a trip into the classifieds… Mark Tisshaw
If I were asked to choose one specific sound from one specific car, my answer would unapologetically be the full spectrum of Lamborghini’s current 5.2-litre V10 engine, absorbed at nosebleed-inducing length by holding the throttle wide open from 2000rpm to the redline, ideally while heading through the most perfectly spherical tunnel you can find. But in general terms, it has to be the syncopated crackling of thermal contraction after a hard drive. If you can hear that, you’re probably somewhere quite peaceful – somewhere that exists in contrast to the excitement that has just unfolded. It immediately puts me in a reflective, philosophical, car-loving mood. Richard Lane
A smooth gearchange
Before you write in to complain that “every gearchange is smooth; it’s called synchromesh”, I present to you my 1950s Willys Jeep, which has a three-speed non-synchro ’box and a foot-long gear lever. Accurate it is not. It’s smooth on the way up, but going from third to second without a hideous graunching noise takes some doing. As for second to first, I just cheat by stopping and starting again. It requires double-declutching, the co-ordination of a top athlete and lots of anticipation. But when third becomes second in a seamless snick, with no gnashing of cogs, it’s one of the most satisfying noises you will hear in any car. Piers Ward
I’m a fan of the Electric Sport Sound available in the Taycan Turbo S. While other manufacturers seem fixated on giving EVs sci-fi-esque whooshes and hums, Porsche’s digital engine note is the most convincing alternative to an exhaust yet. It blends low-end rumble with higher pitches in a way that perfectly reflects the heroic acceleration. I doubt it will ever stir emotions in the same way as a flat six, but with EVs set to be our future, this at least gives me hope that audible enjoyment won’t fall by the wayside along with engines. Tom Morgan