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The Sound and the Fury

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Early this morning, I was perusing an article published yesterday on TopGear.com about the new ragtop version of the Mercedes AMG GT R. If you’re not familiar with the GT R, it’s the revved up version of the already-bespoke AMG GT, but this time with 557hp from the 4.0L bi-turbo V8, and some additional body modifications, such as an extended front spoiler and an oversized rear wing, to help all of that power stick to the road. The GT R is a true mid-engine monster, and its engine and exhaust notes announce its presence with gusto.

I remember reading last year about the GT R crushing the Nurburgring and outpacing even the Porsche GT3 RS. That is quite a feat on its own, but when I revisited some of the comparison videos today, I noticed just how much more aggressive the GT R sounds when doing it. In a 2017 Top Gear comparison video between the Mercedes, the Porsche, and a BMW M4 GTS, it is impossible to deny the symphonic register of the GT R and just how much more powerful and refined it sounds as compared to the competition.

And it’s no wonder that the AMG sounds so potent. Even the Porsche and Bimmer have gut-punch auditory design, and it is because these manufacturers do just that - design those sounds. In the same way that all car makers employ acoustics experts to test and refine the cabin noise of a vehicle, most often with the goal of minimizing ride noise, those same sound engineers work to amplify and tune the engine and exhaust notes on performance models. In fact, these elements are almost deceptive in most modern luxury vehicles. There are often electronically produced simulations, augmentations, or filters for in-cabin engine and exhaust noise to help evoke a certain pathos for the driver. This is why the sound that you hear from a revving engine when outside of a car is so much different than the sound you get inside the car. With economy and mid-range brands, the difference is often just an insulated or muted version of the exterior sound, but in luxury and performance vehicles, those same noises are modified and refined to present drivers and passengers with an emotional response that is evocative of their impression of the vehicle.

We are currently staring down the barrel of a mandated all-electric future at some point in the next few decades, especially considering the emphasis that governments all over the world are placing on combatting global warming and greenhouse gasses. It will be interesting to see how our current perceptions of performance are changed when the classic roar of an engine and throaty exhaust simply fart and fall to the silent but deadly electric motors that are destined to become the new standard. For now at least, I’ll be watching more Top Gear videos and stopping by my local Cars and Coffee meetups to get my fix of those sweet, sweet songs.

- Trey Fennell



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