Going fast is the easy part. But working out how their new generation of electric performance cars should sound is a big headache for automakers. Except for Dodge, that is, as the new Charger SRT EV concept and its retro-futuristic V8 soundtrack proves.
Technology and legislative requirements have conspired to make cars less vocal over the years. Catalytic converters, turbochargers, particulate filters and drive-by noise regulations have all changed the way engines sound. But there’s always been some traditional engine sound to work with, and clever carmakers have worked out ways to amplify it, either by introducing flaps that get round drive-by noise regs, or even adding microphones that pick up tailpipe noise and boost it through our cars’ audio systems.
But what do you do when the engine is replaced by an electric motor and the only sound you’ve got to work with is the same one made by your uncle Dave’s mobility scooter? Though EVs are legally required to make some noise to help alert pedestrians to their presence, manufacturers have been wary about adding artificial combustion sounds, fearful of undermining the credibility and authenticity of their EVs in enthusiasts’ eyes, and seeing an opportunity to make a clean break with the past.
Which is why BMW turned to Hans Zimmer, whose soundtracks are the backbeat of dozens of great movies, to create a bespoke electric sound for its i4 and i7 sedans. But Dodge has gone a different route and decided to tap into our love for its signature V8 sounds. It knows its traditional muscle car buyers aren’t your early-adopter types, and while plenty of them will like the idea of owning something that can smoke a Hellcat from the lights, many have reservations about switching to electric cars. Building an electric car that goes better than a V8 and sounds a bit like one too will help smooth the transition.
Related: Dodge Charger Daytona SRT Concept EV Packs ‘Banshee’ Power And Retro Styling
So the Charger Daytona SRT concept (which looks rather like a ’68 Camaro RS from the front, don’t you think?) has what Dodge calls a Fratzonic Chambered Exhaust system. That bit of technology is currently being patented and produces 126 dB of noise, equivalent to the volume of sound generated by an SRT Hellcat. The noise it makes isn’t a straight replication of a combustion V8. Instead it has a kind of sci-fi twist for what Dodge calls a “Dark Matter” profile.
Personally, I love it. It’s fun, it’s an interesting sound that suits the character of the concept, and since Dodge already draws heavily on its past with the naming and styling of its cars and powertrains, it doesn’t seem that weird that it might build an EV that sounds like an old V8, or give it switchable gear ratios to help us better connect with it, something the SRT also does. Whether a blatantly retro sound would be right on an otherwise forward-looking car might be a different matter.
What do you think of the SRT’s sound? Do you think automakers should avoid fake retro noises, or would you like to see other brands, like AMG, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche, who all have signature engine sounds, embrace Dodge’s philosophy for their future electric performance cars? Leave a comment and let us know.