Make some noise: Maserati contemplates piping engine sounds through car stereos

Maserati-Kubang-RoadWhen purchasing a car, there are practical considerations, like reliability and fuel economy, and then there are subjective ones. To gearheads, the deep rumble of a Maserati V8 is like a symphony, and the company relies on those sounds to sell cars to people’s hearts (and ears) instead of their heads. That is why Maserati will start piping engine noises through its car’s stereos in the near future.

Maserati is looking at sound manipulation because of upcoming Kubang SUV, which will be sold with the company’s first diesel engine. Maserati vice-president of product development Roberto Corradi told What Car? that the company is “looking at ways to use the Kubang’s stereo system to provide drivers with a sportier engine note.”

How this will be accomplished is unclear, but will not be the first time that a carmaker used a stereo to enhance an engine’s sound. BMW plays recordings of the M5’s 4.4-liter V8 (synced with the throttle) through the stereo, because the car’s cabin is too well-insulated from outside noises for people to hear the engine otherwise.

BMW started with a nice sound and amplified it. That will not be the case with the Kubang’s diesel. Even the smoothest-running diesels tend to clatter, not roar, and at high rpm their mechanical noises are often masked by air rushing through the turbochargers. The disappointing noise has been a major complaint from fans against the diesel racecars fielded by Audi and Peugeot at Le Mans.

Simply making the Kubang’s diesel engine louder may not help, but what else can Maserati do? Like musical instruments, certain types of engines produce certain types of sounds, so there are limits to how much tuning Maserati can do without making the digitally-enhanced diesel sound fake. Including an iPod full of V8 noises might seem a little cheap.

Maserati is expanding into new market segments, and management may just have to accept that its new vehicles will be different, and could alter the character of the brand. Maserati needs to the Kubang diesel to compete with the Porsche Cayenne Diesel, and to serve as an entry-level model that more people can afford. Bringing in more customers is also the goal of the company’s next sedan: it will be smaller than the current Quattroporte, and will feature gasoline and diesel V6 power.

The Cayenne makes some Porsche fans violently ill, but it also doubled the brand’s sales in its first few years. For some, a Maserati without a melodious V8 is not a Maserati, but that doesn’t mean the Kubang will be a sales flop.