Hooniverse Asks- How Important to you is Exhaust Note?


One of the defining differences between men and women is in how funny each gender finds farts. The humor doesn’t lie in the olfactory  aspect of the emanation, but in its aural properties. Decibel level, duration, and octave are all factors by which flatulence is judged by men, while women tend to be tone deaf to the whole thing. As you know however, she who smelt it, dealt it.

Auto exhausts are much like our own, and there is debate over what exactly makes up a proper exhaust note. Some people like the hive of flaming bees that seems to be the auditory output of many a fartcan equipped ricer, while others appreciate the deep rumble distilled from a fat V8 through a set of restriction-free glass packs. Hybrid drivers – like the ladies – typically would rather never be reminded that their cars even have exhausts!

What about you, is the sound your car makes as important as what it does while making it? I started thinking about this in the middle of a pedal to the floor acceleration run in a top of the line Tesla Model S. That was a surreal experience as the car is ghostly silent while still plastering eyelids to foreheads as it leaps forward. That car has amazing, super car like acceleration, but lacks the aural accompaniment one usually associates with such effort. It was weird and it got me thinking about the overall experience we may expect of our cars. What do you think, is a car’s exhaust note important to you?  

Image source: Auto Motor Und Sport

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78 responses to “Hooniverse Asks- How Important to you is Exhaust Note?”

  1. Maymar Avatar

    It's important inasmuch as I couldn't deal with an unpleasant one – my fallback example is always the Nissan VQ V6, and how hard-pressed I'd be to ever buy something using it (although, my apathy towards most Nissans in general doesn't help).
    That said, although I've unfortunately been unable to drive a Model S yet, I've tried out a few electrics – as much as they're lacking exhaust note, they still give off a bit of that electric motor whine, which makes for its own surreal experience. The Nissan Leaf (one of the Nissans I'll admit to loving), despite being what amounts to a compact hatchback, with its torque and sci-fi engine noise, feels much more special than a conventional economy car.

    1. Number_Six Avatar

      Seconded on the VQ wheeze/rattle/grind. Prevents purchase of some pretty good vehicles.

    2. CABEZAGRANDE Avatar

      Am I the only person who really likes the way VQs sound? They're one of my favorite V6 exhaust notes.

      1. Preludacris Avatar

        Quite possibly.

      2. Irishzombieman☆ Avatar

        While I don't remember the sound, I must say that driving an Altima with the 3.5l VQ was the most surprised I've ever been by a car. Handled very well and accelerated like it had rocket boosters. It could've sounded like a coffee can full of marbles and I'd still've loved it.

      3. Josh_Howard Avatar

        Nope… I absolutely LOVE the way the VQ sounds. It's like cranking the VG motor to 11 in all it's glory. You are not alone.

  2. muthalovin Avatar

    How am I supposed to know when vtec kicks in,
    <img src="http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4036/4486714821_6cc3cef423_z.jpg"&gt;

    1. Van_Sarockin Avatar

      It'd be like tossing a hot dog down a drainpipe…

      1. Rover1 Avatar

        Yeah, I've had girlfriends like that..wait..what?

  3. Sjalabais Avatar

    Yes, sound matters. Of the cars I've owned, I always loved the heavy, mobile-crane-like whine of oversized machinery that the Volvo B230FX produces when cold. I can also distinguish other Volvo motors from their peers, though I have to admit that the B20 in my 145 was just…loud. My current 2.0 Nissan is neither meat nor fish. What really distinguishes itself in my world, is the earliest generation of Volvo I5 to be found in the 850. If these engines represented a man's voice, I'd say they were Santa Claus.

    1. racer139 Avatar

      Agreed. The I5 volvo engines in naturally asperated form where a treat too the ears. The LPT in the glt was alright with the right exhaust fitted but the HPT 2.3 in the T5 version was rather muted sounding unless fitted with a system with no restriction at all. I have a chance at buying an xc90 v8 (2009) that is in need of an engine. Im woundering what the expense of such wn engine would be as the V8 xc is non too common round these parts.

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        Wow, what happened to the original engine? I think the XC90 V8 is rare everywhere, but where do you live? Maybe sourcing the Noble-version would be a treat? Haha, an expensive one…
        I liked the I5 in its stock form, too. Removing all obstacles often make cars too loud for me. The attraction with that engine is the subtle grumbling that can rise to an angry howl with the throttle open – doesn't need to be loud to impress.

    2. ˏ♂ˊ mzs zsm msz esq Avatar
      ˏ♂ˊ mzs zsm msz esq

      I always find myself agreeing with you. About the B20, I never thought the exhaust mattered much, until I heard one with dual two-into-one exhaust with glasspaks. Now it's what I want for my B18. Also early 850s breathed really well and you could hear it, was nice.

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        I know! After a picture of a celebratory:
        <img src="http://av.ru/i/photo/bg/beer/erdinger-weissbier-_bg.jpg"&gt;
        …I can show you this one: '61 PV with Amazon B20. Really cool car, fast and nice. Not the most beautiful, with 340 chairs and not original at all – the price is accordingly very good. I called the guy yesterday, on the other side of the country, unfortunately. Had another big argument with my wife about the "what for" of an enjoyable car. Jeez. There's another guy who is interested and who will look at the PV tomorrow. If he declines, I'll probably send my brother-in-law to inspect it and get the ball rolling. Or not. Happy wife is important, too, and I don't even have a proper daily driver.
        <img src="http://finncdn.no/mmo/2013/8/vertical-3/08/6/432/333/66_203544841_xl.jpg&quot; width="600">

        1. ˏ♂ˊ mzs zsm msz esq Avatar
          ˏ♂ˊ mzs zsm msz esq

          This is difficult about the wife, I don't want to get you in trouble, but here is my advice. Let your wife have first whatever is her best car for her, then go for one yourself – but with her input and make the expectations of that car very poor. So for my case, my wife was always a bit of an airhead, in the sense that she liked VW type I. So I showed her some, phenomenally rusty ones and the prices. That made her expectations realistic then and sympathetic for a not so crispy Volvo. Good luck!

          1. Sjalabais Avatar

            Thanks for the advice! Step one – the Camry – is successfully implemented. From then on, all strategy crawled into foster position and hid under a table… 😉 I know she will accept, if not applause, the purchase of a toy car. Just not without some more wind first.

  4. Vavon Avatar

    A good exhaust sound is VERY important!
    [youtube u3axHRafJrc http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3axHRafJrc youtube]

    1. BAMacPherson Avatar

      I starting play this and kept scrolling. It was just idling so I cranked up the volume to get the sub working that lubby idle.
      Then everything exploded. Brilliant.

  5. GTXcellent Avatar

    I've gotten too old to care about exhaust. I've always driven trucks, and back when I was a punk-assed teenager, every time I got a different derelict, new to me truck, the first thing I had to do was put on loud dual exhaust and aftermarket wheels. Today, I really like how quiet my current truck is. The only rig in the fleet with loud exhaust is the GTX and I've been contemplating quieting that down too – leaving just a noticeable rumble when really getting on it. Now get off my lawn.

  6. Number_Six Avatar

    I drive a stock RX-8 and ride an inline-4 propelled Kawi, so…no? (By the way, is there an inline 4 bike that doesn't sound like shit? I am thinking not).

    1. Kogashiwa Avatar

      Seriously? A 600 super sport at 14000 rpm is one of my favourite sounds on earth.

      1. Number_Six Avatar

        My ZZR1200 has an awesome intake honk that's like a 4bbl carb on a big V8 but to me nearly all inline 4 bikes sound like teh nasteh unless it's a 1970s UJM in the 900-1000cc range with a good pipe.
        I nearly bought an Aprilia RSV Mille recently just so I owned something that didn't sound like a vacuum cleaner.

    2. Joshua Woodall Avatar
      Joshua Woodall

      Ducati, sir.

      1. Number_Six Avatar

        I've ridden loads of Ducatis and I get the attraction but I'm not a fan.

        1. muthalovin Avatar

          Since when did Ducati make an inline 4?
          I kinda like the crossplane R1 exhaust note, but, yeah, I agree that I4s dont sound that great.

          1. Number_Six Avatar

            Nobody here said Ducati makes an inline 4. Please cancel my subscription to your newspaper forthwith.
            The R1 sounds pretty cool, that is true.

  7. JayP2112 Avatar

    New 2011 Mustang 305hp V6 Sportpackage vs used 2005 Mustang GT 300hp v8.
    Pondered that all of about 1 second.

  8. Alff Avatar

    Depends on the character of the car. Family minivan? No. 120 hp Alfa? It's all about the exhaust note.

    1. Preludacris Avatar

      You're right! But I really like the sound of older Toyota Siennas as compared to, say, a Dodge Caravan. They have a bit more character.

      1. frankthecat Avatar

        Hey, I resent that. The 2.4L I4 Chrysler minivans actually sound pretty good when you delete the resonator. The V6's are uninspiring though.

        1. Preludacris Avatar

          It's just that I can often recognize a Toyota without looking. A distinctive sound, more engine than exhaust. I haven't learned what the Chryslers sounds like yet…

          1. frankthecat Avatar

            Half of a V8. I have an awful cameraphone video of me doing a 0-60 pull in my van, but you can barely hear the engine (just wind noise.)

        2. bhtooefr Avatar

          Sounds even better when you put a giant turbo on, and use a 2.4 out of an SRT-4 instead of the stock minivan one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=78InPT4iqlw

      2. Alff Avatar

        Hey. I have two Caravans at the moment, one of them has a lot of character … courtesy of a tree, the mailbox, the Alfa, road salt …

        1. Preludacris Avatar

          Clearly not my greatest example choice of all time. But – they are pretty common, and I have no idea what they sound like.

    2. bhtooefr Avatar

      A friend has a Eurovan VR6. When the exhaust was broken, it sounded pretty amazing. But his wife made him fix it…


    Exhaust note is extremely important to me. I either want it to sound good or I don't want to hear it at all. And I've passed on otherwise great vehicles because of the exhaust note. An example of this is anything powered by the Ford 3.5L Ecoboost. Wonderful engine, tons of power, great economy, blah blah. But it sounds terrible, even with an aftermarket exhaust. It sounds so… industrial. I could never live with it every day, so I will never buy anything with that engine.

  10. Joshua Woodall Avatar
    Joshua Woodall

    Exhaust matter. The sound of the engine make the car. Give it character. Give it soul. It's all about soul. Porsche has one o the best exhaust notes, calm and peaceful low rpm, then a ragging manic screaming at the high Rpms. It's hot. Lol. Exhaust matter. Sport tuned, electronic controlled. As long as it sounds good.

  11. TurboBrick Avatar

    Depends on the car. Generally the exhaust note doesn't give a lot of pluses but it can give a lot of minuses. Nissan VQ was already mentioned as being bad, I'd say the GM 3800 is worse. The old Slant Six has an interesting soundtrack, all the way from the reduction gear starter and tappet noises to the thrum thrum thrum at idle.

    1. Stu_Rock Avatar

      Heresy! The Buick 3.8 is one of the best-sounding V6s.
      Of course, I find the VQ to be palatable as well.

  12. buzzboy7 Avatar

    My first car had 5 different exhausts in 2 years. I finally got it right a few months before selling the car. A mildly cammed 1641 VW with 4-1 headers and a pickup style straight pipe. Loud, good sound, not too much sound in the cabin, good performance. Mmmm
    My second car sounded so good I couldn't even mess with it. 289 V8 with long tube headers, non crossed over pipes and flowmaster 40s. Great burble at the 400rpm idle. Raucous when really getting it but relatively tame when the the vac-secondaries weren't kicked in.
    I care a lot about how a car sounds. Intake noise is also important. An austin mini with a big SU sitting right on the other side of the firewall is oh so nice as well.
    Bad sounding cars are a major turnoff to me as well. For example, I've heard maybe one car/truck with a ford modular that sounded good.

  13. Bryce Womeldurf Avatar

    In what I drive, it's mostly only important if I'm upgrading the exhaust. I had a GReddy Ti-C catback on the Lancer I used to own and every time I turned the key I smiled. But as far as factory it's hard to care much, because you can hardly hear most cars. My Miata sounds decently good with the factory exhaust, so unless I destroy a catalytic converter, it's likely to stay factory. But generally speaking, I appreciate a good sounding exhaust. If I hear a good one, I'll definitely turn my head. Who am I kidding, if I hear one, period, I'll turn my head.

  14. Preludacris Avatar

    Quite important.
    I currently have a very loud "un-muffler" as I call it, on my car, and it just sucks away your will to live on the highway. It also makes me tenderfoot around the neighborhood. But it's pure bliss when you rev it up and let it sing on a windy back road.
    Even so, I'm going back to stock exhaust soon because my ears are just tired of the volume in most situations.

    1. acarr260 Avatar

      My last truck ('00 Silverado 2500) had dual straight pipes from the cat back with no mufflers with the 6.0 L V8. It sounded great on the back roads, as you said. It was very loud in town or around the office, but the sound of it during a 4-hour interstate drive was too much. It set off car alarms (not on purpose) with regularity. By the time I got rid of it, I was happy not to modify the exhaust on my Bonnie GXP in order to save the remainder of my hearing.

  15. dukeisduke Avatar

    Not too important on my current vehicles. The worst sound I ever heard was my high school track coach's '76 Ford Granada with the 250 inline six, and the whirring/rushing wind noise on acceleration – sound effects by Hoover! I would put air-cooled 911s near the top – those things sound amazing; along with old Ferraris and Alfas, and newer Mustang GTs.

  16. Van_Sarockin Avatar

    It didn't factor into my decision to buy the car. But sound of the engine and exhaust accounts for about one-fifth of my enjoyment of the car now. It sounds best just before major parts of the exhaust system are about to fall off.

  17. rennsport964 Avatar

    Important. Some people like the stock sounds of a Subie. I can't stand it. To my ear, the unequal length exhaust headers make them sound like a flatulent Beetle.
    I believe Porsche intentionally tuned the original Boxster and 996 exhaust notes such that it sounded like the air-cooled engines it replaced. Didn't want to scare away the Faithful, as it were. At least that's how I remember it. Could be spouting absolute bovine excrement, though.

  18. Kogashiwa Avatar

    Pretty important to me. A good straight six sound is music. V6s usually sound, somehow, confused. Partly why I got my IS300 over the G35 I was also considering.
    Lately in a Porsche mood though. Just listen to this thing when it hits 9000rpm, sends chills down the spine.
    [youtube -uPoNdSHNfc http://youtube.com/watch?v=-uPoNdSHNfc youtube]

  19. impalakid Avatar

    On my family vehicle (Toyota Sienna), no. But I usually have some sort of beater work car, and I always put some kind of pipe or muffler on it so I can hear it. I don't want it too loud, but louder than stock. And I'm on the downhill slide to 60 years old.
    I had a '93 Toyota 2WD truck that I think had 10-12 different exhaust systems on, trying to find that "sound". I never did find it. It was either kind of airy or raspberry-sounding, or like a chainsaw on steriods. I think the engine design in general was part of the problem.

    1. acarr260 Avatar

      I had an '89 Toyota pickup in high school. It was a 22R with a 4-speed. It was lowered, and I wanted it to sound a bit meaner, so I took it to the local redneck exhaust shop. After assuring them that it was not driven on the street (wink, wink, nudge, nudge), they removed the cat and put duals on the truck with a Cherry Bomb glass pack muffler. The key was that the Cherry Bombs were put on backward so that the baffling did nothing, but it still looked like it had a set of mufflers underneath. It sounded great at low RPM, but it didn't sound so impressive toward the upper limit.

    2. Sjalabais Avatar

      Just a question about the Sienna from across the pond: Is that what we used to call the Previa? Are you happy with the car?

      1. impalakid Avatar

        Yes, it's the Camry-based front whee drive minivan. It has nothing in common with the Previa that was sold in the US (Toyota pickup based), other than both being a minivan, I suppose. We bought ours used with 80K miles on it, and have owned it for 4 years. I like it because it has not given us one bit of trouble. My wife likes it because it's comfortable and she sits up higher in it. It's not particularly "fun" to drive, but it is an efficient people mover, with an amazing amount of acceleration for a van. My wife drives it 95% of the time. She's happy, so I'm happy 🙂

        1. dukeisduke Avatar

          The thing I miss most about the Previas we owned, versus the Sienna, was their Japanese-ness. Don't get me wrong, I like the Sienna (built in Princeton, Indiana), but the quality of the interior materials of the Previas (built in Toyota City, Japan) were generally higher (lots of vinyl-wrapped, padded Masonite-type panels, versus hard plastics), which is probably why they were so expensive when new.

          1. Sjalabais Avatar

            Interesting. We don't get either a renewed Previa (abandoned in 2006) or the Sienna here. I had a look at a '04 Avensis today, at the Toyota dealer. The saleswoman said Previa's are not popular for them anymore, because they are at least seven years old, and because they have a lot of trouble with their engines – warranty nuts. My Nissan expires in april, and I might end up adding an Avensis to the reasonable dd fleet, in addition to the '02 Camry we recently purchased. But Toyotas are very expensive used here, because of the glory attached to their name.

  20. muthalovin Avatar

    My '97 F150 didn't have a tac, yet was a 5-speed. The exhaust mattered until I finally got a tac.

    1. MVEilenstein Avatar

      Yep, ditto my 92. It's second nature.

    2. Kogashiwa Avatar

      Same story with my Dakota, except it turned out the tach didn't matter either.

  21. owl Avatar

    My favourites are Subaru WRX STi, AMG C63, Maserati Gran Sport and the Citroen aircooled flat twin and flat four oh and maybe the 2.4 V8 aircooled Tatra. Don't care what the car looks like as long as it sounds good

    1. JayP2112 Avatar

      The Mercedes V8 may have the perfect exhaust note.

      1. JayP2112 Avatar

        [youtube SpClRYdGIWQ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpClRYdGIWQ youtube]

        1. Alff Avatar

          Drove one from NYC to KC straight through a couple years back. What a beast!

          1. JayP2112 Avatar

            If my Mustang sounded as good, I'd pee every time I start the car.

          2. Sjalabais Avatar

            A new trend of integrated urea bag holders might add an interesting twist to American's obsession with cupholders in cars.

          3. Alff Avatar

            AMG Yellowtec Diesel?

    2. ptschett Avatar

      I find the WRX STI to be completely obnoxious, to be honest… but one of my neighbors @ my apartment building has one. I give him several positive points for having a high performance car that can do almost anything, and minus several million for his apparent belief that it must be idled for half an hour at oh-dark-thirty before going anywhere, regardless of temperature [ignoring for the moment that extended idling is rarely a good idea even on the coldest days.] I get really sick of hearing my bedroom windows rattle around the 5-minute mark.

  22. Irishzombieman☆ Avatar

    A good exhaust note is like leather seats: icing on the cake. It's nice, but not terribly important.
    What really matters is the cake.

  23. COEJOE Avatar

    The burbble of my 1960 Austin Healey Bugeye is music to my ears.

  24. Al Czervik Avatar
    Al Czervik

    I bought a 1988 Alfa Romeo Milano Verde with the 3.0L V-6, so yeah… I cared about exhaust note at one point. Then I realized there were more pressing issues to be concerned with, like how many towing miles I used on the AAA Gold and how hard it would be to fabricate a new fuel tank if the in-tank sock-style fuel filter was completely rusted in.
    Then I realized that exhaust note is one of those things that you care about on other people's cars far more than on your own.

    1. Alff Avatar

      Beyond the visceral experience, the exhaust note in an older Alfa (or many other temperamental cars) is very important. Having driven the same one for nearly two decades, I can now diagnose several issues based on variations in sound.

  25. SSurfer321 Avatar

    I'd like to put an aftermarket exhaust on the truck but am fearful of the highway drone.

  26. Stu_Rock Avatar

    It doesn't matter much to me. Apparently it matters to my cat, though. This morning he started growling in response to my backyard neighbor's glasspacked WRX starting up.

    1. Kogashiwa Avatar

      Maybe he thought the neighbor had gutted …
      I can't even finish typing that.

      1. Stu_Rock Avatar

        It took me two hours, but I finally got it.

  27. nanoop Avatar

    Daily driver? Quiet please.
    Project car: I like the starting "starter_enga_ga_ga_BROOooommmmmm" (always after the second revolution), and I could park the car for hours with the windows rolled down, because I love the low rev rumble and growl.

  28. BobWellington Avatar

    I care, but other things matter more. I would like to get an aftermarket exhaust (and a CAI and a tune) for my Explorer's 4.6, but I don't want to spend money…classic conundrum, am I right?

  29. Dean Bigglesworth Avatar
    Dean Bigglesworth

    Exhaust sound is important, and intake sound is just as important. HEre's an example, the BMW M3 CSL
    I'm driving an Abarth 500C this week, and the exhaust note is an absolute riot. Not as "pure" as the best naturally aspirated engines and I wouldn't call it music, but It pops and bangs and snorts and it's just damn fun all the time.
    Intake/exhaust sound will definitely be a consideration when buying my next car.

  30. bhtooefr Avatar

    Wait, why am I the first person to post about 5-cylinders and 10-cylinders?
    Here, let's have an amazing sounding V10-swapped M3:
    [youtube zCsdtg8swGs http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCsdtg8swGs youtube]

  31. Wildcat_445 Avatar

    I'm old now. "Dead" and "quiet" are the only words I want to describe my exhaust. 😀 My '97 has a pinhole leak in the pipe near the muffler and it is driving me absolutely batty right now. Our TL has a nice, low, stealthy "hum" to the exhaust that I like.
    In contrast–back in high school, I probably would have put glasspacks on the crappy '73 Catalina I had. Just because I could. And I must admit that the time I ran over a road hazard and busted the pipe off of the front of the catalyst in my CR-V, driving loudly without any exhaust system did have that bit of fun to it. (Not to mention being a cop magnet!)

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