The brand equips its vitaminized version of the Fiat 500 with an artificial sound generator. Explanations and verdict by ear.
Is it pleasant entertainment or a signal that the end of the world is approaching? The Abarth 500e offers as an option (1,500 euros) on its first electric vehicle an interior and exterior sound system, simulating the noise of a combustion engine.
Specificity of the said device Sound System Generator : unlike the Ford Mustang Mach-E (for example), it is not only a question here of broadcasting the sound in the cabin via the speakers usually assigned to the radio. The 500th intends to allow pedestrians, cyclists and other users of the road network to enjoy this music.
The system consists of a multi-channel amplifier, a loudspeaker and a woofer (loudspeaker specialized in bass sounds, below 500 Hz). The latter is located under the trunk, where you would typically find a wheel spacer.
Abarth assures that the work was carried out internally by its sound and quality specialists for nearly 6,000 hours. In particular, the engineers worked in a semi-anechoic chamber (the floor is hard, the walls made of absorbent foam) to improve the accuracy of the readings.
Among the sounds broken down and then digitally reconstructed are the Monza Record escapement and the luck of the current thermal 695. Although Dodge is also owned by Stellantis, the sound project for the Charger Daytona electric is distinct from that of Abarth.
“You have to understand this like the soundtrack of a movie”, explains the marketing of the brand to the scorpion, “for many drivers, a feeling is missing when you remove the sound”. It remained to hear the result with the naked ear. What we were able to do during the first international tests of the Abarth 500e, on May 17, in Balocco (Italy).
Test – Abarth 500e: an extra toy?
From a distance, we can really be mistaken. When one of our colleagues started the device about twenty meters from our honey cages, we were surprised both by the sound output of the 500th and by the volume.
The latter even seems to us – to the ear – superior to that of the thermal 695, which is however not the type to hide. The noise level is close to that of a motorbike when starting up, which should not improve relations with your neighbours. Stellantis claims to have been at the limits of what is homologable in Europe today.
The artificial exhaust crackles don’t follow a repeating pattern, so the effect is natural. In neutral, the driver can create vocalizations, depending on the position of the foot on the accelerator, like a combustion engine rising in the revs in a stationary position.
Up close, the result is less convincing. Admittedly, the sound does indeed come from the rear of the car. But the purr doesn’t seem to vibrate the air as brilliantly as a conventional exhaust would. The ground does not really echo and the sound spreads in all directions indiscriminately.
Same thing when driving. On the Fiat group’s historic test circuit, we pushed the 500e and its sound system to its limits. And oddly, the faster you drive, the less artificial noise seems present in the cabin. Also missing from the appeal are the breaks in the regimes linked to the gear changes. Result: the sound is very linear, overwhelming the auditory sensation of acceleration.
Finally, we are surprised. The triggering (or standby) of the sound system is lost in an obscure menu of the central screen. A button on the dashboard would probably have made it easier to use. This suggests that this option will certainly be used only a few times in the life of the vehicle, just to amuse friends.
After all, some people cry genius in front of a car equipped with a whoopee cushion or a lightshow…