A few months ago the Badger turned me on to the long-running British automative TV program Top Gear. As everybody in the world except me seemed to know already, the show is a fantastic combination of pure car porn and wry English humour, quite unlike typical bone-dry, boring car shows on television.
One thing puzzles me, however. All three members of the team that presents the series—like petrol-heads everywhere, it seems—really like the noise that fast cars make, the louder and more obnoxious the better. Through Top Gear I discovered that many modern high-end sports cars have a "Sport" mode. At the push of a button, useful things happen: the suspension stiffens, automatic traction control is reduced for more feel and direct control of the vehicle, the transmission becomes more aggressive—all sorts of useful things for someone throwing a car around a track or a fast racing road.
"Sport" mode also does something else, though: it opens some valves to make the car's muffler less effective, so the car is noisier on purpose. I've never understood that. When a pack of Harley riders drives by with their brapping V-Twin engines, it doesn't sound macho and cool to me: it sounds like they're all drastically amplifying their farts. When a lowered tuner car or a Lamborghini or a big American V8 muscle car revs its "look at me" growl and then takes off into the distance, here's how it sounds to me:
Like any guy, I appreciate a beautiful, fast car with good performance. I'd love the chance to drive a Ferrari or an Aston Martin or a similar rocket—though I'd probably need some lessons, since I've never owned a vehicle that powerful or potentially dangerous. (I saw my first modern Aston Martin in a mall display downtown a couple of years ago, and yes, even with the engine off it was quite drool-worthy in person.) But I'm of the mind that a car that could blow past everyone else in subtle near-silence would be way cooler than a belching, revving monster. If you're going to show off a vehicle, show what it does, not what kind of foul sound it can make.