Unveiled at the end of 2022, the new Abarth 500e, based on the electric Fiat 500, has an amazing feature that has already caused a lot of ink to flow. It is indeed equipped with an artificial sound generator, reproducing the noise of a combustion engine. But how does it really work and how does it sound? We will explain everything to you.
When Fiat unveiled its electric 500 in 2020, sports fans were worried. What was to become of Abarth, the official preparer of the Italian brand, which made the transformation of the city car its main activity? Because one of the characteristics of the models redesigned by the firm is their noise, thanks to the addition ofa Record Monza exhaust much appreciated by fans.
A surprising feature
Good news, Abarth will indeed survive electrification, while the sports division unveiled its revamped version of the 500e at the end of last year. A more powerful version with 155 horsepower that we had the chance to try as part of a road test, but also on the track. The opportunity to test its behavior, of course, but also to discover a very surprising feature.
In March 2022, the manufacturer was indeed asking its fans for help in creating a sound for a future sports car, which would turn out to be the Abarth 500e. But to tell the truth, the brand’s teams had already started working on the subject a little earlier. As the manufacturer explains in a press release, this project indeed required no less than two years, including six months of continuous workwith a dedicated team.
A more titanic project than you think. Because it is not enough to record the sound of a thermal Abarth and to install loudspeakers in the car to create this digitized sound generator. Even if the principle is still quite similar in broad outline. In total, these are not no less than 6,000 hours which have been devoted to the analysis and creation of the ideal sound for this Abarth 500e, in collaboration with Sound Design Studios.
But how do you manage to create such a realistic sound from scratch? That is the job of NVH department (Noise Vibration and Harshness, or noises, vibrations, jolts) of the group Stellantis. This is the same entity that validated the mythical sound of the previous thermal generation of the Abarth 500.
Contrary to what some might think, the sound of the electric sports car is not artificial and has not been designed by computer. The teams in charge of the project actually recorded the engine and exhaust sound of the internal combustion version, in all situations. When accelerating, decelerating, cornering, braking or changing gears.
These sequences were then analyzed and reworked to extract the frequencies needed to create a distinctive sound. Then the various branches of the NVH department put together a sound loop and improved the final details. Then the result was tested on a static car in order to be further refined to have the most realistic rendering possible. Other sounds were also layered to create the sound we know today.
The generator is intended to be close to reality by adapting to the different phases of driving. That is to say, the sound will not be the same depending on whether you are accelerating or braking, especially since intensity is indexed to your speed. This allows to give a realistic result when you give throttle, as you can see in the video made by us.
But how is this sound transmitted? On board, it simply comes from the car’s speakers, as on many other models such as the Porsche Taycan for example. In order to be also (and above all) heard outside, a speaker was also installed next to the left rear wheel. The sound is then very realistic, and we were even fooled into thinking that a thermal car was coming while our backs were turned! Note that the generator can be deactivated via digital handset. However, you have to be completely stationary to do so.