A few years back, the Engineering Director of Ford had the police show up at his house. Fortunately, this wasn’t the kind of incident that would afford him a Netflix True Crime original. No, his neighbours simply found his Mustang Shelby to be too loud.
This brush with the law got himself and fellow Mustang engineers to thinking — there had to be a way to make the exhaust quieter in the next generation of Ponies. There was, and they called it Quiet Mode.
But for Mustang fans out there who appreciate the roar of the engine jumping to life, that hasn’t been stripped out. In fact, Aussies in particular wanted the 2018 Mustangs to be louder. Suffice to say, it’s been a complicated journey.
I heard all of these stories during a recent Ford drive day in Adelaide. In addition to testing the new Mustangs both on the road and a race track (yes, it was super fun), I got to chat to the team about the car itself.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the car is the sound. It’s such an integral part of a Mustang — it can even have an affect on non-car aficionados who happen across one in the wild.
The 2018 V8 Mustangs allow the driver to control the sound more than ever. This is done through the MyMode function, which can be controlled on the steering wheel. It allows you to customise your driving experience, even down to creating your own light scheme on the dash.
But the thing we played around with the most was the exhaust, which has four modes — Quiet, Normal, Sport and Track.
These different modes impact both the performance of the vehicle and the sound. You can absolutely tell the difference between each and every one, particularly when you’re out on the track.
Carl Widmann, who is the chief engineer of the Ford Mustang was in Adelaide with us, and spoke to Gizmodo Australia about the inspiration and work that went into Quiet Mode.
“The Mustang community is a one that is pretty clear in its fact that it never wants to offend, that’s not what we’re about. So we wanted a mode that would be neighbourly,” said Widmann. He also spoke about the incident with the law that lead to this idea.
“When you drive a Shelby home in the U.S. they are quite loud. They’re only also only legal in the U.S.. It has a binary system so it’s pretty much all open when you fire it up. If you fire up one of those your neighbours will be extremely offended. So much so that my director from vehicle engineering had the cops called on him for being too loud. So he said, ‘Why can’t be develop something that is more appropriate that gives a choice for someone so they don’t always have to start up the car in super loud mode.
This is particularly important for Australia, which has a customised cold end (but with a U.S. hot end) in order to comply with local regulations. As an added bonus, the car will remember the mode that you have set it to next time you get in it.
But despite this push for a more subtle exhaust mode, we were also told on the day that Australians in particular were keen for a louder V8 than the previous generation of Mustangs. I was not surprised by this knowledge drop.
“You can hear them here today and it’s clear that they’re pretty loud and proud and they catch you a little bit more in the chest than what we previously had,” said Widmann.
He wasn’t wrong. I could hear them roaring around the track outside at that very moment, and they really do create a rather visceral reaction.
“It’s universal and we had the same comments in the U.S. — so we moved the V8s up in sound quality level. But for the export markets active exhaust is standard to deliver so we needed technology to choke the sound. So [the sound] was a pretty big thing for the Australian market when we did the drives and the European market also.
The addition of Quiet Mode, along with the 2018 price points (starting at $49,990 for the EcoBoost and $62,990 for the GT V8 — which are actually more expensive jumping off points than the last generation) made me wonder if it fits the narrative that despite misconceptions, Mustangs aren’t just weekend cars.
“In the U.S. that’s a big part of who we are. Trunk size matters when we lay out these cars because they are every day cars,” Widmann explained.
“For some people its their first car, 20-somethings who have saved their money. We’ve had people come to Mustang who are Grandmas who have always been delaying that purchase. But you don’t want to make that trade off of having something that’s a fun to drive experience that’s also a daily driver. Because there’s no better thing than starting that up after you’ve left work after a bad day and just hearing the sound of that thing it always puts a smile on your face…”
I assumed that there is no room for quiet mode after a shit day at work.
“No, when leaving work mine starts up in race,” laughed Widmann.
I was also delighted to discover that Ford have a data bank of every single Mustang engine sound, dating back to the 1960s. Engineers use these to create the ideal ‘Mustang Sound’ for upcoming models.
“They’re sound recordings and one of our engineers went through and measured all the models. What we’ll do with that data is analyse it, synthesise it through frequency content and then figure out what is that rumble, that visceral sense and re-synthesise the files and play it back on headsets,” Widmann said.
That’s when they get the fans involved through Mustang Alley — a yearly event in the U.S. that brings together passionate Mustang owners. Ford sets up a listening study with the owners and an engineer, where they can provide feedback on the sounds.
“We ask what they think as we rebuild a synthesised sound and try to figure out what it is that our customers believe is THE sound. It’s a closed loop so we pass that information along to an exhaust tuner of the Mustang who then hands it to the next exhaust tuner and tells them what they need to do to deliver that sound quality.”
So while Quiet Mode will enable Mustang owners to keep their neighbours a little happier in the future, they can rest assured in the knowledge that they can still get their muscle car roaring when they need to.