One example of how our tastes have evolved over time

Application: S5 (B8).

Used to be that we were head-over-heels in love with the Audi 4.2 L V8. Now? Not as much. Don’t get us wrong— its throaty, rumbly basso profondo still sounds plenty good. Hear it coming, and it turns heads, ours included. But now, instead of sounding especially sporty or racy to us, it sounds… well, like a muscle car, which carries some good as well as some not so good connotations. Really, what we’re realizing more and more – which was lost on our younger selves – is that raw displacement isn’t the be-all-end-all when it comes to how stirring a car can sound. A small-displacement 6 or even 4-cylinder engine that wails maniacally all the way up to its upper register will always make hairs stand on end more than a big, lazy-sounding V8. Obvious? Perhaps— but it wasn’t always the case with us.

Application: RS4 (B7). In spite of the piling on, we still have a soft spot for these cars.

Not to say that the Audi V8 sounds lazy, but even in the higher-revving applications, it sounds like it’s missing… urgency. Insistence. An unmistakable edge. In a gradual turn of events, we now find ourselves preferring – nay, greatly preferring – something like the sharp, rorty bark of Audi’s turbocharged 5-cylinder engines of yore (which appear to be on the cusp of making a comeback, incidentally). We couldn’t have imagined saying that even one or two short years ago, especially given that we like natural aspiration over forced induction.

Have a listen and tell us what you think:

Is it apples and oranges to compare a road car to a race car? Not to mention patently unfair? Yes and yes. (And of course, it doesn’t help that the Jacky/Vanina Ickx spot is painfully cute (or borderline unwatchable, depending on your point of view).) But it conveniently fits the narrative 🙂

Feel free to link to your favorite-sounding small-displacement engine. Just no exotic or supercar applications, please— this post is mainly about ‘real world’ examples (in spite of the Sport Quattro clip, which we couldn’t resist).

(Hat tip to Murph for unearthing the Ickx video.)

~ by velofinds on February 11, 2011.

7 Responses to “One example of how our tastes have evolved over time”

  1. Totally agree with your sentiments about V8 engines. Coming from the midwest USA I’ve always heard the after market mufflered (or straight pipe) V8 sound from pickup trucks. It’s common place yet enthusiasts from England love it as it’s so rare there. While I find a certain thrill from a loud multiplane V8 when it emanates from a curvy sports car, it would be great if more flat plane crank V8’s were produced. AFAIK the only flat plane V8’s in the states are Maserati, Ferrari, (Alfa?), and less recently the Lotus Esprite. Any others? It’s also a bit of a shame over the years to see the inline 6 become more rare replaced by V6’s (that could sound good but never seem to). Likewise, it’s a shame to see GM develop a new inline 6 with aluminum block (a decade ago or so) and see it go nowhere interesting on the street.

  2. Wow where to start with that one. I have to agree about the lazy V8, never a big fan. My old Alfa Milano 2.5 V6 had a great sound especially with a larger exhaust set up. My lovely Z with the resonator removed had a good bark to it:

    I’ve since moved to a full cat back system.

  3. Just your opinion, as valid as mine. So… to me the RS 4 B7 has a NASCAR sound absolutly awesome, better than the M3 E92 but not as amazing as the C63 AMG. Please, see the video until the end:

    • of the three you mention, i probably prefer the e92 m3 the most, followed by the c63 amg and then the b7 rs4. the c63 has a similar ‘muscle car’ sound to the rs4, but it sounds rawer, more untamed… which i love.

      and i agree that the 3.2L vr6 has any amazing sound! you may like this:

      part of me wishes vw kept that engine for the mkvi golf r, but i understand why they got rid of it.

      • The 3.2 vr6 is one of the engines that, to me, sounds better at mid-range than up above 6k RPM. Nice sounds.

  4. I love the S65 V8 from BMW over the Audi RS4 mainly because of what you noted. The BMW V8 sounds high-strong and screams – at high revs it reminds me of the old 3.2L inline 6.

    The Audi V8 rumbles and howls but doesn’t have a lot of emotion behind it – like most Audi products: fast and efficient but leaves a little something to be desired with the emotional side of driving.

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