The sound an engine makes is one of the most emotional aspects of driving an internal-combustion vehicle.
It also gives the driver a good indication of how hard the vehicle is being pushed without the driver having to take his or her eyes off the road, since engines get louder as the revs build. And it's also important for pedestrians and cyclists in early detection of an oncoming vehicle.
With electric vehicles, these benefits are largely negated. It's why some automakers are crafting distinct sounds for their future EVs to generate. In the case of BMW, it turned to one of the best composers in the business, famous film score composer Hans Zimmer, for a little help.
The Academy Award-winning composer worked with BMW sound designer Renzo Vitale to come up with a new sound which was first previewed in the Concept i4 unveiled in 2020. Known as IconicSounds Electric, the sound will be an available feature of the production i4 and a standard feature of the iX. Both EVs arrive next year as 2022 models.
The sound will evolve for future electric vehicles from BMW, and there will be distinct versions depending on which drive mode has been selected. For instance, the sound during Eco or Comfort modes will be different for the Sport drive mode. Zimmer was also tapped to help craft sounds for when the vehicle is started and when a door is opened.
There will also be a distinct sound for future electric vehicles from BMW M. The first electric M car is expected to be an M Performance version of the i4. For electric M cars, there will be extra intensity, especially when you first hit the accelerator. A preview is featured in the video above.
“Every BMW has its own character, which is reflected in the sound it makes,” Zimmer said in a statement. “So for the electrically driven BMW M models we have developed a driving sound which accentuates their emotional driving experience particularly vividly and ensures their performance can be felt with even greater intensity.”
Note, these sounds won't only be for inside the cabin. For pedestrian safety, electric vehicles are required to give off a sound at low speeds, with the sound gradually becoming quieter as the car's speed picks up. Fellow German automaker Audi plans to have both a standard speaker setup to meet regulations and a more powerful setup for buyers who want their cars to emit a more emotional sound.