The throaty roar of an eager engine is often one of the main selling points for those who love performance cars, such as the BMW M range. However, this becomes problematic in zero-emission battery electric vehicles that produce no engine noise.
BMW is tackling this problem through a collaborative effort between well-known composer Hans Zimmer and Renzo Vitale, creative director sound at the BMW Group, to produce a distinctive driving sound for an electric BMW M car.
Zimmer’s work includes music scores for the Gladiator and Pirates of the Carribean movies.
“Every BMW has its own character, which is reflected in the sound it makes,” says Academy Award winner Zimmer.
“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.”
Zimmer had previously been involved in the development of a ready-to-drive sound for some electrically powered BMWs, “which instils a sense of excitement at the prospect of electric driving when the start/top button is pressed”, says the German car maker.
The latest chapter in this collaboration covers drive sounds for the BMW iX and BMW i4, including a differentiated sound for the M-specification version of the BMW i4.
While the hush of electric driving offers an unprecedented level of comfort, the driving experience does lose a degree of emotionality, admits BMW.
“This is where BMW IconicSounds Electric steps in to put smiles on the faces of customers keen to experience sheer driving pleasure with all the senses.
“In the future, electric driving pleasure will be enhanced by acoustic feedback to every movement of the accelerator.”
Similar to the on-board driving modes, which can be selected at the touch of a button, the driving sound also takes its cues from the driving situation at hand and the driver’s personal preferences.
In the basic setting, BMW IconicSounds Electric employs a ‘transparent timbre with spherical components to convey the basic character of an electrically driven BMW brand model”.
But when the driver steps on the accelerator, the direct relationship between how the car is being driven and the sounds it makes is revealed: the sound experience deepens as load and speed increase.
In Sport mode, in particular, the car’s aural spectrum is more dominant and powerful, the sound providing a constant commentary on the driving situation.
Only when the vehicle is travelling in Eco Pro mode is the acoustic feedback reduced to nothing.
Here, the silence of the drive system underscores the driver’s decision to adopt an efficient driving style.
In the version developed specifically for electrified BMW M models, the drive sound of the BMW i4 is charged with extra energy.
Added to which, the differentiation between Comfort and Sport mode is especially strong, notes BMW.
“Acceleration sparks a rich intensification of the soundtrack’s development, authentically reflecting the car’s performance character.”
“When you press the pedal of an M car, you suddenly get goosebumps all over your body,” says sound designer Vitale.
“We translated this feeling into a drive sound that expresses a fusion of superior power and flowing energy.”
Zimmer and Vitale have already co-developed the driving sound for the BMW Vision
M NEXT, revealed in 2019, and the BMW Concept i4, presented the following year.
Learnings from this creative process were channelled into the design of the sound for future series-produced vehicles.
The new drive sounds developed as part of BMW’s collaboration with Zimmer are expected to feature in the BMW i4 and BMW iX over the course of 2022.
‘IconicSounds Electric’ comes as standard in the BMW iX and can be specified as an option for the BMW i4.
In cars with earlier build dates, the new sounds can be imported retrospectively via remote software upgrade, should the customer wish to do so.