Cars now make far less noise than they did. But can a new model ever be too quiet? If one soon-to-launch luxury saloon is anything to judge by, the answer is a definite ‘yes’.

For its new M35h petrol-electric hybrid, Japanese car-brand Infiniti is introducing a range of sounds to warn pedestrians, cyclists and other road users of its presence. The car’s use of electric power to start up and at low speeds means that it would otherwise be near-silent at speeds of up to 20mph, something that would pose an extra risk to road users.

So its designers have fitted a speaker behind the front bumper that sends out noise from start-up to 20mph, whenever the car is running just on its electric motor. In mixed driving conditions, Infiniti’s engineers reckon the car will run without its petrol engine for half the time.

The noise sweeps from high to low frequency, depending on speed and whether car is accelerating or slowing. It’ll make the most noise on start-up, but cut out once it reaches 20mph – above that, Infiniti says the car can continue to run solely on its electric motor but there’s sufficient tyre roar and wind rustle for it to be heard.

The car, which will go on sale in the UK in 2011, teams a 3.5-litre, 303bhp, petrol V6 with a 68bhp petrol motor. It’s capable of completing the 0-60mph dash in under 5.9secs but will also return up to 38.7mpg overall. Although it will be Infiniti’s fastest model, it will also be the make’s most economical.

In adding sound in this way, Infiniti is not alone. Nissan has taken similar steps with its all-electric Leaf hatchback, which will also be available in the UK from spring 2011. This car emit6s a turbine like whistle at speeds up to 30mph.

Stephen Jury


November 19, 2010

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