The Jaguar I-Pace's Artificial Whooshing Sounds Are Actually Useful

Active Sound Design is one of the most controversial features of Jaguar's new electric SUV. There's no reason for that.

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Jaguar

A big part of the appeal of an electric car is the silence. Electric motors just produce a faint whirr as RPMs rise, giving EV's an interior serenity an internal-combustion car could only hope for. So when I learned at the launch of the Jaguar I-Pace this week that it made artificial noise as you accelerated, I was skeptical.

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This, of course, had to be a gimmick. Fake sci-fi noises pumped into the interior via speakers are pointless, right? Actually, they're not.

As part of the program, Jaguar had us take a few laps of the brilliant Algarve International Circuit in Portimao, Portgual. A tricky circuit I've never driven before—not even in a video game. I had a couple of orientation laps in an F-Type to learn the layout, but they weren't enough. This is a 15-corner track with all sorts of blind crests—it'd take a full day of lapping to get the hang of it.

When you're trying to drive fast, especially at a place you're unfamiliar with, you take all the feedback a car can give you. That's why enthusiasts harp on about steering feel and the like, because in situations like these, it's actually important.

Accelerating onto the long front straight for my first flying lap in the I-Pace, the car began its wooshing. And I was grateful.

In the I-Pace at Portimao, you'll hit around 120 mph before you enter the downhill braking section for turn one, where you need to slow down nearly 4800-lbs worth of SUV. The artificial sound gives you a great sense of speed you otherwise wouldn't have in an electric car. The sounds might have been cheesy, but I was glad they were there.

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Jaguar
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Jaguar calls this feature Active Sound Design, and if you dig through the car's settings on the infotainment screen, you can turn it almost all the way off. Set to its lowest mode, termed "calm," it's barely perceptible, giving you just the tiniest hint of acceleration. In Dynamic mode, it's pretty absurd, but useful in certain circumstances.

And the clever bit is, you can set the system however you like. Want silence? You can have it. Trying to learn a FIA Grade-Two circuit in three laps and really, really appreciate all the feedback you can get? You must be having a strange day, but crank it up.

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