If you’re anything like me, you dwell on the various sounds that an automobile emits. Whether it’s the “thunk” of a closing door, a clicking turn signal, or haptic infotainment feedback, these sounds are something ever-so-slight that contribute to the overall driving and ownership experience.
In particular, startup chimes are often unique, distinctive sounds that define a specific vehicle or manufacturer. Nothing beats the classic AMC buzzer, or Toyota’s “your reheated microwave coffee is ready” chime. But the one that stands out among the rest is the melodic chime found in the 2020-to-present Lincoln Corsair and Aviator. This has been around for a bit now, but I’ve long found it to be a deeply unappreciated feature on any car—and a lovely one to listen to.
This chime was actually recorded by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and implemented into these two vehicles. Take a listen:
Lovely. On their official website, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra writes:
Earlier on in 2018, Lincoln approached the DSO to dream up new possibilities for the mechanical beeps, dings, and clicks that sound throughout a vehicle when certain things are out of order—a chime when a passenger’s seatbelt isn’t buckled, for example, or a plong plong to indicate that the fuel door was left open.
It’s extremely fitting for Lincoln to approach the DSO rather than the Chicago, New York, or Los Angeles orchestras, in paying homage to their Motor City roots. As highlighted in the video, the sounds include the startup chime of the Lincolns, door open warnings, tailgate operation, and seat belt latch.
I’m bringing up this topic a bit on the later side. These two Lincolns have been around for quite a bit now, since 2020. I myself am actually a musician. I play the violin, piano, and a few other stringed instruments. I was playing around on the violin the other day and nearly replicated the chime. After some squeaks and out-of-tune notes, I finally got it. My next task is to get my hands on a marimba to try and replicate the entire triage of instruments. Does anyone want to lend me theirs?
Additionally, I spent a summer between high school and college working at my local Subaru/Ford/Lincoln dealership. I was delegated to drive customers home or pick them up, often in a Lincoln Corsair. Those chimes bring back fond memories of cruising along the south shore of Long Island, so it’s a particularly special one.
Anyways, that was just a brief insight into the history of one of my all-time favorites, if not number one, automotive car chimes. This melody is still produced on the current Corsair and Aviator. Lincoln has yet to implement it into their other vehicles.
Tell us down below, what’s your favorite startup chime? Does your car even have one?
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When we were moving mom came to help and got to drive the 300ZX. I was right behind when we took off from the house. I saw mom leap out of the car startled by the car talking with the words, “left door is open, fuel supply is low” on repeat. Quite the moment!
My mom owns a Corsair. I should borrow it (again) sometime and pay specific attention to this chime. Driving it otherwise is ….less than appealing… so maybe that’s why I have no recollection of the startup chime.
All the budget for these went to the interior and styling. The powertrain options are an absolute snoozefest. They’re amazing appliances but their enthusiast appeal is nonexistent. My mom expressed interest in them so I’ve done a fair amount of research on them.
She wound up with an SQ5 which I honestly really like. That Audi turbo V6 is butter smooth and sounds fantastic…and in a car of that size it’s enough to have some fun but not really enough to get you in trouble. As far as mom cars go it’s about as cool as it gets, although I’m not looking forward to helping my parents figure out all the problems it’s going to have as soon as the warranty is up.
In my experience the old “there’s nothing more expensive than a cheap German car” adage rings true…although I traded my problematic German car for a damn Hyundai so maybe I’m just a masochist.
I agree that the Corsair feels underwhelming and unluxurious to actually drive. And it’s not even because it’s transverse-FWD-based…because the current NX, XC60, RDX and even QX50/55 drive better. I’ve not driven the XT4, Disco Sport or Range Rover Evoque, so I can’t comment on those.
In that way, the Corsair is no better than the MKC it replaced. But at least the interior and NVH are befitting of the price tag. So they got that part right.
It does look good too, and that’s a major consideration for most buyers in this class. I also think it’s a good one to consider if you’re planning on buying the car and owning it for 5-10 years. While the NX and RDX have it beat there I’d still rather deal with a Ford product once the warranty is up than a German one or a Nissan with a damn CVT.
There’s a good chance that the QX50 is going to shit its transmission out at 50,000 miles….and as someone who’s seen coworkers’ Nissans and Infinitis need full transmission replacements let me tell you it’s not fun. The transmission in my buddy’s Rogue grenaded itself within a few weeks of the warranty expiring and a replacement cost him $5,000 with labor. I’d have called it quits with the car at that point but for whatever reason people love Rogues.
Oh, I’m with you. I don’t recommend any CVT-equipped Nissan to anyone.
Fortunately, the new Pathfinder and QX60 use a torque-converter 9-speed automatic, so maybe they’ll phase out the CVT?
We can sure hope, and that 9 speed is licensed by ZF so it should be pretty decent.
I didn’t mention this in the article but I believe that some of the Corsairs did NOT have this chime. I think it was stripped from the base models, AKA the Reserve trims. These typically don’t have the upgrade package and are missing ventilated seats, a sunroof, and the chime. Pay close attention. They drive… like an Escape. A really frumpy Escape.
Are you sure about that? I made a comment that’s stuck in moderator hell, but FoMoCo has been doing this thing since at least 2013 where the chimes will play from the cluster (and a tinny piezoelectric speaker) if the radio isn’t initialized and ready to generate a chime event.
This will often happen if the car hasn’t been started in a while and the battery is a bit low, and I’d wager to guess it’s what you experienced on some of the lot cars.
I am 99% positive. It’s been awhile since I was in a Corsair, but spent plenty of time in a handful of them.
I believe you. That’s wild, and counterintuitive. I’m amazed Ford wouldn’t want a consistent brand identity, and it’s not like the chimes cost any extra hardware.
Toyota did something similar with the 3rd gen Highlander IIRC, at least on intro. LE/LE Plus trims, with the basic monochrome LCD display in the cluster, had the basic beep and electronic “click” turn signal sound (and why Toyota had ever switched to the beep from the much nicer chime they had for decades, I don’t know). XLE and above with the color LCD had the much nicer, more premium sounding chime and turn signal noises shared with the Avalon
I mention the LCD just as feature that correlated on that one but may not have had any relation to the tech set, as it wasn’t universally the case; the 2015 Camry had a color LCD but stuck with the basic beep. IIRC the Sienna refresh for 2015 also mirrored the Highlander, though, with the LCDs and the different chimes.
My favorite startup noise has always been an engine turning over so I won’t have to jump-start it.
As far as warning sounds go, my heart will always belong to the simple “ding, ding, ding” door chime of a later-production Volvo 240.
(The Blueberry just makes Toyota noises, at least for now.)
That’s freakin awesome!
Somehow the tinny, low-quality sound just makes it better.
Meanwhile the VW “you left your key in the slot and opened your door” buzzer is the worst sound in the world. First thing I turned off when I got my OBDeleven.
The first thing I did when I got my OBDEleven was enable the gauge sweep on my 2013 A8L.
Speaking of which, it has a seatbelt chime that’s just a simple series of high-pitched beeps and that was used on various Audi, Lamborghini and Bentley models of that era.
BUT, if you have someone in the passenger seat who can trigger the weight sensor, you’ll get an additional two-note “notification” chime after the seatbelt chime, along with a “Passenger Airbag On” warning in the car. Likewise, whenever the state of the passenger airbag changes, you’ll get the chime. It’s goofy.
Continuing the theme — My favorite startup noise was my old 1985 squarebody Chevy truck that I’d picked up for cheap. The buzzer had long before died or had been disconnected. Always took two attempts to start when cold. Just the “thunk” and growl of the starter, a cough or two, then another “thunk” and growl and the small-block engine with a set of full headers and Flowmaster chambered mufflers would light off, sputter on a few random cylinders and then smooth out with a percussive grumble. Sounded like an old aircraft engine starting up every time, and guaranteed to wake up anybody still sleeping nearby…
The Lincoln SUVs do seem like well thought out, well put together products. I wish they could add some driving gusto in to make them more competitive with Ze Germans…but I understand that Ford’s budget when it comes to Lincoln is pretty limited and making cushy SUVs was undoubtedly their best play.
I prefer the utter silence of my 1932 Chevrolet Confederate. Followed by the authoritative growl of the 6 volt starter and the subsequent cacophony of engine noises ready to do my bidding just as it has been since 1932 .
Looking at the crappy cars I’ve driven most of my life, you would expect to hear Yakety Sax upon inserting the key. Then maybe the sound of slot-machine spinning it’s wheels as you turn it toward Start.
My LEAST favorite startup chime is on 20-teens Fords. Every time I overhear one in a parking lot I get PTSD flashbacks to my 2013 Fiesta and it’s godawful PowerShit dual clutch transmission.
No way! Someone’s found a worthwhile use for violins??
More seriously,i love that they recorded them together.Those poor bastards practice for decades so it would be sad if they didnt get the chance to show their perfection
Mk3 Jetta/golf playing la cucaracha is my favorite but I may be biased.
I hope there’s an app you can download so you change these stupid tones to 80’s heavy metal. Imagine changing the critical tone to “Running with the Devil.”
I’m slightly confused while reading this, what is a startup noise? Unless it’s the noise for not having your seat belt on.
Doesn’t the Navigator have this as well? Or that it was added for the 2023 refresh? I could swear I read that it had.
Nautilus probably won’t get it, sadly, as it’s not long for this world. Hopefully it gets the full EV treatment as the vehicle itself is a good size and competitive at its price range, just getting a bit long in the tooth.
As an aside, but speaking of Lincolns, I hope that Ford does a bit more to give them an edge against their competition. Was used-car shopping with a good friend this past week, and it was down to an MKC/Corsair, Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring (she preferred the black interior to the brown of the Signature), Volvo XC40 (in a remarkable light teal blue that I’d forgotten they’d offered), and the Lexus NX. The Lincoln would have made the most sense for her from an ownership perspective as she drives a LOT and there are plenty of Ford/Lincoln dealers in the area, but she chose the Mazda, as it had the best value, driving dynamics, features, and felt “grown up/mature” without being ostentatious (like the Lexus). If the Lincoln had had – for example – power-fold rear seats (she loved this on the MKT and other large Ford models we looked at, but it didn’t even have a release from the rear if memory serves), the outside door handles from the Continental (no worries about being frozen shut, and they look really cool), and perhaps even coach doors in the spirit of the old Continentals, it may have stood out more. I will give them great praise for still offering power-adjustable pedals, which most cars should have as an option for both short and tall drivers.
My Civic Si is the first car I’ve had with a start-up chime. Well, not really start-up; it goes off when you get into the driver’s seat and close the door, and flashes Si on the screen. I like it, though I wouldn’t pine for it if it weren’t there. I like these Lincoln ones, they make me a little jealous, although I guess they’d seem out of place on an Si.
My dad’s Chrysler is the first car I’ve had with a startup sound – it’s a little wind-chime noise. It’s ok, but I wouldn’t mind being able to turn it off. (Maybe you can; I haven’t really dug into it.) I do like the sound of its starter, though: good and authoritative. It means business.
My ’71 MGB GT has its own “startup sound”: the old SU fuel pump priming the lines – “puckpuckpuckpuckpuck-puck-puck…puck……puck……….puck”. It also has the best door-close sound and feel ever. It’s very solid, and you can distinctly hear both latches engage if you close it gently enough: “clickclickthump”. And I love its engine sound; under the growl of the exhaust is a slight echoing ping from the tubular header I installed, and under that is the soft sewing-machine “shicka-shicka-shicka” of the valvetrain.
I guess I prefer mechanical car noises to recorded ones.
As for favorite chimes, my favorite is the Rolls-Royce chime suite (both versions). In 2013/14, with Rolls-Royce’s version of iDrive 4, Rolls-Royce got its own chimes that were recordings of a harp (previous BMW-era Rolls-Royce models used the BMW “gong” chime, which appears to be a recording of a glockenspiel).
Somewhere around 2018, with the advent of the new Phantom VIII, Rolls-Royce’s version of the then-newest iDrive (probably iDrive 6) came with new chimes for the brand, still played by a harp, but newer and two-note.
The chimes sound as expensive as the cars do.
Also starting with iDrive 4 in 2013/14, BMW also began bundling all the corporate brand chimes to all versions of iDrive. At the time, those versions were BMW, BMW i, MINI and Rolls-Royce. If you have a coding tool, you can swap the chimes to a different BMW brand for any BMW Group car. I put Rolls-Royce chimes on my 2016 535i xDrive M Sport, once.
BMW retired its “gong” chime (which first appeared in 2002 on the E65 7 Series and 2003 on the Rolls-Royce Phantom VII) in 2015/16, with the advent of iDrive 5. HOWEVER, BMW brought back the gong chime for the new Supra, which runs a reskinned version of iDrive 6. So now, the different chime suites are BMW, BMW i, MINI, Rolls-Royce, and Supra.
As far as my least-favorite chime, it’s definitely the one Mercedes-Benz began using around 2000, which is just a loud series of about 16 beeps across 6 seconds. “BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP!” It was very annoying. Fortunately, they went to a much more pleasant chime with the 2012 “W166” M-Class and 2013 “X166” GLS-Class, and with the 2014 “W222” S-Class, they began doing radio-generated chimes that sounded pleasant.
As a fellow geek for chimes and sounds, I remember when GM first began switching to the ones through the speaker in the 2000s and it seemed like the system was being woken from a sleep mode – switch on the lights or leave the key in with a door open, and you’d hear the white noise of a speaker before the chime rushes in to catch up. An improvement over their old chimes to that point though, which I still remember C/D describing the dinger in a Chevy Venture sounding as though it were “being held under the dash against its will.”
The previous Infiniti JX35/QX60 seemed to have split personality. The “key” warning (or whatever it’s considered, being a push-button start, usually activating if you turned the car off while a door was open) was the by-then common Nissan short beeps, while the actual seatbelt warning chime was the chime Nissan first rolled out ~2000 (replacing the older style beep). Thankfully Nissan has been moving on from the short beeps in their newer models it seems.
You’re right about both. Interestingly, both GM and Nissan recently changed their chimes up.
I fancy myself a bit of a chime nerd, so I’m glad you brought this up.
Minor correction: they aren’t “startup” chimes; they’re seatbelt chimes. What’s more, the practice of having the seatbelt chimes emit upon startup if your seatbelt isn’t on is a US thing, where they’re required. Go to other countries, like Germany, Brazil, or even Canada, and you won’t hear them upon startup. Even in the US, you won’t hear them if your seatbelt is on when you turn the car on.
That said, some cars *do* have actual startup chimes or jingles that will play regardless of—or in unison with—the seatbelt chimes. Mazda did it toward the tail end of the Ford era with their “zoom-zoom” noise. Hyundai did it initially with the Genesis and Equus, and now most of their nicer-equipped cars seem to do it. And some EVs and PHEVs have a startup noise they make when you turn them on, since you don’t hear an engine crank. My own 2022 X5 PHEV has a whoosh noise that it makes when you turn it on, and a different one when you turn it off. This plays at the same time as the two-note “DING-dong” seatbelt/warning chime (which is the same for cars with iDrives 5, 6, and 7).
As for FoMoCo, specifically, they do something weird that no automaker does. Many automakers these days (GM, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan, Honda, Mazda, Subaru, JLR, some Stellantis cars, some VW Group cars) have warning chimes that come from the built-in radio/sound system. This describes FoMoCo as well. However, FoMoCo has two separate chime functions for its cars: one from the radio and one from the instrument cluster.
Normally, your FoMoCo vehicle will play the radio chimes. But if it hasn’t been started in a while, the radio won’t be initialized, so if you have something that generates a chime event before the radio can initialize, you’ll get the cluster chimes. They’ll still be the same approximate musical notes, but they’ll be played from a piezoelectric speaker in the cluster.
As far as I can tell, Ford began this practice with the first models that had the radio-generated chimes, which were the 2013 Fusion and MKZ, and all subsequent models like the 2015 Edge, 2015 F-150, 2015 Mustang, 2016 MKX, 2017 Continental, and so on).
Random, but in the new “Batman” movie with Robert Pattinson, the villain sends a hostage barreling through a funeral in one of these Lincoln SUVs as a terroristic-type attack. I was impressed with the attention to detail in the film as they jerked the guy out of the crashed SUV and the little “Lincoln noises” as I called them were chiming through the auditorium.
My Lincoln’s startup sound was the hood opening and closing prior to the key being turned. This was because the 1956 Lincoln’s carb bloat bowl would leak slowly overnight so the start procedure was to pop hood, remove air cleaner, spray GO juice, replace air cleaner and close hood. Then you would start the car before the juice would evaporate too much. Worked every time. I miss that nearly 19′ long boat. There were no buzzers because that would annoy a 50’s buyer.