The Greeks have given us many things. Democracy, evidence-based medicine, feta cheese, the Wog Boys film franchise…
But the best thing the Greeks have ever invented is the word ‘malaka‘. At this stage, it’s basically an Australian English word: the Greek equivalent of ‘wanker’, it’s the most famous piece of Greek slang and can mean everything from ‘arsehole’ to ‘mate’ depending on the context. It’s a blessed, cheeky word – no wonder Aussies love it so much.
So what’s a ‘malaka button’, we can hear you asking? Well, it’s what the uninitiated might call an exhaust button or active exhaust control. It’s an increasingly common feature on high-end automobiles; one that’s sure to bring out one’s inner malaka or have the word hurled your way as you use it. In our opinion, it’s the single best thing about modern performance vehicles. Let us explain why.
Car manufacturers in the 21st century have become incredibly good at sound insulation. The reality is that 99% of drivers, 99% of the time, want a comfortable, quiet driving experience – but still want to get that thrill of an exotic engine note when they put their feet down.
It’s led to this strange phenomenon in recent years where cars makers have started to pipe engine sounds into the cabin from the engine bay (or via artificial means, e.g. pre-recorded engine sounds playing through the sound system) in order to satisfy us fickle customers. Still, these measures are widely reviled by most automotive purists, who don’t appreciate the fakery.
A more recent and effective innovation has been to build car exhausts with valves that can open and close depending on driving conditions or driver input. This is what the malaka button does: it keeps the exhaust valves open in order to increase performance… And make the car louder, and therefore much more fun. Some might call it obnoxious… We’d call it a typical malaka move.
We’re definitely of the mindset that the exhaust button is a much better alternative to previous forms of engine noise management – it feels a lot less ‘fake’ – but we were curious as to why it’s only become common in recent years. We spoke to Carsales‘ Editor-in-Chief Mark Sinclair, who explained:
“As noise regulations have got stiffer, manufacturers are looking to try and deliver some emotion back to the driver. This includes artificially enhancing the noise you hear in the cabin. Whether that’s via an audio system or via an exhaust valve it is part of the same problem/solution.”
“The other factor here is that some engine technologies and configurations don’t make the best sort of noises ‘naturally’… And there’s a whole swag of car companies that are trying to make their four-cylinder models sound ‘beefier’.”
Sinclair’s a bit of a sceptic when it comes to the exhaust button, truth be told.
“I’m a bit of a purist – and on a lot of cars, these are more gimmick than a genuine performance enhancement. If there is a performance benefit, then I’ll sign up. Besides, in many cases, it simply makes the exhaust sound louder… And not better,” he says.
He’s not alone – we know many other purists (and peace-and-quiet-seeking Sunday morning cafe patrons) who feel the same…
Rather than an exhaust button, the feature Sinclair wishes more performance cars sold in Australia came with has nothing to do with the exhaust – instead, he’d be keen to see more cars with “a decent suspension tune that delivers both ride comfort and handling.”
“Too many car companies default to rock-hard suspension that only works on super smooth roads – and racetracks. The worlds fastest ‘real’ road cars are WRC factory rally cars that have decent suspension travel and amazing ability to cope with bumpy roads.”
Again, this comes back to the endless compromise auto makers have to strike between road manners and performance when bringing cars to market. Make the exhaust too loud or the suspension too stiff and you’ll alienate customers (and lawmakers)… But then, are you really selling a sports car, or a status symbol?