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Eye candy + ear candy: Six great vehicle audio systems

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A Rolls-Royce Phantom has an amazing sound system, but that’s pretty much what you’d expect when you drop a half million dollars on a car. What about audio quality for the rest of us? If you buy a vehicle with one of these optional audio systems, you won’t feel the need to visit Crutchfield for a stereo upgrade. Here are the vehicles audiophiles should be looking at.

Acura RLX [1]

For nearly 40 years, Connecticut-based Krell Industires has been the go-to for premium audio home sound systems. When Acura went looking for a sound system unlike any other, they turned to Krell for help with the 2014+ Acura RLX. Krell essentially put a home theater system in a car, so the RLX system has unbelievable power, range, musical detail, and extreme volume capability. The system’s bass drivers are made of Zylon (“the world’s strongest super fiber”), capable of creating bass that hits like an earthquake. What won’t rattle you is the RLX’s build quality, equivalent to the famed Lexus LS [2]. It also has an excellent hybrid option, which makes the cabin even quieter when in electric mode. That’s great for your audio quality, and gas mileage, to the tune of 28 MPG city.

Cadillac CT6 [3]

Even truck driving ‘Muricans that know nothing about high-end audio have heard of Bose Corporation. The Massachusetts-based builder of beautiful quality stereos, excellent noise cancelling headphones, and dreadful commercials, Bose assisted Cadillac with their new flagship CT6 sedan. The Bose Panaray system is a stunner, with an incredible 34 speakers, including the floor, A-pillars, and headrests, plus four amplifiers. Reviewers love that it is loud, very clear, and delivers to every seat in the house. Bose is a natural fit with the rest of the CT6’s technology, including a wide angle video screen rearview mirror, and Super Cruise hands-free driving. The 404 horsepower V6 isn’t bad either.

Ford Explorer [4]

Ford’s Platinum trim line is not what you’d expect from the mainstream manufacturer, as it straight up invades Lincoln’s territory with real luxury options. Sony is well known worldwide, but Ford is their only automotive contract. The controls mimic the look of their upscale home theater systems, and it works as well as it looks, with smooth, natural sounds at a wide range of frequencies. The digital signal processing is incredible for acoustic performances, and it’s designed to clean up the flat sound of digital audio files. If you’re big on your old iPod and live music, this Ford’s for you. Or if you’re big on safety, the Explorer is there too, with five stars overall from the NHTSA. It can also tow up to 5,000 pounds, which is right behind its Expedition [5] big brother.

Infiniti QX80 [6]

Infiniti knows what they are doing with luxury interiors, but they also turned to Bose for their premium audio, 15-speaker option on the QX80 SUV. Building a dedicated system built for the car, like the CT6, the QX80 uses “Centerpoint technology” to tune the system at each seat, based on the vehicle’s interior acoustics. The result is a clear and lifelike listening experience with excellent depth. Reviewers do say it has a darker character than most systems, so this one is more your style if you’re still enjoying Pink Floyd’s The Wall. But if you prefer Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop The Feeling! in your Infiniti, there’s enough customizable controls to get it to play happy. The full-size SUV carries serious street presence, and also seven passengers. They can ride in style listening to your great tunes, or the sound of the 400 horsepower 5.6-liter V8.

Volvo XC90 [7]

Getting into the XC90 with the Bowers and Wilkins Premium Sound System, you can immediately see a difference even with the system off. A 25mm tweeter sits front and center of the dash, surrounded by speakers, and pointed at the passengers instead of straight up at the windshield. “Nautilus” chambers behind the speakers reduce resonance, the woofer is a huge 250mm unit, and a 1400 watt amp powers it all. The result is a purer true to life sound that can be experienced from any seat. Those seats are amazing for more than the speakers, as they are comfy enough for a coast to coast road trip. The XC90 is an excellent vehicle all around, winning awards from everyone including Consumer Reports, Motor Trend, Esquire, and an IIHS Top Safety Pick+, the highest safety rating out there.

Jaguar XJ [8]

Jaguar builds premium British luxury, so it makes sense they turned to UK’s Meridian Audio to help build the best audio experience you can find in a British car. Well known on the high-end of home audio systems (their signature speakers are $65,000 a pair), the big cat’s optional Meridian Reference Surround System has an impressive 26 speakers. Some are placed in the back of the front seats, pointed at the rear passengers for that optimum luxury chauffeured experience. The signal processing is among the best you can buy, so your CDs, satellite radio, digital files, and even FM are a smooth and seamless experience similar to IMAX. Looking for a smooth and seamless driving experience? Check out the rest of the powerful XJ or the extended wheelbase XJL for a sport sedan experience unlike anything else in its class.

Have your heart set on a different vehicle? Search our inventory of thousands! [9]