Best Audio System — over £25,000: Volvo XC90, Bowers & Wilkins
Talk radio, audiobooks, rock or classical music – whatever you prefer to spend your time listening to behind the wheel, the quality of your car audio system is paramount, yet there’s a huge variation in how good manufacturers’ standard and premium stereo systems sound.
Of the all the cars tested for our awards, two stood out head and shoulders above the rest: the Volvo XC90’s Bowers & Wilkins system takes the overall award, just edging out the Mercedes S-Class’ Burmester at the premium end of the market.
With 1,400W of power pouring through 19 drivers spread throughout the cabin, we were blown away by the sheer scale and atmospherics of the Volvo’s Bowers & Wilkins audio system. It delivered all our test tracks with confidence and control, with the finesse to capture every nuance and detail, and the power to drive more energetic music forward without sacrificing dynamics and grip.
In truth, we found there wasn’t an awful lot to choose between the Volvo and Mercedes. We marginally preferred the Mercedes’ bass control and power – even with the lowest and loudest of bass, the harshest and most complex of rock, it never sounded anything but completely in control – but the XC90’s sense of musicality, space and subtlety were simply sublime.
In the end, it came down to cost. With Volvo charging £3,000 for its premium sound system and Mercedes asking £6,430 to add its 24-speaker Burmester surround extravaganza to the S-Class, Volvo wins out for value.