The Best Seat in the House Isn't in Your House: A Look at Bowers & Wilkins' Jaguar Sound System

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JAGUAR_XKR_CU.gifHow much time do we really spend listening to our beloved two channel or home theater systems? Be honest. Now, how much time do we spend in our cars? Living in Southern California the answer to that last question is a lot. For instance, my commute from my home to my former employer's office was a whopping 36 miles - one way - and while that may not seem like a lot to some of you, the time it took me to traverse 36 miles was anywhere from 90 to 120 minutes. That's right, I said an hour and a half to two hours one way; that means round trip I was spending close to four hours in my car each and every day I commuted to work. That's 20 hours a week, 80 hours a month or 960 hours a year. Now let's revisit my first question, how many hours do you spend listening to your two-channel or home theater system? For me the two didn't even compare.

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It's no wonder so many high-end audio manufacturers are getting into the automotive space. Lexus has Mark Levinson, Hyundai has Lexicon and now BMW, Audi, Aston Martin and Mercedes AMG all have Bang & Olufsen. And Bose, well they're pretty much everywhere else. So it should come as no surprise that Jaguar has partnered with a high-end audio company of their own: Bowers & Wilkins. Personally, I've always been a fan of high-end car stereos; however I have found most of them to be quite dreadful, for while the components themselves may be top flight, the conditions in which they're asked to perform are anything but. Example, my old 2008 Corvette coupe with its Bose sound system sounded horrid because of the Vette's inferior build quality and lack of proper sound dampening, leading me and several of my friends to dub it the "rattle wagon." Of course when you turned the stereo off and mashed your foot on the accelerator all was forgiven but a lot good that does when you're stuck in traffic. The same held true for my 2006 Mercedes SLK 350 and even my 2007 Mercedes SL55 AMG. Both systems sounded good while parked in my driveway but turned ugly at speed. Even my 2007 Land Rover LR3 suffered a similar fate. So I wasn't holding out much hope for Bowers & Wilkins new surround sound system found in all three Jaguar models.

Boy was I wrong.


As equipped, my review XKR carried a sticker price of a little over $100,000, which is up from the XKR's base price of $96,125. Of course if you don't need the XKR's 510 horsepower, supercharged V8 engine you can save yourself a bit by going with the base XK starting at $83,000. The extra cost for my car came in the form of 20-inch Kalimnos Alloy Wheels ($5,000), a special order leather option ($1,000) and Adaptive Cruise Control ($2,300), bringing the total to $104,800 after fees and such. I was pleased to find (for I thought it was an optional extra) that the 525-Watt, 7.1 Bowers & Wilkins surround sound system came standard with the XKR. The Bowers & Wilkins stereo is also standard with the less expensive and less powerful XK model; in fact it's standard in all but the lowest XF sedans, where it carries a $2,000 up charge. The Mark Levinson upgrade for a Lexus ISF or the Bang & Olufsen package for an Audi S5 coupe will cost you roughly $4,000 and $805 respectively. Even stepping up to a Bose sound system will result in you having to purchase a higher trim level, which in the case of my Chevrolet Corvette meant I had to come an additional $2,600 out of pocket for "better" sound. While the XK and XKR may be costly, the addition of the premium sound system adds a little something to their value.

Accompanying the Bowers & Wilkins speakers is a six-disc in-dash CD changer with WMA and MP3 compatibility. Sorry, no DVD here. There is a portable audio interface (aka iPod adaptor) present along with a USB input, both of which are located in the XKR's center console. Bluetooth is standard as is HD Radio and SIRIUS Satellite Radio (subscription not included). The entire system is controlled via a seven inch full color touch screen monitor located dead center of the dash, with track skip, volume and input controls also being found on the XKR's steering wheel.

Read more about the Jaguar B&W system on Page 2.

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