EXCLUSIVE REVIEW: B&W's in-car audio system for the Jaguar XF

Jaguar XF

Today the likes of Bang & Olufsen, Naim, Mark Levinson and Bowers & Wilkins are busy developing in-car systems for the luxury end of the automotive market.

So we thought it would be fun to try out Jaguar's new, and much-acclaimed, XF kitted out with a top-of-the-range B&W audio system. It's one of several in-car audio reviews we'll be running in the Ultimate Guide to High-End Entertainment, on sale July 31st.

Check out our exclusive review, brought to you by whathifi.com.

Jaguar XF

5 stars

Terrific bass, fine imaging and real character; superb to use; DAB and iPod options included in the purchase price

Assuming you can afford the car, nothing at all

About to order a new XF? You absolutely must make sure you get one with these systems fitted

If your first reaction to the notion of high-end hi-fi in a car is a dismissive one, think again. Many's the audiophile brand with a foothold in the automotive market, including such luminaries as B&O (Audi), Mark Levinson (Lexus), Naim (Bentley) and, as in this Jaguar, Bowers and Wilkins.

The cynical could attempt to paint this as a marketing exercise, but in practice, it makes plenty of sense. Assuming you drive, how many hours do you spend in a car? More than you'd like, we'd wager. So it makes sense to have a decent hi-fi onboard: there's every chance you might be listening to it more than your home system, at least during the week.

Plenty of speakers, lots of power

Hence the amount of effort poured into the XF's hi-fi system by B&W: the company says the finished product took three years to develop and fine-tune.

At its heart, it uses a powerful 440w amplifier coupled to Dolby Pro-Logic II processing. An impressive 14 speakers are strategically positioned around the cabin, including four aluminium-dome tweeters, nine Kevlar-cone midrange drivers, and a subwoofer the size of a small fuel tank mounted in the spare wheel underneath the boot floor.

One drive unit is mounted in the top of the dashboard to ensure a proper 'fill' between left and right channels, coupled to better imaging: it's supported by the Pro-Logic II processor, which operates in full 7.1 mode for optimum results.

Smarter than the average system
The front-end, meanwhile, is just as impressive. Opting for the B&W speaker system (£1290 in basic XFs, £890 in Premium Luxury and SV8 models) automatically includes an iPod controller, which cleverly gives full track and artist info on the screen, as well as DAB radio and the already-standard single-slot CD player. Voice control, a CD changer and digital and analogue television options are also available at extra cost.

Delivers the sonic goods too
Sound quality is exactly as a B&W system ought to be, with plenty of drive in the midrange, a fast, expressive touch with complex rhythms, and - most impressively – none of the leaden, boom'n'bang bass that can afflict some cars with powerful boot-mounted subwoofers.

Instead, low-frequency support is taut, agile and properly placed within the car, while voices have excellent character and presence. Overall, it's a real achievement, and well worth ticking that option box for.

Tech specs
Power: 440w
Drive units: 4 x aluminium-dome tweeters, 8 x Kevlar midrange drivers, subwoofer
iPod support: Yes
DAB Support: Yes
TV option: Yes,
analogue and digital
Touchscreen control: Yes