In-Car Tech

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport challenges VW audio system norms

Volkswagen has worked with Panasonic and Fender to offer premium audio systems in their vehicles since 2011.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

You think about the price, number of seats, cargo space, fuel efficiency, and drivability. Then, somewhere down in the lower half of the list of considerations, for the average consumer, is the setup of the vehicle's sound system.

Volkswagen, like many other automakers, has teamed up with audio system companies to engineer sound solutions that provide high-quality sound in their vehicles.

In 2011, the first Fender Premium Audio System debuted in the Beetle, Passat, and Jetta GLI. It delivered 400 watts of sound from eight speakers. Panasonic sound systems were added to the mix in 2015 delivering a concert-quality experience and since then, the company has offered available premium audio equipment on most of its model.

With that system, "we're able to put concert-quality sound inside a vehicle," said Tom Dunn, Director of Global Audio Solutions at Panasonic. "The emotion of a live performance is something we were all familiar with, but it was not something anyone expected to feel while driving their car."

Volkswagen's Atlas, introduced for the 2018 model year, presented unique acoustic challenges because of its size.

"The Atlas has three rows and seven seats, which gives the vehicle a large cabin space," said David Ernst, Panasonic's Senior Acoustics Engineer. "The Atlas Cross Sport has two rows and five seats, so we had to pare down the design of the Fender Premium Audio System for the smaller model without taking away any of the quality."

When VW decided to add the Atlas Cross Sport to its lineup, the move wasn't as simple as lowering the roofline and updating the grille.

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Lowering the roofline as part of the creation of the Atlas Cross Sport presented unique challenges for Volkswagen and Fender engineers.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

According to Volkswagen, "To adapt the original Atlas audio system for the size of the Atlas Cross Sport, Ernst and his team tested the system with focus groups and people at events and concerts. The team even had musical artists sit in the Atlas Cross Sport and listen to their own music on the system to see how well it matched in quality and expectation."

"We did a lot of fine-tuning to make sure the product would be perfect for passengers, wherever they sat inside the vehicle," Ernst said.

The Atlas Cross Sport ended up with a 12-speaker Fender Premium Audio System. It has a 80-mm front-center channel speaker, two 200-mm dual voice coil woofers in the front doors, four 60-mm soft dome tweeters in the first- and second-rows, two 168-mm speakers in the rear doors, and two 80-mm wide frequency speakers in the D-pillar. A 168-mm subwoofer sits in a 12-liter enclosure in the back. All told, the system delivers 480 watts of power.

After spending months optimizing the Atlas Cross Sport, Ernst says he's proud of the "concert feeling" passengers have when listening to the final product.

"This partnership is not just about the hardware of the audio system," said Dunn. "It's an opportunity to connect with customers on an emotional level. And Volkswagen has always recognized the importance of this connection."

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The Ferrari 812 Competizione comes in two varieties.

Photo courtesy of Ferrari

A new variant of the Ferrari 812 Superfast has been revealed. The Ferrari 812 Competizione models are a limited edition series of vehicles in two variants, coupe and targa, known as the Ferrari 812 Competizione and the Ferrari 812 Competizione A.

Both models sport a naturally-aspirated 6.5-liter V12 engine that achieves 818 horsepower. The power plant is, on the surface, the same that is in the Ferrari 812 Superfast but engineers have tinkered with the fresh version to optimize fluid dynamics of the intake system and combustion, reducing internal friction.

Ferrari has paired the engine with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox that the automaker says delivers a new type of shifting feeling. The setup retains the same gear ratios as the 812 Superfast but has more rpm range. The engine can rev to 9,500 rpm and a progressive growling comes spewing out of the car's exhaust system, which comes complete with a gasoline particulate filter that ensures the car meets modern emissions standards.

Ferrari 812 Competizione & Ferrari 812 Competizione A

Photo courtesy of Ferrari

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A single front air intake works to keep things cool up front marking the first time such an adaptation has occurred on a V12-powered Ferrari. The cooling circuit has also been improved making it 10 percent more efficient and the oil tank has been redesigned to allow for extra flow.

Engineers have given the new Ferraris added braking power. That includes a redesigned version of the caliper that was first used on the SF90 Stradale and other modifications. These changes allowed Ferrari to redesign the car's front underbody freeing up space around the lower front wishbone suspension and extending the area that could be used to generate downforce. The car has a passive mobile aero system.

The backside of the new variants has a unique design with a fresh exhaust layout, diffuser geometry, spoiler volume, patented rear screen, and bumper design. The rear diffuser now extends across the full width of the car and redesigned silencers and tailpipes that are integrated into a single pipe.

Four-wheel steering and independent rear-wheel steering features a new electronic management system. Refinements have been made to the car's response system to deliver a more connected drive experience. It features a new iteration of Ferrari's Side Slip Control system and rides on new Michelin Cup2R tires.

Weight savings abounds throughout the car and though much of it isn't apparent to the untrained eye, it helps the performance of the car. This includes the dashboard and door panels. The door panel pocket juts out from the main structure almost as if it were a floating element.

The 812 Competizione A features a number of modifications that differentiate it from the 812 Competizione including the implementation of a flying buttress design that helps the car's center of gravity to appear lower that the coupe's. When the targa top is stowed, the roll bars jut out becoming a secondary visual element.

Each of the cars comes standard with Ferrari's extended seven-year maintenance program.

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BMW's newest works are equal parts art and car.

Photo courtesy of BMW

BMW has revealed "The Ultimate AI Masterpiece", an exploration of automobiles at the intersection of art in conjunction with Frieze New York 2021, as well as the 50th anniversary of BMW Group Cultural Engagement. The virtual art installation is supported by videos of the exhibit's creation process on YouTube and Instagram.

The installment is the brain child of creative technologist Nathan Shipley of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, and Gary Yeh, art connoisseur/founder of artDrunk. The duo used the NVIDIA StyleGAN artificial intelligence model to "cross-reference over 50,000 images of artwork spanning 900 years of history and a curated set of 50 works from renowned and emerging contemporary artists BMW has worked with over the past 50 years", according to a release.

Frieze New York 2021: "The Ultimate AI Masterpiece"

Photo courtesy of BMW

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The artificial intelligence then used those pieces to create entirely new art, merging classical art with the work of contemporary artists. These new works have been projection-mapped onto a virtual rendition of BMW's flagship 8 Series Gran Coupe.

"For 50 years, BMW has supported the arts and culture through numerous initiatives as a way engage and interact with consumers around the world in an authentic way," said Uwe Dreher, vice president of marketing, BMW of North America. "As we continue these efforts into 2021, and look for new and creative ways to engage audiences, we shift to a virtual setting where we are combining centuries-old art and the latest AI technology to create something completely new and exciting."

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Shipley and Yeh collaborated digitally from their homes in San Francisco and Seoul for the project.

"During an unusually isolated time in history, we took the opportunity to curate and work with artists from around the world as a means to give viewers a true art experience digitally," said Gary Yeh, art collector and founder of ArtDrunk. It was particularly exciting to push the boundaries of art, see how technology may influence the art world in the years to come, and build on 50 years of cultural engagement at BMW."

Frieze New York is currently in its 10th edition and taking place at The Shed in Manhattan through May 9. The venue is new and features an event reimagined for its new location, bringing together over 60 major galleries. A dedicated edition of Frieze Viewing Room will run parallel to the fair, through May 14, and will feature an expanded list of over 160 exhibitors.

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