2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport challenges VW audio system norms
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.
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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