How the Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport delivers concert-quality sound

You may be among the millions of vehicle owners who have never taken note of how many speakers your car has. But for many, car audio systems matter greatly – after all, if you’re going to commute in your vehicle several hours a day, you should enjoy the environment it creates.

In the digital era, car audio has become less about total volume of sound and more about tuning the sound for the environment. And since 2011, Volkswagen has teamed with Fender and Panasonic to bring a new quality to the sound inside your car.

The first Fender Premium Audio System debuted in the 2011 Beetle, Passat and Jetta GLI, offering 400 watts, nine speakers and the in-person type of sound that has made Fender such a legendary name in music. Volkswagen has continued to partner with Panasonic and Fender to implement systems in other models, including the 2015 Golf, and select Golf, Passat, Tiguan and Atlas models.

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.”

Applying that same formula to the 2020 Atlas Cross Sport posed some unique challenges.

“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 rethink the design of the Fender Premium Audio System for the smaller model without taking away any of the quality.”

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.

This latest Fender Premium Audio System includes 12 separate Fender speakers around the Atlas Cross Sport cabin. The 80-mm front-center channel speaker brings vocals to life, as if from a concert stage. In the front doors, two 200-mm dual voice coil woofers deliver lower tones with minimal distortion, even when played at high volumes. Four 60-mm soft dome tweeters, located in the first and second rows, convey the richness and clarity of each instrument.

Two 168-mm speakers in the rear doors deliver a smooth low-frequency and midrange response, and two 80-mm wide frequency speakers in the D-pillar mimic the depth and spaciousness of a concert venue. In the back, a 168-mm subwoofer sits in a 12-liter enclosure, completing the audio spectrum with cabin-filling bass that passengers can feel in their chests. All told, the system can pump out 480 watts of power – enough to help recreate that front-row-concert sound.

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.”