The true test of any luxury car is the sound system. Say what you want about adaptive cruise control or collision detection, but if you can’t crank up a goth-grunge artist at full volume and still make out the words, you haven’t really accomplished anything. That’s why I was so impressed with the new 2017 Lincoln MKZ, a luxury car introduced this week with a sound system that uses something called Quantum Logic by Revel. It’s one of the reasons I’d buy this car.
OK, I might be kidding about the most impressive spec being the audio, but then again -- you have to hear it to understand my point. It's brilliant. As someone who tests cars on a routine basis, I find that the safety systems are usually the most compelling. But I take notice when there’s something special about a new car that benefits from technology.
In the MKZ, the 20-speaker sound system helps with amplification and cocooning audio, but the real test is whether there is any processing involved. Quantum Logic is part of the Revel speaker system and it analyzes your music and makes sure the song stays distinct. One of the problems with car audio is that many vehicles hide a poor speaker system but just adding bass. Pristine audio is not exactly the goal, and I normally play two artists to see if the car can keep pace.
My go-to band is usually Iceage, which makes a hectic punk concoction. There are so many drums fills and electric guitars that it usually turns even a high-end speaker into a big mess of mush. Somehow, Quantum Logic actually worked and made the most frantic song (called Ecstasy) sound palatable end even enjoyable (if you like grunge-rock). Weaker audio systems pretty much just bow in disgrace.
Then I played a few songs by the goth artist Chelsea Wolfe. Sitting in the backseat to fully appreciate the effect, as the Lincoln rep smiled in appreciation, it was like a wave of gothic horror filled the interior (in a good way). The sound was pure, distinct, enveloping, and transportative. It literally felt like I was at her concert.
Lincoln is looking for differentiating features, and they’ve found one with the speaker system. I even prefered the audio to what I’ve experienced in higher-end cars like the Mercedes-Benz AMG C63. It’s amazing to be able to hear drum fills, heavy distortion, and a low guttural drone but still make out what the artist is actually singing about, which to me could turn a long commute or a drive in the country into something even more engaging. (And I haven’t even driven the car yet.)
The MKZ goes on sale next year, probably in the spring. The 20-speaker add on will bump up the price of course, and no specifics on that yet. The has a powerful 400-horsepower engine that will kick you back nicely as Chelsea Wolfe washed over you synapses. I'm eager to test one out.
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