2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG: Audio Review
March 15, 2013
Most of the time I drive our long-term SLS roadster with the top down and stereo off. Really, the best music from this beast comes from under the hood and out the tailpipes. Every now and then, though, I do listen to the $6,400 Bang and Olufsen audio system.
For that price, I expect the audio to sound like the London Philharmonic is somehow assembled inside the cabin. It doesn't. But that's not the fault of the system. No, it's more of the amount of noise (as glorious as it is) coming from the engine and exhaust, and maybe the lack of sound insulation you'd get with a coupe.
Don't get me wrong, the audio sounds amazing, but I simply don't see the point of spending that kind of money when you can't fully appreciate it. Sure, you might argue that if you've got the quarter-million to drop on a car, another six-grand won't hurt, but most rich guys I know are careful with how they spend their fortune.
If you're parked with the engine off and the top up, the 11 speakers deliver amazing sound. The quality is crystal clear throughout the range and there's plenty of powerful bass to get your gut thumping. Despite the tight confines, the staging manages to feel as if the sound is emanating just a few inches in front of your face. I'm sure the dash-mounted tweeters help with that, but I also think if they dropped into the dash like our Audi A8 did, it'd be a nice touch.
As for the control aspect, well, I'm still not a huge fan of Mercedes' COMAND interface. It gets more intuitive with time, but I still think Audi's MMI and, to a lesser degree, BMW's iDrive interfaces suit my tastes better. But just like the competitors, the COMAND screen is tack-sharp and responds immediately to inputs. It's also seemingly free of bugs (random stoppages, mismatched song information, etc.).
So, all things considered, the Bang and Olufsen system sounds amazing, but that quality is simply wasted in a car like this. You really need a large sedan with a crypt-quiet cabin to fully appreciate its nuances, unless you just leave it parked. And that'd be criminal in my book.
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 20,105 miles