Volvo XC40 audio review: A 13-speaker Harman Kardon system

The Volvo XC40, more specifically the Recharge Twin, is a powerful all-electric SUV that oozes style. Having reviewed the vehicle, we were left jaw-dropped and handed it our Best Buy award. The SUV went on to be the joint-highest rated vehicle on TotallyEV – the Tesla Model 3 sharing the top spot with the Volvo.

But what about its audio system? As standard, the fully electrified XC40 Twin (base trim) and middle-spec Twin Pro have an eight-speaker configuration that outputs 250 Watts. On review, is the 13-speaker Harman Kardon system which is comprised within the top-spec Twin Pro. Total power increases to a staggering 600 Watts. Note, there’s no means of upgrading the Twin or Twin Plus with the Harman Kardon system – it’s not an option, but rather, a standard feature in the Twin Pro.

Click here to read the full Volvo XC40 review

Volvo XC40 audio setup

To tinker with the vehicle’s audio settings, you’ll want to navigate to the appropriate menu on the portrait 9″ infotainment display. Alongside the vehicle’s volume levels, you’ll find a three-band equaliser – here are our optimal settings:

  • Surround*: Off
  • Treble: +5
  • Bass: -4
  • Subwoofer: -1
  • Balance & Fader: Centre

*We prefer to listen to music with Surround disabled, if however, you prefer a spacious sound and don’t mind sacrificing mid-range accuracy, feel free to enable this option and set the surround sound level to around 30% for an optimal listening experience – at least in our opinion.

To connect up to the vehicle’s system, you can opt for a wired or wireless connection, both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are supported. Over Bluetooth, the system supports the SBC and AAC codecs – the latter being the better out of the two, as it transmits at a higher quality.

As for media controls, they can be accessed through the display, via physical buttons found underneath the 9″ screen or via the steering wheel.

Read next: Hyundai Kona Electric audio review: Eight-speaker Krell system

Volvo XC40 audio performance

For a demo of the Volvo XC40’s audio system head on over to our YouTube channel.

When it comes to its audio configuration, the Harman Kardon audio system comprised within the XC40 features 13 speakers. At the front, there are six audio drivers: one tweeter within each of the A-pillars, a 100mm woofer within each of the front doors, and within the dashboard there’s a 100mm centre speaker and a 200mm centre Dual Voice Coil (DVC) driver. At the back, there are four 80mm mid-range drivers, one within each of the rear doors and two within the parcel shelf; 140mm woofers can be found within each of the rear doors, too. Finally, there’s a 200mm subwoofer comprised within the boot.

Indeed, the Harman Kardon system one-ups the stock eight-speaker configuration by offering a subwoofer and four additional drivers at the rear of the cabin. The former is a marvel, where it produces a sublime low-end rumble that can be heard throughout the cabin. We actually reduced it by a notch in order for it not to overpower the rest of the frequency range.

Similarly, the mid-bass – in its default EQ – is overpowering and results in a bombastic experience. To get a more balanced sound signature, we’d highly recommend reducing its impact by taking a few notches off the ‘Bass’ EQ.

With all that bass presence, it’s almost no surprise to learn that the mids are pushed back. Thankfully, they can be EQ’ed without a loss of accuracy. Doing so pushes Kara Marni’s vocals in ‘Trippin’ to the foreground, and while the system still has a warm sound signature, it’s definitely capable of reproducing a lively sound. Nevertheless, it is the system’s biggest weakness when compared to the likes of the audio systems found within the Tesla Model 3 or Polestar 2, which portray a better, more forward sound through the mid-range frequencies.

One can go overboard with the ‘Treble’ EQ, but doing so will also tinker with the highs. Going too far positive yields for a fatiguing sound, as the system’s tweeters become overzealous and provide too much zing at the top end. As such, we’d recommend not going over halfway in this EQ setting, but of course, your hearing range might and will likely differ – adjust at your own accord. With a few notches added on, we find the highs extend well and provide plenty of energy; ‘Adagio for Tron’ by Daft Punk and Teddybears really comes to life in the XC40.

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Instrument separation is stellar, too. Here, with a six-six split between the front and the rear of the cabin, the speakers manage to provide an engaging experience; a trait that the Volvo shares with the Polestar 2. On a more negative note, however, the overall width and depth feel a bit closed. Both Harman Kardon audio systems can’t compete with the near-faultless execution in the soundstage department of the Premium Audio system found comprised within the Tesla Model 3.

Now one can enable the ‘Surround’ option in the EQ settings and play around with the level, but we find the Dolby Pro Logic II Surround Sound option detracts from the overall mid-range accuracy, pushing it back even further. We had the same experience in the Polestar 2 and as such, suggest leaving the option unticked in order to be greeted with a reference sound.

Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin Harman Kardon award

Read next: Polestar 2 audio review: A phenomenal Harman Kardon system

TotallyEV’s verdict on the Volvo XC40’s audio system

While the Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin Pro’s system isn’t quite at the same level as that of its saloon-sized sibling, the Polestar 2, nor can it dethrone the Tesla Model 3, it’s still a stonkingly good setup.

Given the Twin Pro is an additional £3,750 from the Twin Plus and £6,750 from the Twin it is, in our opinion, worth getting the top-spec model if you’re an audiophile – of course, the Twin Pro also comes with a whole host of other features, too. In terms of audio, the addition of rear drivers adds to the overall soundstage and betters the experience for your occupants, while the inclusion of a subwoofer bolsters the system’s low-end response. As a result, the Volvo XC40’s Harman Kardon system receives TotallyEV’s Best Buy award.

Would you go the extra mile for the Twin Pro? Let us know in the comments section or via social media; we’re on: YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.


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