The 10 vehicles with the best in-car entertainment systems.
Purists say that in-car entertainment systems are an abomination, a needless distraction from the pure art of driving, a crutch for lazy parents and an additional note of in-car chaos in an environment already overloaded with digital bells and whistles.
Obviously, they've never been stuck in a nightmarish traffic jam with a car full of screaming kids in the midst of a 15-hour marathon drive. If they had, they'd embrace the thought of dual LCD screens in the back seats, built in DVD-players, satellite TV, 115-volt outlets to power laptops and video inputs for game systems. They'd also understand why these things come with headphones; so that SpongeBob Squarepants doesn't interfere with the soothing music of Vivaldi, which is about the only thing that is keeping you sane and from throttling one of the tykes behind you.
For those who embrace the thought of having a theaterlike environment in their car, we compiled a list of the vehicles that offer the best entertainment features. The list covers many different price points and vehicles. Enjoy the show.
Let's start with the Grauman's Chinese Theatre of in-car video systems. Chrysler's car lineup these days may be in serious trouble, but this company still knows how to produce a killer minivan. The Town & Country, starting at $26,010, can be outfitted with not just one but two video screens and DVD players (the dual-screen system costs $2,200), so that those in the second row of seats can watch something different than those in the third row. The system also has video inputs and a 115-volt outlet for game systems, a 506-watt 9-speaker Infinity sound system, and Sirius Backseat TV (an additional $525), which receives kid-friendly satellite content from Nickelodeon, the Disney Channel and Cartoon Network. And because sometimes in-car entertainment involves interacting with your family members rather than ignoring them, the T&C also has the optional Swivel 'n Go seating system ($595), which allows the second row of seats to rotate 180 degrees and face the third row, as well as a removable table for board games or lunch.
The DVD player in the Lincoln MKS sedan, which starts at $41,270, plays video only when the vehicle is in park, so you may wonder why, if you're not going anywhere, you might want to watch a movie in the front seat of your car. Maybe the reason you might want to bring the popcorn out into the driveway is that the MKS' THX II-certified 5.1 surround sound system ($2,500) puts the one in your living room to shame, with its 600-watt 12-channel amp, 16 speakers and 10-inch subwoofer. And it probably doesn't hurt that the seats are plusher than a high-end couch, with Bridge of Weir leather, 12-way power adjustment and heating and cooling. Oh yeah, the system also does wonders for your music, and includes the voice-controlled Sync system, so that you can call up some thunderous tunes when you take it out of park and hit the road.
If you're buying the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, starting at $87,950, we're going to assume you're pretty wealthy. So you're probably not going to complain about the additional $2,450 required for the dual-screen Rear-Seat Entertainment Package, which allows you to watch two separate video sources through two screens built into the front headrests. You're probably not even going to balk at the fact that, to even consider the dual-screen package, you must also install the optional Premium 2 Package ($4,950 worth of electronic goodies). In fact, since you're pumping so much video goodness into the back seats, you might as well spring for the 8-way adjustable, climate-controlled Rear-Seat Package ($2,990) for an even cushier experience.
But what happens when you have four people in the car and you're stuck up in the passenger seat? Well, then you'd better hope you also bought the $700 Splitview front-seat entertainment system. Developed by Bosch, the 8-inch front screen uses a special filter to allow the driver to see the navigation and Comand system controls from one angle, while the passenger views a movie from another angle. By the way, according to the official Mercedes disclaimer, the Splitview is prohibited in Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin, so if you're driving from Des Moines to Peoria, and your passenger is watching "Fargo," you'd better hope he finishes up the film before you hit the border.
Toyota's Sienna minivan, starting at $24,260, has two approaches to the rear-seat entertainment system. The first are touch-screen LCD monitors ($1,999) that can be mounted on the headrests and that have integrated DVD players and infrared headsets — two independent players to entertain two kids. The second is an overhead split-screen LCD that allows the side-by-side display of two separate streams of video content, available as part of the $2,495 Entertainment Package on select trims. It's too bad you can't outfit the Sienna with both systems and display four programs at once, which would make it the most ADD-enabling vehicle on the road.
Inside Volvo's top-of-the-line S80 sedan, starting at $39,200, is a staggeringly powerful audio system. The Dynaudio surround-sound package has a 650-watt amp and 12 speakers. It's part of a $2,500 multimedia system that comes standard on Executive trims. That system can be paired with a dual-screen rear DVD system ($1,800), and if you like a little bubbly with your entertainment, an optional rear-seat fridge with crystal glasses can be had for an extra $700.