Kenwood eXcelon Reference DNX996XR Sound / Navigation System Review

2019-08-02T09:48:56+00:00August 2nd, 2019|Audio, Features|0 Comments

The Kenwood eXcelon Reference DNX996XR comes with a box full of accessories and cables.

Summer is here in full swing and there are few things in life that bring me as much joy as hitting the open road in my Nissan 350Z roadster. It’s a 2004 vintage but with only 55,000 kilometers on the clock, it still looks and feels fresh. I’ve maintained it very well over the years and recently put some nice TSW wheels on it which significantly rejuvenated the exterior appearance. The factory Bose sound system, together with a 6-CD changer, sounds decent enough – but who listens to CDs these days, right? It also lacks a navigation system and hands-free calling. Basically, the car lacks just about every creature comfort you can think of. That’s why this summer I decided to upgrade the system to the top-of-the-line Kenwood eXcelon Reference DNX996XR.

My unsuspecting Nissan 350Z is about to receive the technology upgrade of its life!

The DNX996XR hails from Kenwood’s high-end eXcelon Reference line and retails for $1,549 CAD. Although this is the only AV navigation / stereo system offered in this line, the eXcelon Reference line up of products also offers a DVD receiver / stereo, several models of car speakers, subwoofers and amplifiers. But this series just scratches the surface of the vast number of car products that Kenwood offers across two additional series – the eXcelon series and the standard Kenwood series. There are literally dozens of different products to choose from, suited for wallets of all sizes. Rounding out the Kenwood product portfolio are dashboard cameras and marine audio products.

But let’s get back to the DNX996XR – the subject of this review. The DNX996XR is as good of a navigation and sound system money can buy. It easily exceeds the functionality and features that many factory systems are capable of, even when compared some of the latest luxury vehicles in the market. I recently went through the process of shopping for a luxury SUV and hence had the chance to fiddle with the navigation / sound systems in over a dozen new cars. I found many of them somewhat sluggish to navigate and lacking modern features. It’s always boggled my mind how far behind all the factory units are compared to our modern smartphones. This is one of the biggest reasons consumers still upgrade their factory stereos to aftermarket units.

There are a ton of features at heart of the DNX996XR you can get excited about: a 6.8-inch capacitive touch screen with market exclusive full HD 1,280 x 720 resolution, advanced navigation from Garmin, wireless Apple CarPlay and wireless Android Auto and built-in Bluetooth and HD Radio. It can be further upgraded thanks to the 3 preout outputs, which allow you to connect an external amplifier, and 3 camera inputs which can accept input from your car’s existing cameras or a Kenwood aftermarket camera. The DNX996XR has a 4 channel (22 watts RMS per channel) amplifier built-in for those who wish to bypass their vehicle’s stock amp.

The Install

I’ve installed many car stereos over the years in my own garage, but this time I opted for a professional installation from a highly reputed shop called Ultra Auto Sound ( in Mississauga, Ontario, which has been around since 1993 and specializes in Kenwood audio products. During the install, I had the pleasure of chatting with Joe Karimzad, the brother of owner Said Karimzad. Joe is a very welcoming and knowledgeable man. He and his team were very helpful in answering all my questions and completed the installation in just two hours, which was a nice surprise because I expected it to take longer. I suppose that’s the advantage of hiring a professional to do the job. The installation process was certainly not a simple job – it involved using specialized tools, removing the entire middle portion of my dashboard, installing a dashboard trim kit and connecting the new system via a wiring harness. It turned out that the harness had to be modified slightly by soldering RCA connectors on two of the wires, which installer Kyle Stockle did without a problem. During the installation, Kyle gave me a few options for the location of the two USB ports that my 350Z was about to gain. I ended up choosing the most discrete location – inside the storage compartment of my middle console. These two USB ports can be used for charging wireless devices, wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connections, music and movie playback and more.

Just like in a home reno, things have to get worse before they get better. My poor baby!

  • About the Author:

    After completing a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science in 2002, Suave turned his attention to his passion for audio, video and technology in general. Through hands on experience with an extensive number of audio video products, Suave provides a real world, expert perspective on the latest products and the technology surrounding them. As an enthusiast, he shows a true passion in his writing that is easy to understand by all consumers. Aside from contributing to NOVO, Suave has also written about audio for special sections of The Toronto Star, Son et Image Magazine (FSI Guide) and appeared several times on television. More recently Suave was interviewed and quoted in articles for the Globe and Mail and In 2010, Suave launched the Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show (TAVES), an annual consumer trade show that has witnessed tremendous growth year after year.  In 2014, the show was expanded to include a new technology & innovation pavilion and rebranded as the TAVES Consumer Electronics Show.  As of 2016, the show attracts over 7,600 attendees and exhibitors from around the globe.  TAVES showcases cutting-edge technology and innovation in the most exciting categories: virtual reality, drones, wearables, health & fitness, gaming, audio, home theater, robotics, 3D printing, personal transportation, smart devices and electric vehicles.  For more info, please visit

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