LAS VEGAS--At Chrysler's UConnect booth for CES, a leather clad woman wearing aviators turned up the Dodge Charger's volume and the sounds of Just Dance by Lady Gaga came blasting out of the speakers.
But as she increased the volume, the indicator on the LCD reaching toward its limit, the sound never became painful. Partly because I liked the song, but mostly due to the Beats by Dre audio system in the car, which pumped out extremely tight, controlled sound. As the volume rose, I detected no distortion, and even the Charger's door panels seemed unaffected by the sound pressure issuing from the woofers.
The staging clearly put the sound in front of the aviator wearing Dodge representative and myself. It was designed to make us feel like we were sitting front row at a concert, and that designed worked well.
I yelled over Lady Gaga's low-toned warble, asking the Dodge rep if the system could do surround. I really preferred the audio staged up front, but surround is one of those things a reviewer must look for. Going through a few menus on the 8.4-inch LCD mounted in the dashboard, the rep checked the box on the surround setting.
The music seemed to spill over my shoulders from its previously confined space on the dashboard. It wasn't a dramatic change, and as surround usually does for music, mostly made the reproduction sound sloppier. I asked for the front staging again, and the electric beats from the Lady Gaga song resumed their proper place.
Again, that tight, undistorted sound came through clearly. For a change of pace, I requested a Tom Petty song that was one of the four set up for this demonstration. The glistening rip of an electric guitar tore across the sound stage, followed by Petty's higher register vocals. Again, the reproduction was excellent at volume.
One aspect of the system I didn't catch was its capability to find those deep layers within a track and make them audible. I didn't notice the fine detail of other systems I've heard, but that may have been more due to the fact that I was not as familiar with these tracks as with my own test suite.
Dodge just announced the availability of the Beats by Dre audio system for the 2012 Charger, a system previously included with the Chrysler 300. 11 speakers make up with this system, with four 6 x 9s in the front doors and rear shelf, five 3 x 5s in the instrument panel and rear doors, an 8 inch speaker in the center of the rear shelf, and an 8 inch subwoofer in the trunk. These speakers are driven by a 12 channel amplifier, and the Dodge head unit includes digital audio sources such as iPod integration, a USB port, and Bluetooth audio streaming.
The UConnect booth also played host to a display of dashboards from Chrysler and Dodge vehicles. Included here was the new Dodge Dart dashboard, the car just unveiled at the 2012 Detroit auto show a few days previously.
Although the Dart is positioned as a compact economy car, the dashboard features some impressive technology. It gets the same 8.3-inch display and navigation head unit as the Charger, although no Beats by Dre audio system and an innovative LCD instrument cluster.