2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392 review:

Showy retro muscle in line for a tech update

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Bass line
As part of a package with the in-dash navigation system, this Challenger came equipped with a potent, 900-watt Harman Kardon audio system. I had been hoping for the Beats audio system available in the Dodge Charger, but it is not currently available for the Challenger.

However, the Harman Kardon system delivered good sound reproduction. Where it really shone was in bass, appropriate for this showy Challenger. Two 10-inch subs gave music a bass line I could often feel more than hear. This tuning made me want to dig out the most bass-heavy songs just to hear how the system would handle them.

I could also tell that pedestrians were being treated to a well-controlled thump-thump emanating from the Challenger, as if it needed anything more to draw attention to itself.

2013 Dodge Challenger
The car's LCD motors down to reveal a CD/DVD slot, a feature going the way of pop-up headlights. Josh Miller/CNET

While I enjoyed the audio system, I found the cabin electronics laughable. First I noticed the two voice-command buttons, one on the steering wheel's left spoke and one on the far right side of the head unit. I chose the most convenient one, and voice prompts helped me enter a destination into navigation, a tedious process requiring separate entries for each address component.

Getting more adventurous, I reached across the cabin to the other voice-command button, which resulted in prompts for using the hands-free phone system.

Voice command for music would have been nice, but I don't think I could have handled a third button.

The Challenger has a place to plug in an iOS device or USB drive, but unfortunately it's on the faceplate of the stereo, easy to reach but obtrusive. Another old-school nod is how the navigation unit screen motors out of the way to reveal a DVD slot. As a modern touch, the stereo also plays music from Bluetooth audio streaming. There is no HD Radio.

There is a hard drive behind the scenes as well, and the system let me import music from a USB drive onto it.

The interface on the small touch screen is goofy-looking, featuring big, unrefined buttons. With an iOS device plugged in, it showed me a music library divided into artist, album, and genre categories, but with a USB drive it showed only a folder and file structure. A little annoying was the way the stereo required me to reselect whatever digital music source I had playing when I last left the car.

The phone system uses a voice-command interface, with no touch-screen access. However, it integrated with my phone's contact list, letting me place calls by saying a contact name.

The navigation system ran quickly and gave me good routing, even recalculating to avoid traffic jams. But the maps have the same primitive look as the rest of the interface. And on the small screen, the map view quickly became cluttered.

2013 Dodge Challenger
Sirius Travel Link gives the Challenger a tech boost, bringing in gas prices, movie listings, and sport scores. Josh Miller/CNET

Buried among the menus I found Sirius Travel Link, which provides lists of local gas prices, weather, sports scores, and movie times, all delivered through a satellite radio data channel. These information sources are integrated with the navigation system, so I could, for instance, choose a gas station with a good price for the premium fuel the Challenger takes, and have the address programmed in as a destination at the touch of a button.

Show pony
The 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392 is really a show car, something to roll out of the garage on a nice summer day and take around to a barbecue to impress all your friends. Its level of fuel economy and general drivability make it unsuitable to use as your daily wheels, unless you are a wealthy masochist. To really enjoy its performance character, you will need to bring it to a track day, and spend a lot of time learning how to modulate its power.

The cabin electronics are functional, and I really like the bass from the audio system. But the interface is terrible, separating the voice-command buttons and using a small touch screen. There are two solutions for the bad cabin electronics. One would be just to not option them and install something much better from the aftermarket. A second option would be to wait for the next generation of the Challenger, which will get a significant update to Dodge's current, very good cabin electronics.

Tech specs
Model 2013 Dodge Challenger
Trim SRT8 392
Power train 6.4-liter V-8, 6-speed manual transmission
EPA fuel economy 14 mpg city/23 mpg highway
Observed fuel economy 17.3 mpg
Navigation Hard drive-based navigation with traffic data
Bluetooth phone support Standard
Digital audio sources Onboard hard drive, Bluetooth streaming, USB drive, iOS device, auxiliary input, satellite radio
Audio system Harman Kardon 900-watt 18-speaker system
Driver aids Sonar parking sensors
Base price $43,775
Price as tested $48,705

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