While the muscle-car comeback is now at full throttle, perhaps the sweetest sound this new generation makes is on the inside. Take the 2006 Dodge Charger R/T (sticker price $36,640 as tested), with its hulking 340-horsepower HEMI under the hood and a Boston Acoustics sound system integrated into its surprisingly sophisticated interior. This particular ride is equipped with an optional Sound Group II system ($535) that includes six drivers - pairs of 3.5-inch mid-tweeters on the dash, 6 x 9-inch woofers in the front doors, and 6 x 9-inch full-range speakers in the rear deck - plus an 8-inch dual-voice-coil subwoofer in the rear deck, all powered by a 322-watt digital amplifier. (The standard system comes sans sub and with 276 watts of power.)
Driving the Charger for a week in and around Portland, Oregon, I got a constant stream of thumbs-ups. But no one was grinning as wide as I was when I had the Charger at full speed and the BA system on full blast. In honor of the car's heritage, I started out with the Jimi Hendrix Experience's "Spanish Castle Magic," from 1968's Axis: Bold as Love. The track's maelstrom of guitars was not only very loud but also veryy detailed. In Lynyrd Skynyrd's "On the Hunt," from 1975's Nuthin' Fancy, the subtle piano riff in the left channel didn't get buried by the barrage of guitars. I picked Nirvana's landmark "Smells Like Teen Spirit," from 1991's Nevermind, to try to get the system to protest - which it eventually did at extreme volumes. My only real gripes: The low bass from the sub was too boomy (so I often found myself turning it down), and the low soundstage kept reminding me that I was in a car.
I finished up with the Raconteurs' "Steady as She Goes," from 2006's Broken Boy Soldiers, to bring me full circle in more ways than one. The song has a '60s Brit-pop vibe that makes it seem simultaneously classic and modern - like the Charger itself. And Motown homeboy Jack White, the most renowned member of the band, has been influential in bringing attention back to the Detroit music scene in much the same way that cars like the Charger signal that the beleaguered Motor City still has plenty of muscle to flex.
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