2007 Dodge Charger SRT8: Updated With New Connected Tech
by Ronald Montoya, Senior Consumer Advice Editor on September 2, 2015
Infotainment technology doesn't age well on used cars. What passed for the latest in-car technology a few years ago can feel like a relic today. And for millennials, a generation that grew up with the Internet and rapid tech development, the 2007 Dodge Charger SRT8's old tech wasn't going to cut it, especially for a car we've billed as the "Millennial Used Car Project"
Social Media Editor and in-house millennial Travis Langness first pointed this out back in July when he noted that the Charger's head unit "graphics were pretty bad" and that there was no place to hook up his iPhone.
Well Travis, ask and you shall receive. We gave the Charger a dose of updated tech in the form of a new Pioneer head unit.
A number of aftermarket head units have offered Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration since mid-2014. At present, an aftermarket unit is the best and least expensive way to experience these technologies, since automakers have been slow to add the features to their new cars.
We wanted the latest in smartphone technology, but in keeping with the spirit of the Millennial Used Car Project, we also felt that it was important to keep the costs reasonablel. Our theoretical tech budget was about $1,000, all in. I say theoretical, since Pioneer was gracious enough to provide us the head unit for review purposes. Pioneer also covered the installation fees.
We settled on the Pioneer AVH-4100NEX. It is a double-DIN unit with a 7-inch touchscreen that earns solid reviews on Amazon and Best Buy. It is the entry-level model of the Networked Entertainment eXperience (NEX) line and retails for about $563 on Amazon.
We had to make a few trade-offs to keep costs down. First off, we decided this project would only focus on the head unit. New speakers would've blown the budget. Next, we sacrificed the factory navigation system that came with the car and avoided the higher-priced head units that came with a built-in navigation. The old factory system was slow, had outdated maps and a terrible interface. Opting for a non-navigation unit helped us stay within budget.
The ability to use smartphone maps is a big selling point for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and that's how we intend to use it. We also lost our satellite radio receiver in the transition. The head unit we bought is capable of playing satellite radio, but it needs an extra part to do so. We plan to add it later.
So we lost a few features, but we gained a cleaner interface, Bluetooth audio, Pandora streaming, iPod connectivity and the ability to integrate our smartphones.
Pioneer also sent us an adaptor, which lets us keep the steering wheel controls. We can change the volume, skip tracks and change radio stations. This part sells for about $48 on Amazon.
For installation, we took the car to PCH Custom Audio in Wilmington, roughly 30 miles from our office. PCH Custom installed everything in about four hours. The dash adaptor for the center console came in black, which meant we lost the factory unit's silver trim. The silver did a nice job of breaking up the colors in the cabin, and now the center console looks like a mass of black plastic. We didn't pay for installation, but the estimated cost was $180.25.
All in, the project cost about $846. This figure assumed we purchased the parts from Amazon and added about 9 percent for Los Angeles County sales tax.
The Pioneer unit, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay are all separate experiences, which we'll discuss in follow-up posts. For now, my early impressions are that I miss the volume knob on the old head unit. The Pioneer unit has tiny buttons for volume, so I find myself mostly using the steering wheel controls. Apple CarPlay works well, but it forces you to use Apple Maps, of which I'm not the biggest fan. You can still use Google Maps or Waze, but you'll only hear the audio prompts.
Here's the old head unit for reference:
Here's the new head unit. I prefer to keep my phone close, so that's why the wire is hanging out. Otherwise, you could keep it in the glove box and have a cleaner look to the cabin.
Here's a close up of the head unit with the Apple CarPlay homescreen.
Let us know what you want to hear more about in the comments.
Ronald Montoya, Senior Consumer Advice Editor @ 70,100 miles