Which do you prefer – Dodge Charger vs Challenger? Dodge has produced some legendary muscle cars over the years, but none are more iconic than the Challenger and the Charger.
Aggressive styling which embodies the excess of Americana, rear wheel drive, and high horsepower engines are the essence of these vehicles.
The modern Challenger bears the closest resemblance to its roots – a two-door muscle coupe designed to blow the doors off its rivals, while looking and sounding more aggressive than anything else on the streets.
The Charger, on the other hand, has matured over its lifetime. Originally a 17-foot barge which evolved into one of the most iconic American muscle cars of all time, the 2006 retro styled Charger has become Dodge’s flagship performance sedan.
Dodge Charger vs Challenger – The History
The Dodge Charger is the elder of the two vehicles, first appearing in 1966 at the Rose Bowl College football show in Pasadena. This heavy fastback sold poorly, as American buyers were growing tired of the bloated oversized cars of the 50s/early 60s and wanted something compact with more power.
In 1968 the Charger received its first of many redesigns and became one of the most iconic muscle cars on the planet. A menacing split grille with hidden headlights, a longer hood, and shorter boot, all contributed to the Charger’s brutal makeover. Starring in the likes of Bullitt and The Dukes of Hazzard as the ‘General Lee’; the Charger became a household name. The Charger became so popular that it even had a song dedicated to it by Johnny Cash.
The base spec came with a 5.2-litre V8 which was reduced to a 3.7-litre inline-6 later that year however the Charger wasn’t aiming for economy by any means – the largest engine on offer was a 7.2-litre V8 which featured in the top of the line R/T (Road Track) models.
The Charger’s biggest rivals were the Ford Torino, and the Plymouth Roadrunner, and Mercury Cyclone, all of which it competed against in Nascar, albeit with various aerodynamic adjustments. Homologation specials called the Charger Daytona were available to purchase to the public and could hit 205mph with enough road.
While the Charger arguably dominated the muscle car market in the late 60s, come 1970 the same designer, Carl Cameron, created the Challenger. This stocky pony car was smaller in dimensions than the Charger but was just as powerful. Produced to rival the increasingly popular Mustang and Camaro, the Challenger could be fitted with almost every engine in Chrysler’s history, from a 3.2-litre inline V6 to the same 7.2-litre V8 in the Charger, alongside an insane variety of trim options.
Despite the two models’ similarities in name, country of origin, and pursuit of raw adrenaline thrills, there is still many factors which make them their own beasts.
Differences Between Charger and Challenger
Out of the two, the Challenger bears the closest resemblance to its forefather, being a low-slung coupe with a chopped roofline, and 2+2 seat configuration. The Charger, on the other hand, has evolved from its coke bottle shaped predecessor into a 4+3 sedan.
In simple terms, the Challenger chooses classic muscle car styling whereas the Charger champions practicality.
Continuing with the styling differences, one easy way to differentiate the Challenger from the Charger is the front fascia and lighting configuration. The Challenger has four round headlights with a thin split grille separating them, whereas the Charger has two large square headlamps.
At the rear the Charger has one long taillight which stretches across the width of the vehicle, with ‘DODGE’ lettering integrated into the design. The Challenger features two separate two units with DODGE lettering stamped onto a black divider in between.
The Challenger is the only one available with a choice of hood options with the iconic ‘shaker’ hood as an option – a large air intake which sticks out of a cut out in the hood allowing you to see the intake shaking when the engine is running.
In terms of size the Charger’s wheelbase is four inches longer, but the larger overhangs to accommodate the menacing front bumper and rear spoiler of the Challenger make them almost identical in overall length.
The Challenger is available with a widebody option for the ‘Hellcat’ and ‘Demon’ models but none of the rest of the line-up. There are rumours amongst fans that the Charger will be getting a widebody model soon, but nothing has been confirmed by Dodge yet.
Driving purists will be disappointed to learn that the Charger cannot be spec’d with a manual gearbox whereas the Challenger can. The Charger is only available with an 8-speed automatic, even with the top of the line Hellcat edition. Challenger buyers also have the option of a 6-speed manual except for on some select models.
One of the largest differentiations between the Charger and Challenger is that the Challenger has a unique model – The Demon. This top of the line Challenger is one above the previous reigning champion, the Hellcat, and is built for demolishing drag records. The Demon comes with a 6.2-litre V8 producing 840bhp and 770lb-ft of torque, this comes with the drawback of only 14.5mpg but you aren’t buying one because it’s the sensible option. Other impressive stats include a 0-60 time of 2.3 seconds, and a quarter mile time of 9.65 seconds clocked at 140mph.
This is all achieved thanks to a highly tuned supercharged engine, super slick drag tires, plenty of weight reduction, and the 8-speed transmissions gear ratios adjusted for the drag strip.
Demon buyers also have a plethora of other bragging rights; the fastest quarter mile for a production car, the fastest 0-100mph of any production car, the first ever production car to be capable of a wheelie, and the highest G-forces ever recorded in a production car.
Whereas performance milestones are more Challenger territory the Charger trumps its brother with a wider selection of safety features; automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and lane-keeping assist all appear on the Charger options list. The Charger also comes with a 12v power socket and USB ports for rear passengers to make journeys more enjoyable.
The Similarities Between The Charger and Challenger
In the simplest terms both are Dodges that begin with ‘Cha’ and end in ‘ger’ but there are for more which these two models share than brand and syllables.
RWD and AWD
Both are available in rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive configurations. Prior to 2017 only the Charger had an AWD option, but with the introduction of the Challenger GT AWD model, both now have the choice of drivetrains to boast about.
If driving in comfort with nothing to distract you from the road is what you’re after, or you never got your manual licence, then you’re in luck because both the Dodge Charger and Challenger are available with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Hardcore driving enthusiasts may call this blasphemy but if Dodge can make their autos good enough to take a Demon to 100mph in 5.1 seconds then they can’t be that bad.
The dashboards of both cars are almost complete clones albeit some minuscule dimensional differences. The layout, materials used, gauges, and steering wheel are all identical so there’s no superior of the two.
Furthermore, the same 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system comes as standard in both models, and with each buyers have the option of upgrading to an 8.4inch system with a USB port, and built in satellite navigation.
Blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, auto high-beams and rear parking sensors all come as standard, yet this hasn’t prevented both the Challenger and Charger from receiving low safety scores. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, both cars score a ‘marginal’ score in the driver side front crash test. For comparison, another coupe with around 350bhp in basic trim, the 2018 Audi S5, scored a perfect ‘G’ rating in the same test.
In terms of mechanicals, Dodge has offered customers a selection of V6 or V8 offerings; a 3.6-litre V8 (305bhp), a 5.7-litre HEMI V8 (370bhp), a 6.4-litre HEMI V8 (408bhp), or a 6.2-litre SRT Hellcat V8 (707bhp). The 840bhp 6.2-litre SRT Demon V8 mentioned earlier is unique to the Challenger.
Fuel economy across all engines and trim levels is identical despite the different body styles of the coupe Challenger and sedan Charger. The V6 models get 23mpg combined, the 5.7-litre V8 yields 19mpg, the 6.4-litre V8 achieves 18mpg, and the Hellcat V8 16mpg.
Pricing at basic trim levels are only $1,000 dollars apart with the Charger at $27,995 and the Challenger at $26,995. However, this is where the pricing similarities end as the Charger’s price escalates at approximately $1,000-2,000 jumps between each model, whereas the Challenger’s price inflates anywhere from $6,000-15,000 depending on how generous you are when selecting the optional extras.
Dodge offers the same warranty packages for both; a 3-year, 36,000mile ‘Basic Limited’ warranty, a 5 year, 60,000mile ‘Powertrain Limited’ warranty, or a 5-year, 100,000mile ‘Roadside Assistance warranty’.
Summary – Dodge Charger vs Challenger
In simple terms the Challenger and Charger share many similarities; both are modern muscle cars which harken back to simpler times where big power was all that mattered, and things like aerodynamics and safety features were afterthoughts. Both are high horsepower, RWD, and lack the modern technology of their overseas rivals.
The main differences are that the Charger is a 4-door sedan, whereas the Challenger is a 2 door coupe. If it’s the extra practicability and driver visibility you’re after then the Charger is your choice, but if it’s a highly stylised American muscle car you’re after then the Challenger is your pick.