Charger vs Challenger: Which Used Dodge Muscle Car Is Better?
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Muscle cars have been a core component of the American dream ever since they were first introduced in the early 1950s. Baked into the auto landscape as a symbol of independence and go-getter glory, few of these over-exuberant rides come with a more vaunted reputation than the Dodge Charger and the Dodge Challenger.
The Charger and Challenger have both been around for decades, with the former first appearing on the market in 1966 as a two-door coupe. The Challenger coupe arrived in 1969, and both cars saw their peak popularity during the muscle car boom of the ‘60s and ‘70s. After an extended hiatus, Dodge brought them back in the late 2000s, combining retro styling with a modern flare. The Challenger maintained its two-door heritage, while the Charger was turned into a four-door.
If you’re a muscle car fan and have the budget to buy only one of these vehicles, which one should you choose? Below, we’ll break down the Charger versus the Challenger and discuss the benefits of both. To keep things simple, we’ll focus on updates and features from recent years.
Dimensions: Which car is bigger?
Neither the Charger nor the Challenger is what you’d call “small.” However, they differ in exact dimensions. We’ll compare each car’s 2023 base model to give you a better idea of each one’s size.
Both cars are about the same height at 57.8 inches and 57.7 inches. They each have the same 5.2-inch ground clearance.
The Challenger is slightly wider than the Charger. However, the Charger is longer at 198.4 inches vs. the Challenger’s 197.9 inches. Additionally, the Challenger’s 116-inch wheelbase is shorter than the Challenger’s 120-inch wheelbase.
Overall, the Challenger is pretty big for a two-door vehicle. Parking in tighter spaces, like parking garages, isn’t impossible, but the mirror width requires extra caution and room for clearance. The Charger may be slightly easier to park given its narrower body and almost equivalent length to the Challenger.
Engine and fuel economy: the difference between the Dodge Charger vs Challenger
When it comes to muscle cars, it’s all about the engine. After all, if you’re in the market for one of these American legends, you’ll be buying a vehicle geared primarily for peak performance.
The Challenger offers seven primary trim levels, each featuring a selection of engines. Depending on the model you buy and the customization options included, your specs can vary.
They range from the base engine, a 3.6-liter V6 with 303 horsepower and 268 lb-ft of torque, up to a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 in the Hellcat Redeye trim that features a staggering 797 horsepower.
With the Challenger SRT Demon, those stats go even higher, reaching a massive 840 horsepower and 770 lb-ft of torque when filled with 100-octane gas and put into drag mode. That makes the Demon the most powerful V8 production car ever produced. However, the Demon was a limited-production car, with only 3,300 ever made and only 3,000 of those sold in the US.
Here is a list of all the primary Dodge Challenger trim levels:
- Dodge Challenger SXT — 303 horsepower
- Dodge Challenger GT — 303 horsepower
- Dodge Challenger R/T — 375 horsepower
- Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack — 485 horsepower
- Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat — 717 horsepower
- Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye — 797 horsepower
- Dodge Challenger Demon — 808-840 horsepower
Rear-wheel drive and eight-speed automatic transmission come standard in the newer Challengers. Since 2017, Dodge has offered the option to pair a V6 engine with all-wheel drive. Additionally, Dodge made the Challenger SRT Hellcat available with a manual transmission in 2023. They’re slower than the automatic transmissions but can offer a more fun driving experience for those who want control over shifting.
The Charger also comes in several trim-level options — although the engine specs are somewhat similar.
They range from a basic 3.6-liter V6 engine for the SXT model, with 292 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque up to a top-tier, to the supercharged V8 in the Hellcat Redeye Widebody model, with 797 horsepower and 707 lb-ft of torque. Like its fellow speed demon, the Charger comes with rear-wheel drive and eight-speed automatic transmission as standard. However, you can opt for all-wheel drive in newer models.
Here is a list of all the primary Dodge Challenger trim levels:
- Dodge Charger SXT — 292 horsepower
- Dodge Charger GT — 300 horsepower
- Dodge Charger R/T — 370 horsepower
- Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack — 485 horsepower
- Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody — 707 horsepower
The downside: You’ll find no optional upgrades for Chargers with manual transmissions.
When it comes to muscle cars, fuel economy is usually not an owner’s primary concern. Still, in the current era with rising gas prices, this might be an extra factor to consider when buying a Challenger or Charger.
The 2019 rear-wheel-drive models of both vehicles reach 13–19 mpg in the city and up to 30 mpg on the highway. The reason for this fluctuation is that the higher you rev your engine, the more this fuel economy will drop. You do a lot more accelerating in the city, which means higher revving and more steady cruising on the highway.
The Charger versus the Challenger’s respective weights can also affect your performance. Chargers tend to be heavier than Chargers since they’re larger, and they can seat more people, so they may use slightly more fuel than Challengers.
Trim levels also matter. The higher the Charger or Challenger trim level, the worse the fuel economy tends to be.
Our verdict on which is faster between the Charger vs Challenger? With nearly identical specs, it’s a toss-up.
The exterior of the Dodge Charger and Challenger: Which is better?
If there’s one thing that matches a muscle car’s engine in importance, it’s how eye-catching that car looks on the road.
With its two-door coupe body on a low platform, the Challenger appears exceedingly retro in the best of ways. You can find these frames in the Scat Pack and Hellcat variants, and the Challenger’s cast aluminum wheels are sure to catch the striking glare of the sun as you drive.
The Scat Pack and Hellcat variants come with plenty of other aesthetic upgrades, too, to make your vehicle look “mean.” Its exterior paint job also comes in a wide variety of colors, and all Challenger trim level offer the full range of color options.
Despite their frames, newer Challengers have many decidedly “un-retro” features, including automatic headlights and split LED tail lights, to fit modern sensibilities.
Meanwhile, the Charger’s four-door sedan body offers an equally broad selection of exterior colors — available across all trim levels — and a frame that comes in the Scat Pack and SRT Hellcat variants. Additional perks to the newest versions of this stylish beast include an acoustic windshield and LED daytime running lights.
For both cars, some of the upper-level trims have “widebody models” that, as the name implies, widen the body. The performance figures are the same, but the widebody versions add a wider, more aggressive look and improve handling slightly.
Additionally, many higher-level trims come with additional badging and style options, such as stripes and hood scoops, so you can show everyone around you what kind of car you own.
Our verdict? Both of these cars are incredibly appealing.
Interior features, cargo space, and tech: comparing the Charger vs Challenger
On the inside, these muscle cars are equally stylish.
The Challenger has a wide range of customization options. With base models, expect to see a simple, plush interior featuring cloth upholstery. Upgraded options may feature leather seats. The driver and front passenger have ample headroom and legroom, despite the coupe body. Technically, the Challenger seats three in the rear. But the rear seats in this model aren’t the biggest since it’s a coupe.
Getting back there is a little more inconvenient with just two doors, and once you’re back there, you can’t exactly stretch out. So you can’t seat more than two adults in the back comfortably. When it comes to the Dodge Challenger versus Charger back-seat passenger space, the Challenger can’t compete.
That said, the cargo space in the Challenger is surprisingly spacious for a two-door performance car. It's on par with other high-performance vehicles, like its muscle-car competitors, the Camaro and the Mustang.
Tech options include smooth interfacing with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in newer models. Other luxury options include heated seats, a heated steering wheel, and remote engine start. Higher trim levels may come standard with some of these features.
For the Charger, expect to seat five reasonably well and have an impressive amount of cargo space in the back. Surprisingly, however, the Charger’s cargo space isn’t that much larger than the Challengers. The 2019 model has a touchscreen system as a key feature for certain upgrades. Additional tech options include voice control, two USB ports, and sync with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Other luxury options include heated seats, a heated steering wheel, and remote engine start. Once again, higher trim levels may come standard with some luxury features.
Ultimately, these cars match in terms of cargo space, interior upgrades, and tech options. The deciding factor will be how many passengers, if any, you expect to carry regularly.
If you have a few kids to cart around, the Charger might be the best of the two. You’ll pay a couple thousand more for that extra space. If your family’s smaller, a Challenger might work just fine and help you save a couple thousand.
If neither option works, it may be wise to check out this list of the best sports cars for 2021.
2016 Dodge Challenger SRT 392 (from $42,950)
Of these muscle car options, which one is safer?
Safety might not be the first thing on your mind when buying a muscle car. Still, we’d like to argue that safety should be at the top of your list, even for muscle cars — especially if you’re carrying passengers.
Because 2015 was when both the Dodge Charger and the Dodge Challenger received a significant revision, this year or newer is where you’ll want to start looking if you’re keeping modern safety features in mind. Optional upgrades include automatic emergency braking, rear parking sensors, and forward collision warning for both models.
Charger versus Challenger: Which is more expensive?
Lastly, you’ll want to know what kind of price you’ll pay for each of these fantastic cars. If you’re looking for a brand-new 2021 Challenger, the price currently averages $29,000 for the most pared-down model. For the Charger, the base averages $30,500.
That said, you can buy an earlier muscle car model for a better price, and at Shift, these deals are plentiful. Through Shift, you can get fair, no-haggle prices driven by powerful machine learning algorithms and tons of data. This way, with whichever car you choose, you can rest assured knowing that you made the right purchase.
2019 Dodge Charger Scat Pack (from $44,450)
Charger vs. Challenger FAQs
Have more questions about the differences between these two American muscle legends? Check out our Charger vs. Challenger FAQs below:
Why is the Challenger Cheaper than the Charger?
The Challenger is cheaper than the Charger, mostly thanks to its smaller overall size, two doors, and interior space. These slight compromises in buying the Challenger result in a lower price given the same trim level.
However, the price difference is not enormous. So price shouldn’t stop you from getting the better fit for your needs. With the right financing, you can fit either vehicle into your budget.
Is a Dodge Charger faster than a Challenger?
Both vehicles are almost exactly as fast as each other, given equivalent trim levels. Various factors, such as the tires on the vehicle, can change the speed and acceleration.
Buy the perfect muscle car on a budget
Now that we’ve gone through our Charge vs Challenger comparison, which American legend is the stuff of dreams?
Well, technically, both. The vehicle you decide to purchase should be the one that is best tailored to your activities. The Charger and Challenger are evenly matched in their engine performance and retro looks. They’re also comparable in their tech features and prices. The only notable difference is how comfortably they seat their passengers.
The Charger could work better for families with multiple children, whereas the Challenger could suit your needs if you have no more than four people in the house.
If you remain undecided on both of these Dodge options but still want a muscle car, consider checking out this list of the best used muscle cars to buy in 2021.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the author or Shift Technologies, Inc. Shift does not endorse or evaluate the accuracy of any claims made or data provided by third party sources referenced herein.
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All prices are based on vehicle availability and pricing as of
June 5, 2023
Pricing shown is not guaranteed and does not include taxes or other product fees.