Dodge Charger Vs. Challenger

by Michael G. Sanchez

With dramatic, potentially polarizing looks and available huge V-8s, the Dodge Charger and Challenger both evoked the company's muscle-car glory days of the 1960s and early 1970s. The Charger was a roomy, full-size family sedan. Its competitors included the Chevrolet Impala, Toyota Avalon and Kia Cadenza. The Challenger, on the other hand, was a two-door performance coupe. Its direct competitors were the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro. For 2014, both models were offered with several different engines and in a wide range of trim levels, from the simple and affordable to the luxurious and wildly powerful.

Dimensions

The four-door Charger measured 199.9 inches in length, 75 inches in width and 58.4 inches in height, with a 120.2-inch wheelbase. The smaller, two-door Challenger was 197.7 inches long, 75.7 inches wide and 57.1 inches high. It rode on a 116-inch wheelbase. The Charger had a base curb weight of 3,961 pounds, while the Challenger tipped the scales starting at 3,834 pounds. The Charger's front seats provided 38.6 inches of headroom, 59.5 inches of shoulder room, 56.2 inches of hip room and 41.8 inches of legroom. Its back row offered 36.6 inches of headroom, 57.9 inches of shoulder room, 56.1 inches of hip room and 40.1 inches of legroom. The Challenger's driver and front passenger seats provided 39.3 inches of headroom, 58.2 inches of shoulder room, 54.6 inches of hip room and 42.0 inches of legroom. Its backseat -- which was impressively roomy for a muscle car -- offered 37.4 inches of headroom, 53.9 inches of shoulder room, 48.6 inches of hip room and 32.6 inches of legroom. When it came to trunk space, both Dodges were quite generous. The Charger could carry up to 16.5 cubic feet of gear, while the Challenger's maximum cargo capacity was a nearly identical 16.2 cubic feet.

Drivetrain

The Charger's entry-level engine was 3.6-liter V-6. It produced 292 horsepower at 6,350 rpm and 260 foot-pounds of torque at 4,800 rpm. When ordered with the Rallye Appearance Group, Blacktop package, Redline package or AWD Sport package, a few subtle tweaks bumped maximum horsepower up to an even 300 and maximum torque up to 264. Two optional V-8s were also offered. The mid-range Charger R/T model came with the 5.7-liter V-8, which put out a solid 370 horsepower at 5,250 rpm and 395 foot-pounds of torque at 4,200 rpm. The top-of-the-line Charger SRT8 boasted a massive 6.2-liter V-8. It was good for a tire-smoking 470 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 470 foot-pounds of torque at 4,300 rpm. All Chargers came standard with rear-wheel drive. All-wheel drive was optional on SXT and R/T models, except for R/Ts equipped with the performance-focused Road & Track package. A five-speed automatic transmission came standard on all trim levels. Chargers equipped with the V-6, however, could be optioned with a newer, more fuel-efficient eight-speed auto. The Challenger was exclusively rear-wheel-drive. Except in the case of the automatic-only V-6 model, buyers could select either a standard six-speed manual or optional five-speed automatic transmission.The Mopar muscle car was powered by the same three engines used in the Charger, though with slight tuning differences. The entry-level 3.6-liter V-6 made a bit more power in the Challenger: 305 horsepower at 6,350 rpm and 268 foot-pounds of torque at 4,800 rpm. The mid-level Challenger R/T was motivated by the 5.7-liter V-8. It also produced slightly more "get-up-and-go" in the Challenger; output was 375 horsepower at 5,150 rpm and 410 foot-pounds of torque at 4,300 rpm with the manual transmission. Hooked-up to the automatic, horsepower fell slightly to 372 and torque to 400 foot-pounds. Finally, the range-topping Challenger SRT8's big, burly 6.2-liter V-8 generated the same amount of power as it did in the Charger: 470 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 470 foot-pounds of torque at 4,200 rpm.

Performance

At least at the higher trim levels, the performance of both Dodge models easily matched their muscular, aggressive styling. The V-6-powered Charger could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in a respectable 7.1 seconds. With the 5.7-liter V-8 under its hood, it took the big sedan a much briefer 5.4 seconds to complete the same task. The king-of-the-hill SRT8 model's 6.2-liter engine could blast the car from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.6 seconds. The base, V-6 Challenger took 6.3 seconds to complete a 0 to 60 mph run. The 5.7-liter model could manage it in 5.5 seconds with the manual transmission or 5.8 with the automatic. Finally, the manual-equipped, 6.2-liter, Challenger SRT8 could blast from 0 to 60 mph in a tire-smoking 4.5 seconds. The automatic model took a still-very-brief 4.7 seconds.

Trim Levels: Charger

The Charger sedan was offered in the following trims: SE, SXT, R/T, SRT8 and SRT8 Super Bee. The SE and SXT models were powered by the V-6, the R/T got the 5.7-liter V-8 and the SRT8 and SRT8 Super Bee featured the 6.2-liter engine. The base SE Charger came with 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless ignition and entry, automatic headlights, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, 60-40-split, folding rear seats, a six-way power driver's seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 4.3-inch touchscreen infotainment display and a six-speaker CD stereo with auxiliary audio jack and iPod-USB interface. Options included Bluetooth connectivity and the eight-speed automatic transmission. The SXT came with those features, plus fog lamps, heated mirrors, remote ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver's seat with adjustable lumbar support, heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a larger, 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment display and an upgraded stereo with satellite radio. All-wheel-drive SXTs came standard with 19-inch wheels, while rear-wheel drive models kept the SE's 17-inchers. The V-8-powered R/T added 18-inch wheels for rear-wheel-drive models, xenon headlights, a sport suspension, performance tires, upgraded brakes and sport seats. In addition, a number of options packages were available with the SXT and R/T. The Plus package added 18-inch wheels for rear-wheel-drive SRT models, leather upholstery, an an eight-way power front passenger seat with lumbar adjustment, LED interior lighting, heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel. The Rallye Appearance Group added 20-inch chrome wheels, a Sport mode for the transmission, a rear spoiler, shift paddles and a 10-speaker Beats by Dre sound system. The Blacktop package -- which was available only on rear-wheel-drive models -- included everything in the Rallye package plus painted wheels and a blacked-out grille. The Redline package was equivalent to the Blacktop, except for red trim on the wheels. Finally, the AWD Sport package included the same equipment as the the Rallye package, except with all-wheel drive. The high-performance, range-toppings SRT8 added 20-inch wheels, a three-mode adaptive suspension, upgraded brakes with red-painted Brembo calipers, launch control, a three-mode stability control system, a special rear spoiler, an SRT steering wheel with paddle shifters and leather-trimmed SRT sport seats. The SRT8 Super Bee provided the same performance as the standard SRT8, but in a less expensive, somewhat stripped-down package. It lacked the big, 8.4-inch touchscreen display and made do with the base six-speaker stereo.

Trim Levels: Challenger

The Challenger came in four trim levels: SXT, R/T, SRT8 392 and SRT8 Core. The entry-level SXT model came with 18-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, keyless entry and ignition, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, automatic climate control, cruise control, a six-way power driver seat with lumbar adjustment, a 60-40-split, folding rear seat and a six-speaker CD stereo with auxiliary audio jack. The SXT was offered with a plethora of options packages or "groups," as Dodge called them. These including the Plus, the Super Sport, the Sinister Super Sport, the Interior Appearance, the Electronics Convenience and the Sound group. The Plus group added leather upholstery, automatic headlights, fog lights, heated front seats, rear parking sensors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth connectivity and an upgraded stereo with satellite radio and iPod-USB connector. The Super Sport group added 20-inch chrome wheels, performance tires, a 3.06 rear axle ratio, a sport-tuned suspension, steering and brakes; a rear spoiler and a Sport transmission mode with steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles for automatic models. The colorfully named Sinister Super Sport group was the same as the standard Super Sport, except it switched out the chrome wheels for painted ones. The Interior Appearance group -- which was also available on R/T models -- added upgraded floor mats, metal-trimmed pedals, a T-handle shifter on automatic models and a car cover. The Electronics Convenience group came with heated mirrors, a tire pressure display, an outside-temperature gauge and remote start. The Sound group, as its name implied, added an upgraded seven-speaker stereo system. Aside from smaller, 18-inch wheels, cloth upholstery, non-heated seats and the base stereo, the 5.7-liter R/T model came with all the same equipment as the SXT Plus. The R/T Plus package added a security alarm and rear parking sensors. The R/T Classic package added special 20-inch wheels, xenon headlights, a functional hood scoop and black side stripes. The 6.2-liter SRT8 392 included performance-tuned stability control, launch control, upgraded brakes and steering, an adaptive suspension, the larger 8.4-inch touchscreen and an upgraded stereo. Buyers also got a complimentary one-day driver training course at the SRT Track Experience. The SRT8 Core model -- much like the Charger's Super Bee trim -- provided the same performance as the SRT8 392 but at a lower price point. Core buyers did without luxury extras like the fancier stereo, 8.4-inch touchscreen, xenon headlights, fog lights and the adaptive suspension.

Safety

When it came to safety, the four-door Charger had a bit of an advantage over the Challenger. Both cars came with four-wheel ABS, traction and stability control, active front head restraints and dual front, front side and side-curtain airbags. A driver's side knee airbag was exclusive to the Charger, though. While the Challenger got optional rear parking sensors, that was the extent of its electronic-safety-assist offerings. The Charger, on the other hand, boasted an optional rearview camera, a blind-spot warning system, a forward collision warning system, a rear cross-traffic warning system and adaptive cruise control.

Consumer Data

The V-6 Charger received an EPA fuel economy rating of 18 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway with the five-speed transmission. With the optional eight-speed tranny, mileage increased to 19-31. With the 5.7-liter V-8 under its hood, the Charger received a 16-25 rating with rear-wheel drive and a 15-23 rating with all-wheel drive. Finally, the 6.2-liter model was rated at a thirsty 14-23. The V-6 Challenger received a rating of 18 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway, just like the entry-level Charger. The 5.7-liter Challenger was rated at 15-23 with the manual transmission and 16-25 for the automatic. The 6.2-liter car received a 14-23 rating with either transmission.

About the Author

Michael G. Sanchez has been a professional writer for over 10 years. A lifelong car enthusiast and former senior mechanic, he has written on a wide range of automotive topics. He holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from Castleton State College. Sanchez started writing about cars as a part-time copywriter for a local dealership while still in high school.