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2018 Chevy Camaro vs. 2018 Dodge Challenger: Which Is Better?

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author photo by Chris O'Neill July 2018

Two of the three main muscle cars on the market today are the 2018 Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger. If you want to get into muscle car ownership, but haven't yet pledged your allegiance to one of the three major American muscle car brands, deciding where to start looking can be difficult. Each offers multiple engine configurations while throwing around big horsepower numbers and performance figures. Additionally, each seems to offer an endless number of trim levels and available configurations, which means specifying one to your liking can pose a bit of a challenge. We're here to help, though. The below list compares the Camaro and Challenger on a number of different attributes before determining just which one is the better buy in 2018.

Before getting into a deep comparison between these two, we should first outline a little modern muscle car history. An all-new, retro-styled Ford Mustang was introduced for the 2005 model year, the reincarnation of the Dodge Challenger was introduced for 2008, and after going away for eight years, an all-new Camaro went on sale for 2010. This marked a new era of muscle car competition among the big three automakers, reigniting a rivalry that had been pretty much dormant since the muscle car era of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Since 2010, the Mustang and Camaro have been fully redesigned once again; the Mustang for 2015 and the Camaro for 2016. The Challenger, on the other hand, has been updated significantly first in 2011, and then again for 2015, but has not been fully re-designed since its 2008 revival. Instead of updating the Challenger further in recent years, Dodge has opted to add power; lots of power, in the form of the insane 707 horsepower Hellcat and 808 horsepower Demon. Additionally, incorporating technology from its platform siblings, the Dodge Challenger and Chrysler 300, Dodge introduced an all-wheel-drive Challenger for the 2016 model year. Nonetheless, while it received new engines and transmissions over the years, the skeleton of the Challenger is essentially a 10-year-old vehicle, which will lead to it feeling older than a comparable 2018 Camaro or Mustang.

Powertrains

The 2018 Chevy Camaro offers four different engines. On one end of the spectrum is an entry level 2.3-liter 4-cylinder making 275 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. Next in line is a 3.6-liter V6 making 335 hp and 284 lb-ft of torque. The most muscle-car-like of the group is the SS trim level, which comes with a 6.2-liter V8 making 455 hp and 455 lb-ft of torque. At the top of the model range is the super high-performance Camaro ZL1, which features the same 6.2-liter V8 as the SS, but supercharged, for a total output of 650 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque.

The 2018 Dodge Challenger offers a number of engines as well. The base model engine in this case is a 3.5-liter V6 making 305 hp and 268 lb-ft of torque and only available with an 8-speed automatic. From there, your options are two V8 engines -- a 5.7-liter making 375 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque, and a 6.4-liter making 485 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque. Both of the super high performance Challengers, the Hellcat and Demon, employ a 6.2-liter V8, making 707 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque in the Hellcat, and 808 hp and 717 lb-ft of torque in the Demon. At far as V8 engines go, all configurations except for the Demon are available with a manual transmission.

Additionally, it should be noted that only the Camaro offers a convertible option, which is available with each of the engines and trim levels already outlined.

For the purposes of this comparison, we'll be focusing on the Challenger SXT, R/T and 392 vs. the 4-cylinder, V6 and SS Camaros.

Buyers considering the Challenger and Camaro should probably cross-shop the 4-cylinder and V6 Camaros with the V6 Challenger SXT and Challenger RT. The V8-equipped Camaro SS should be compared to the Challenger 392.

Performance

Given that the Challenger's curb weight is consistently around 500-700lbs greater than that of the Camaro in all configurations, the hefty Challenger suffers from a performance standpoint when compared to the lighter, nimbler Camaro.

As it is a smaller and lighter vehicle, the Camaro handles better and performs far better on the track than the Challenger, which is more designed for straight-line speed than it is for tight cornering.

On V6 and V8 models, and coming to the 4-cylinder for 2019, the Camaro offers the '1LE' performance package, which brings about a number of performance improvements, getting the Camaro even more ready for track-duty. Opting for the 1LE package on the Camaro's SS trim level brings GM's excellent Magnetic Ride Control suspension.

The Challenger adds similar performance options via a milder performance package and different trim levels, such as the R/T Scat Pack, 392 HEMI Scat Pack Shaker, T/A 392 and SRT 392.

Fuel Economy vs. Acceleration

Equipped with the fuel-efficient turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, the Camaro goes from 0-to-60 miles per hour in a brisk 5.4 seconds while achieving 25 miles per gallon combined. Equipped with the V6, the Camaro reaches 60 mph in 5.1 seconds while achieving 23 mpg combined.

Both of these engines are considerably faster than the base model Challenger with its V6 engine, which takes 6.2 seconds to go from 0-to-60 while achieving 23 mpg combined. Step up to the 5.7-liter V8, and 60 mph arrives in 5.1 seconds.

Step up to V8 powerplants and it's more of the same. The with its 6.2-liter V8, the Challenger 392 goes from 0-to-60 in 4.2 seconds and achieves 17 mpg combined, while the Camaro SS gets there a tick faster, taking 4.1 seconds while also getting 20 mpg combined.

Reliability

Both the Challenger and Camaro should have about average reliability.

Safety

The Camaro scores significantly better than the Challenger in third-party crash testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Designed to meet more modern standards, the Camaro receives a score of good on all measurements except for roof strength, where it earns an acceptable rating. The hardest of these tests to master is the recently devised small front overlap test and the Challenger's low marks in this category are a reflection of its aging design.

The Camaro offers only blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and rear parking sensors. The updated 2019 Camaro will add forward-collision alert.

The older Challenger, perhaps surprisingly, offers a bit more -- blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and rear parking sensors, along with forward-collision alert, adaptive cruise control, rain-sensing wipers and automatic high beams.

Interior Space

The Camaro seats four people, while the Challenger seats five. Given that these are 2-door muscle cars with muscle car proportions, both back seats are probably best reserved for short trips, as neither is very spacious. The Challenger comes with a bit more room, though, offering 33 inches of legroom and 37 inches of headroom in the rear compared to the Camaro's 30 inches of legroom and 33.5 inches of headroom.

The Camaro also takes a hit with regard to cargo room, offering a paltry 9.1 cu ft. to the Challenger's 16 cu ft. As both the Camaro and Challenger wear aggressive styling with low rooflines, rearward visibility is compromised, and sight lines are said to be less than ideal in both. Overall though, as it's a larger vehicle, the Challenger has the more spacious interior.

Interior Design & Quality

Both vehicles offer retro-inspired cabins, but the Camaro's interior feels newer and more modern than the Challenger's. The Camaro also offers better quality materials than the Challenger, which is often criticized for using hard plastics and old designs. The Camaro is also said to come with more comfortable seats.

Technology

The 2018 Camaro and Challenger both offer center-mounted touch screen interfaces with modern infotainment systems featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The Challenger comes with a 5.0-inch touchscreen in lower trim levels, while an 8.4-inch screen is available in higher trim levels. Entry level Camaros offer a 7.0-inch screen as standard while an 8.0-inch screen is optional.

Both the Chrysler UConnect and Chevy MyLink systems are pretty well-rounded, although only the Camaro's offers 4G LTE with mobile Wi-Fi and is said to be slightly faster. An updated version of the Camaro's infotainment system is scheduled to be included with the 2019 refresh.

The Camaro also offers a heads-up display; a feature not available on the Challenger.

Autotrader's Advice

Without question, the more modern Camaro is the better vehicle. If interior space, nostalgia and straight-line acceleration are your main concern, then the Challenger may not be a bad option. That said, the Camaro offers all-around better performance in a much newer package than the Challenger. With its 2016 redesign, Chevrolet thoroughly modernized the Camaro, cutting weight while adding performance capability on par with sports cars of the modern era.

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2018 Chevy Camaro vs. 2018 Dodge Challenger: Which Is Better? - Autotrader