Car Comparison

2018 Dodge Challenger vs. 2018 Ford Mustang: Which Is Better?

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Chris O'Neill August 2018
  • Mustang is the more modern vehicle.
  • Challenger offers a four-door variant in the Charger.
  • Mustang offers a convertible.

Two of the three main muscle cars on the market today are the 2018 Ford Mustang and the 2018 Dodge Challenger. Both offer rear-wheel drive, big power and nostalgic, retro designs. On the surface, they might seem pretty similar, but the Mustang and Challenger are in fact very different beasts.

The Mustang was last fully redesigned for 2015, and will receive an update for the coming 2019 model year. The Challenger, on the other hand, has been around for quite a while now. Formally re-introduced to the world for the 2008 model year, the Challenger has received a number of updates over the years and is set to receive yet another for 2019. At its core, the Challenger is a 10-year-old vehicle, and this becomes evident with regard to available engine types, crash test performance, technology and overall refinement. Still, both of these machines offer big power and excitement.

It should be noted that only the Mustang offers a convertible option. On the other hand, shoppers interested in the Challenger but looking for more practicality can opt for the Dodge Charger, which is essentially a 4-door Challenger.

Powertrains

Two engine options are offered on the Ford Mustang for 2018:

A 2.3-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder making 310 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy comes in at 21 miles per gallon city, 32 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined (automatic).

A 5.0-liter V8 making 460 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is 16 mpg city/25 mpg hwy/19 mpg combined (automatic).

Either engine is offered with one of two transmissions:

  • A 6-speed manual
  • A 10-speed automatic with paddle shifters

Ford eliminated the Mustang's V6 option after the 2017 model year, and hasn't yet introduced a high-performance model based on the refreshed 2018 model, although that role is expected to be filled by a new GT350 model in 2019. With that, the Mustang currently offers two engine options -- a fuel efficient yet powerful 4-cylinder and a larger, even more powerful V8.

Dodge Challenger buyers are offered five engine options:

A 3.6-liter V6 making 305 hp and 268 lb-ft of torque.

  • 19 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/23 mpg combined (RWD)

  • 18 mpg city/27 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined (AWD)

A 5.7-liter V8 making 375 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque.

  • 15 mpg city/23 mpg hwy/18 mpg combined (automatic)

A 6.4-liter V8 making 485 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque.

  • 14 mpg city/23 mpg hwy/17 combined (automatic)

A 6.2-liter V8 making 707 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque.

  • 13 mpg city/21 mpg highway/16 mpg combined (automatic)

A 6.2-liter V8 making 808 hp and 717 lb-ft of torque.

  • 13 mpg city/22 mpg highway/17 mpg combined (automatic)

And two transmissions:

  • A 6-speed manual
  • An 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters

The Challenger offers buyers a number of different engines to choose from, from a humble V6 to four different V8 engines making up to 808 hp in the limited-production Demon.

The mainstream offering is the 3.5-liter V6 making 305 hp and 268 lb-ft of torque and only available with an 8-speed automatic. 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 -- make up the majority of V8 sales. Save for the Demon, which was sold only with an automatic, all V8-powered Challengers are available with either a manual or an automatic transmission.

For the purposes of this comparison, we'll be looking at the 4-cylinder and V8-powered Mustangs relative to the mainstream Challenger trim levels, namely the SXT, GT, R/T and 392.

Performance

Given that the Mustang is between 400 and 600 pounds lighter than the Challenger in all configurations, the Mustang is hands down the better performance vehicle. While high-end Challengers like the Hellcat and Demon offer considerable horsepower, mainstream models suffer from their excess weight, making them less than ideal for situations that require nimble handling, like track days or enjoying a windy back road on a Sunday drive.

Still, if it's straight line acceleration that you're looking for, the Challenger 392 delivers, reaching 60 miles per hour in 4.2 seconds, just a few ticks behind the V8 powered Mustang GT, which reaches 60 mph in 4.0 seconds.

Step down to the smaller engines, though, and the gap between the two vehicles widens. The 4-cylinder Mustang reaches 60 miles per hour in a brisk 5.2 seconds, making it a formidable performance car worthy of its place in the Mustang lineup next to the more powerful V8 model. The V6-powered entry level Challenger, on the other hand, takes 6.3 seconds to get to 60 mph, and thanks to its immense weight and lack of a manual transmission, is legions behind the dialed-in performance vehicle that is the EcoBoost Mustang.

Both models have available optional performance packages, but the Mustang's is a more comprehensive offering, further solidifying its place as the more refined option.

Overall, outside of the raucous Hellcat and Demon models that offer mind-blowing straight line acceleration, if well-rounded performance is what you're looking for, opt for the Mustang.

Reliability

The Mustang and Challenger should both have about average reliability. Drive either one hard, and things may break, but overall, reliability should be on par with the typical American vehicle.

Safety

While neither is named a Top Safety Pick, the Mustang outperforms the Challenger when it comes to crash testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In the driver side small front overlap test, the Mustang earns a score of Acceptable, while the Challenger earns a lower score of Marginal. The Challenger's aging design is likely to blame for its low score in this category.

In terms of driver assistance safety features, the Challenger offers blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, rear parking sensors, forward-collision alert, adaptive cruise control, rain-sensing wipers and automatic high beams.

The Mustang offers a more comprehensive package, with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beams, automatic emergency braking, forward-collision warning with brake support and rain-sensing windshield wipers.

Interior Space

In the front seat, the Challenger offers 39.3 inches of headroom and 42.0 inches of legroom to the Mustang's 37.6 and 44.0 inches, respectively.

The Challenger seats five people while the Mustang seats four. Neither back seat is particularly spacious, though, as both of these vehicles have steeply sloping roof lines thanks to their muscle car proportions. In the back, the Challenger offers 37.1 inches of headroom and 33.1 inches of legroom, while the Mustang offers 34.8 and 29.0 inches of head and legroom respectively.

The Challenger also offers more cargo room, with 16 cu ft. vs. the Mustang's 13.5 cu ft.

Interior Design & Quality

Given their muscle car roots, both the Mustang and Challenger have simplistic, retro-inspired interiors. The Mustang offers better quality materials, though, and the Challenger is often criticized for using hard plastics. The Mustang is also said to offer better outward visibility. Both are available with heated and cooled front seats.

Technology

Both the Mustang and Challenger offer large, modern, center-mounted infotainment screens with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Compatibility, along with available 4G Wi-Fi connectivity. The Challenger comes with a 5.0-in screen as standard on lower trim levels, while higher trim levels get a large 8.4-in unit. The Mustang starts with a rather small 4.3-in screen before moving up to a larger 8.0-in screen in upper trim levels.

Neither vehicle offers a heads-up display, while only the Mustang offers a fully digital gauge cluster.

Value

Since the 1960s, the sales pitch of the muscle car has been rear-wheel drive mixed with lots of horsepower. As a result, the Mustang and Challenger both offer lots of fun at a reasonable price when compared to other vehicles offering similar levels of performance. Dealer incentives are more likely to be offered with the Challenger, given the vehicle's aging design.

Autotrader's Advice

The Mustang is the more modern vehicle here, hands down. Essentially an entire generation newer than the Challenger, the Mustang offers better overall performance and fuel economy and better available driver assistance safety features. While either vehicle will put a smile on your face, it's the Mustang that will keep you smiling longer, as it represents a better overall package.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2018 Dodge Challenger vs. 2018 Ford Mustang: Which Is Better? - Autotrader