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

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Eric Brandt August 2018
  • The 2018 Ford Mustang is a 4-seat coupe, and the 2018 Dodge Charger is a 5-seat sedan.

  • Both cars are available as affordable muscle cars or high-powered performance cars.

  • The Mustang and the Charger take different approaches to American muscle.

The Ford Mustang and the Dodge Charger are two cars with names that are deeply ingrained in American automotive history. Both originally products of the 1960s, the original Dodge Charger helped shape the muscle car landscape of the era, while the Ford Mustang was revolutionary in creating a new kind of affordable sports car.

Both cars have come a long way since their origins from more than a half-century ago. While the Mustang stays true to its form as a front-engine, rear-wheel drive coupe with an available V8, the Charger has become a sedan rather than the coupe that it always was in the past. Let's take a look at how these two modern muscle cars compare to each other in 2018.

Exterior

The exterior is where you'll find the most obvious differences between these two cars. The Mustang is a coupe, and the Charger is a sedan. Having four doors obviously makes the Charger the more family-friendly car between the two, but the 2-door configuration of the Mustang affords it sportier styling and convertible options that the Charger lacks.

Dodge likes to call the Charger a "4-door muscle car," which is quite accurate. By virtue of being a full-size sedan, the Charger is a much bigger car than the Mustang. The Dodge is about a foot longer, the same width and about three inches taller than the Ford.

The Mustang has a lot of obvious retro styling cues that will remind you of the Mustangs of the '60s, while the Charger's throwback styling is a bit more subtle. With both cars, the styling evolves as you work your way up through the trims with different front ends, different wheels and several other differences indicating the stronger performance in the higher trims. Some of it is functional, and some is just for show.

Interior

The interiors of these cars are about as different as their exteriors. With a lower ride height and an almost nonexistent back seat, the Mustang positions you for a pleasurable driving experience at any speed. It may have taken a while for the Mustang to be as enjoyable to sit in as it is to look at, but the pony car has come a long way in recent years with an interior that's modern but not too flashy.

The Charger's interior is as roomy as you'd expect for a full-size sedan. The back seat of the Charger can comfortably sit two adults easily or three in a pinch, neither of which is possible for the Mustang. The Charger has almost 10 more inches of rear legroom than the Mustang, which makes the Dodge much more usable if you're planning on using the back seat with any regularity. As for the rest of the interior, the Charger greatly benefited from its 2015 refresh with a modern interior, quality materials and comfortable seats.

Mechanicals and Performance

The nuts and bolts of these cars is where the Mustang and the Charger are a little more comparable than they are in the cabin. The base engine in the Mustang is a 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbocharged inline-4 that makes 310 horsepower and up to 350 lb-ft of torque, which are very impressive numbers for any engine with four cylinders. But this 4-banger doesn't stop impressing us there -- it also returns 21 miles per gallon city and 32 mpg highway.

If you upgrade to the Mustang GT, you'll be treated to the fantastic 5.0-liter Coyote V8 engine, which now makes 460 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. This engine received a modest boost in power when the Mustang was refreshed for 2018, and the update took a great engine and made it even better. Fuel economy for the Mustang GT is 16 mpg city/25 mpg hwy.

If you climb to the top of the Mustang food chain, you'll reach the Mustang Shelby GT350 and the more track-focused GT350R. Both Shelby Mustangs are powered by a 5.2-liter Voodoo V8 that produces 526 hp and 429 lb-ft of torque, making it the most powerful naturally aspirated Ford engine of all time. Make the leap to the GT350R and you'll get track-ready upgrades like carbon fiber wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, a carbon fiber rear wing and unique chassis tuning.

Unlike the Mustang, you can't get a Charger with only four cylinders. The Dodge's base engine is a tried and true 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 that's found in many Fiat-Chrysler products, from Jeeps to minivans. In the Charger, it can make up to 300 hp and 264 lb-ft of torque, which falls a little short of the EcoBoost engine in the Mustang in hp and has much less torque. Fuel economy is respectable at 19 mpg city/30 mpg hwy.

The most affordable V8 you can get in a Charger is a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 that comes standard in the R/T and Daytona trims of the car. It makes 370 hp and 395 lb-ft of torque which, again, fall short of the Mustang by quite a bit. Fuel economy is identical at 16 mpg city/25 mpg hwy.

If you find that V8 underwhelming, you have two more Hemis to choose from under the hood of the Charger. Upgrade to the R/T Scat Pack, Daytona 392 or SRT 392 and you'll be upgrading to the 392 Hemi V8. This engine beats Ford's Coyote V8 on paper with 485 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque. Incidentally, its 0-to-60 mph time is slightly worse than the Mustang GT's, primarily because of a big weight difference between the two cars.

Where the Charger really crushes the Mustang is with the supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi SRT Hellcat V8. Making an astonishing 707 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque, it makes the Charger SRT Hellcat the most powerful sedan money can buy. This brute of an engine is all about raw power and straight-line performance, while the Shelby variants of the Mustang have more of a track focus.

There are a couple other big mechanical differences between these two cars. The Mustang is available with a manual transmission in all three of its engines, while the Charger is automatic-only across the board. If you insist on rowing your own gears, then the Mustang is your only option between these two cars.

However, if you want all-wheel drive, you need to go with the Charger. Unfortunately, Dodge no longer makes any all-wheel drive, V8-powered Chargers, and your only option for an AWD 2018 Charger is the V6-powered Charger GT or GT Plus. The Mustang, on the other hand, is rear-wheel drive only.

Features and Technology

The Charger may have received a nice refresh in 2015, but the Mustang's 2018 makeover gave it more of a technological overhaul. The 2018 Ford Mustang comes with a customizable 12-inch LCD digital instrument cluster, putting you in charge of what's in front of you right down to the colors of the gauges. Each drive mode changes the screen to make important information more prominent.

The Mustang also comes standard with Ford's Track Apps. Track Apps provide performance metrics in the aforementioned digital instrument cluster like acceleration times, lap times and even g-forces.

Ford's available SYNC 3 infotainment system is pretty good and user-friendly. It comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, and it's available with navigation, SiriusXM and Shaker premium audio.

The gauge cluster in the Dodge Charger isn't as fancy as the fully digital one in the Mustang, but it does have a reconfigurable 7-inch driver information display. This display shows you a few digital gauges and can display a nice, clear digital speedometer right in the middle.

The Charger's available Uconnect 4C Nav infotainment system has a great interface with clear and easy-to-use apps. It comes with Apple CarPlay compatibility, but no Android Auto. Uconnect is available with Beats premium audio and Dodge Performance Pages, which is similar to Ford's Track Apps, but unlike Track Apps on the Mustang, Performance Pages isn't a standard feature on all Chargers.

Both cars are available with safety tech that includes blind spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist and automatic emergency braking.

Pricing

The Ford Mustang has a more affordable base price than the Charger and has a lower price ceiling at the top end of its model range. The Mustang EcoBoost starts at $25,680, while the Charger SXT starts at $28,995. The pricing gets closer when you upgrade to a V8 with the Mustang GT starting at $35,190 and the Charger R/T starting slightly higher at $35,495.

The Charger arguably becomes a better value when you go higher up into its model range. The Charger R/T Scat Pack, which is the most affordable Charger with the 392 Hemi V8, is $39,995 -- not bad for a 485-hp sedan. If you go all the way up to the SRT Hellcat, you'll be spending at least $67,995, which is a lot of money to spend on a Dodge, but quite a bargain when you factor in the fact that it's the most powerful sedan you can get anywhere from any brand.

If you pony up for the Mustang Shelby GT350, you'll be spending at least $57,240 with the more track-oriented GT350R starting at $64,740. Not bad for what you're getting, but by spending a little over $3,000 more than you would on a GT350R, you could make a jump of 181 hp by going with a Hellcat.

It's tough to discern which car is the better value, considering one is a sport coupe and the other is a full-size sedan. If we're talking about standard features for the money, then the Mustang is a better value, especially on the low end. However, if having a useable back seat is valuable to you, then the Charger would be a better buy.

Conclusion

When you compare similarly priced Mustangs and Chargers, the Mustang will beat the Charger almost every time in terms of performance and technology. However, if you want a true muscle car that can double as a family car or a daily commuter, then the Charger beats the Mustang in practicality.

Which car is right for you depends on your priorities. The Mustang is better for the driving enthusiast who doesn't really need a back seat and just wants a stylish, modern, high-tech coupe that's fun to drive and a great value. The Charger is better for anyone who needs to haul kids around or wants the versatility of all-wheel drive but doesn't want to sacrifice exciting performance or a muscular aesthetic.

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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 Ford Mustang vs. 2018 Dodge Charger: Which Is Better? - Autotrader