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2019 Ford Mustang vs. 2019 Dodge Challenger: Which Is Better?

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Chris O'Neill October 2018
  • Both the 2019 Ford Mustang and the 2019 Dodge Challenger are mildly updated.

  • Only the Mustang offers an available 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine.

  • The Challenger offers an all-wheel-drive option.

The Ford Mustang and the Dodge Challenger are muscle car staples. While both received retro revivals in the 2000s, the two vehicles have diverged a bit in recent years. The Mustang has received more significant updates that improve handling and everyday livability, while the Challenger focuses on straight-line performance, with most of its updates geared toward adding more and more power. Still, its likely that if you're considering one, you've probably also considered the other, so below we'll take a look at the two to determine which is better.

Background

The Mustang last received a full redesign for 2015 and gets a few updates for 2019. Additions include rev-matching technology for manual-equipped 5.0 models and an available Bang & Olufsen premium audio system, and the configurable-performance exhaust system from V8 models is now available on 4-cylinder models. A few new colors have also been added to the Mustang's color palette.

The Challenger was brought back onto the scene for the 2008 model year and has received a variety of updates, but never a full redesign, in the years since, making it one of the older vehicles on the market as it enters its 12th model year on sale using the same basic design. This is evident in the vehicle's overall refinement and feature content, not to mention crash-test performance, which is less than ideal. Still, like the Mustang, the Challenger offers lots of power, making for an exciting ride.

One final note -- only the Mustang offers a convertible option, while buyers interested in a Challenger but wanting more practicality should also consider a Dodge Charger, which offers most of the same powertrain options as the Challenger, but with the addition of two extra doors.

Powertrains

The Mustang's powertrain lineup is pretty simple. As of this writing, two engines are offered -- a 2.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder making 310 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque and earning 25 miles per gallon in combined driving and a potent 5.0-liter V8 making 460 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque, good for 19 mpg combined. Either engine can be had with a 6-speed manual or a 10-speed automatic.

A high-output Shelby variant of the Mustang is expected to be introduced soon, but for now, the Mustang lineup focuses on the base 4-cylinder and GT models.

The Challenger offers a broader engine lineup, although none are as advanced as the Mustang's options. At the low end is Chrysler's venerable 3.6-liter V6, which makes 305 hp and 268 lb-ft of torque. Pair this with rear-wheel drive, and the Challenger earns 23 mpg combined; opt for available all-wheel drive, and this combined fuel economy figure drops to 21. From there, the Challenger offers a range of potent, yet thirsty, V8 engines. On the lower end is a 5.7-liter mill making 375 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque good for 18 mpg combined. Next is a 6.4-liter making 485 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque, while earning 17 mpg combined. This is the engine found in more pedestrian SRT 392 models. Finally, the Challenger variant everyone knows is the Hellcat, which packs a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 making a whopping 717 hp (up 10 from 2018 models) and 650 lb-ft of torque and earning 16 mpg combined. Production of the even-more-insane Demon was limited to the 2018 model year, but a new Hellcat Redeye model bows with 787 hp. Both the Hellcat and Hellcat Redeye are also available with unique interior bits and a unique hood. All variants of the Challenger are available with either a 6-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic transmission, except for the Hellcat Redeye, which is only available with the automatic.

As far as competition goes, buyers will probably want to cross shop the 4-cylinder Mustang with the Challenger's 5.7-liter V8 -- the turbo Mustang is that good. The V8 Mustang GT is comparable to the Challenger's 6.4-liter offering. This peculiar alignment comes down to the fact that the Mustang is far more advanced than the aging Challenger, and it's therefore able to do more with smaller engines.

Performance

Given the Challenger's old age and the Mustang's recent redesign, the Mustang is a better all-around performance vehicle than the Challenger. While the Challenger Hellcat's extreme hp serves to counteract this, mainstream Challengers suffer from excess weight, which hurts them in the corners. Straight-line accelleration isn't an issue for the Challenger, though, as SRT 392 models reach 0-to-60 in 4.2 seconds, which is only slightly slower than the V8 Mustang GT, which gets to 60 in 4.0 seconds.

When looking at more entry-level powertrains, the gap between the Mustang and the Challenger really starts to widen, as Ford has invested in making the 4-cylinder Mustang a low-cost performance bargain, and the vehicle offers nimble handling and fast accelleration, getting from 0-to-60 in 5.2 seconds. The V6 Challenger, on the other hand, is a bit of a dog, taking 6.3 seconds to get to 60. Add turns into the equation, and the competition isn't even close -- the Mustang stands out to an even greater degree.

Both vehicles offer performance packages, with the Challenger's growing more comprehensive for 2019 thanks to a few performance pieces that have trickled down from the Demon and Hellcat lines.

When it comes down to it, the Challenger is geared toward the drag strip, while the Mustang is geared toward the track.

Reliability

Drive either one of these vehicles super hard and things will break, but that goes for just about any vehicle. Ford and Dodge typically offer about average reliability, but if quality is paramount to your decision, opt for the Mustang. Both Ford and Dodge offer a 3-year/36,000-mile basic and a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Safety

The Mustang out performs the Challenger in crash testing conducted by the Insurance Institute in Highway safety. Likely a result of the Challenger's aging design, the vehicle receives only a score of Marginal in the driver-side small front-overlap test, while the Mustang receives an Acceptable. The Challenger also comes up short in the roof strength and head restraint categories.

When it comes to driver-assistance safety features, the 2019 Ford Mustang offers a more comprehensive package than the Dodge Challenger, with automatic emergency braking, forward-collision warning with brake support, pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams and rain-sensing windshield wipers.

The Challenger offers adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, rear parking sensors, forward-collision alert, rain-sensing wipers and automatic high beams.

Interior Space

Up front, the Mustang offers 37.6 inches of headroom and 44.0 inches of legroom, while the Challenger offers 39.3 inches and 42.0 inches, respectively.

While neither vehicle is particularly spacious, the Challenger technically offers room for five people, while the Mustang is strictly a four-seater. Still, neither of these vehicles is a great option if you'll consistently be ferrying more than two passengers around, though the Challenger offers a slightly larger back seat.

The Challenger also has a slight edge when it comes to cargo room, offering 16.0 cu ft. versus the Mustang's 13.5 cu ft.

While the Challenger is technically bigger, the Mustang is said to offer better outward visibility, which, in practice, could result in it feeling like the larger vehicle of the two.

Interior Design & Quality

Both the Mustang and the Challenger offer simple, muscle-car inspired interiors. The Challenger's use of hard plastic warrants criticism, while the Mustang's is slightly more modern, given its more recent redesign. Both the Mustang and the Challenger are available with heated and cooled front seats.

Technology

The infotainment systems in both the Challenger and the Mustang are modern and well sorted. Standard on the Challenger is a 5.0-in screen, while upper trim levels come with a rather large 8.4-in screen. The Mustang comes standard with a 4.3-in screen that becomes an 8.0-in unit on higher trims. Both vehicles offer Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, along with optional 4G LTE with Wi-Fi.

The Mustang sets itself apart by offering a fully digital gauge cluster, a feature not available on the Challenger.

Value

The sales pitch for the muscle car has always been RWD, lots of power and a reasonable price tag, and that's the case for both the Mustang and the Challenger. That said, given the Challenger's aging platform, buyers are likely to find more generous dealer incentives on a new Challenger than they are on a comparable Mustang.

Autotrader's Advice

In just about every category except for raw hp offered on higher end models, the Mustang is the better vehicle here. While the Challenger continues to offer raucous power much in the same way it did back when it was released in 2008, the Mustang has been refined in recent years and is quite impressive both at the drag strip and on the race track. Additionally, the Mustang is a safer vehicle than the Challenger, offering better driver-assistance safety features and outward visibility. In the end though, a muscle car is an emotional purchase, and while we lean toward the Mustang, it really comes down to which one speaks to you the loudest.

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2019 Ford Mustang vs. 2019 Dodge Challenger: Which Is Better? - Autotrader