Dodge Challenger vs Ford Mustang

Dodge Challenger vs Ford Mustang: which one is easier to live with?

This Dodge Challenger vs Ford Mustang comparison is going to be a little bit different. Instead of comparing all of the differences (feature by feature), I’m going to tell you what it’s like to actually live with either of these cars. I own a Mustang, and I’ve put thousands of miles on various Challengers over the years. For me, the choice is easy.

Overall, I prefer the Ford Mustang over the Dodge Challenger. The Mustang is a bit smaller (which makes it feel more nimble), and maintenance / repair costs tend to be a bit lower.

I also think that the Mustang looks better than the Challenger. However, I’m not afraid to admit that a V8 Challenger sounds a lot better than a V8 Mustang. I could be happy with either of these two cars, but if I can only pick one, it’s going to be the Mustang.

Telling you how these cars stack up against one another in real world driving is the best way to explain why I prefer the Mustang:

Comparing the engines of the Dodge Challenger and Ford Mustang

Both the Challenger and the Mustang are available with high-performance V8 engines (duh). We all know that. We also know that the majority of the people who buy these cars choose the more economical (less-powerful) engine options.

In the case of the Challenger, the more economical engine option has always been a V6. For the mustang, the V6 used to be an option, but now all you can get for the non-GT version is a turbocharged four-cylinder. Laugh all you want, but it’s a darn good option (be sure to read my EcoBoost Mustang review – or my EcoBoost vs 5.0 Mustang comparison – to find out why).

Dodge Challenger engines

If there’s one thing the Dodge does right, it’s producing a fun-to-drive high output V8 engine. The Challenger has always been available with a V-8, and as I mentioned earlier, and it’s always sounded better than the Mustang (in my option anyway).

To me, in real world driving situations, I like the Challenger for its low-end torque. The V8 Mustang doesn’t feel as strong lower in the RPM band as the Challenger.

2020 Dodge Challenger Hemi engine
I will neither admit (nor deny) that I made manly grunting noises when opening the hood of this 2020 Dodge Challenger. The 375hp Hemi is a beast!

The V6 that comes with a base model is also more torquey then the four-cylinder EcoBoost in the Mustang. If you’re buying a base model, but you still want more torque than a Mustang, the V6 Challenger is the better choice.

Ford Mustang engines

The V8 in the Mustang feels completely different than the V8 in the Challenger. It doesn’t sound as good to me, but I like the fact that there is power readily available all throughout the RPM range. Unlike the Challenger, the high-revving V8 in the Mustang will pull hard all the way to redline. It’s fun.

Ford Mustang Ecoboost engine
Even though the 5.0 in the Mustang GT is an incredibly good engine, you’d be a fool not to overlook the EcoBoost 4 cylinder option. As you can see in this pic, the EcoBoost isn’t particularly good looking – but it sure is fun to drive.

The four-cylinder EcoBoost (pictured above) is no slouch as well. I was skeptical of the four-cylinder Mustang before I ever drove one, but I’m being completely honest when I tell you that I could very easily live with one as a daily driver. Turbo lag is minimal, and it’s actually a fairly quick car. Of course, the difference with the V6 Challenger is that the four-cylinder Mustang has a lot less low RPM torque.

EcoBoost life expectancy is very good as well (better than the V6 in the Challenger), so that’s something to keep in mind as well.

Dodge Challenger handling vs Ford Mustang handling

Let’s face it. Neither the Dodge Challenger or the Ford Mustang is a great handling car. Yes, they are much easier to toss around than a typical crossover, but make no mistake about it: these are both big cars weighing in at well over 3500 pounds each.

Dodge Challenger handling

The Challenger is a massive car. Even the base model V6 weighs 3800 pounds, which makes it a handful in tight corners. I’ve always considered the Challenger to be a great highway cruiser, but it always disappoints me when driving it on curvy roads (either the V6 or the V-8 version). It understeers horribly, and to me, it feels especially nose-heavy and somewhat disconnected from the road.

Be sure to read my 2018 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack review if you want to hear me complain about the way this thing handles.

Driving a Dodge Challenger
Yup. I’m still making manly grunting noises as I try to steer this Challenger through traffic.

Ford Mustang handling

The Mustang is slightly lighter than the Challenger, but to me, it feels so much more planted in the corners. No, it’s not exactly what I consider to be a sports car, but it’s certainly more “sports car like.”

Driving a Ford Mustang
Driving the Mustang feels like a completely different experience compared to the Challenger. Dare I say it, but…it kinda (sorta) feels like a sports car.

One of the main advantages the Mustang has over the Challenger when it comes to handling is the fact that it sits lower to the ground. Even the base model (with the EcoBoost four-cylinder) feels low and sporty compared to the highest-spec’d Challenger. A lower center of gravity translates to much better handling.

Challenger exterior vs Mustang exterior

OK, I know that looks are completely subjective, but hear me out. I prefer the looks of the Mustang over the Challenger. It’s just a better proportioned car in my opinion.

The thing that bothers me most about the exterior design of the Dodge Challenger is that it hasn’t changed much at all since it’s inception. Yes, it’s a good looking car, but I like the fact that Mustang designers take pride in refining the design as often as they can.

Dodge Challenger exterior design
Yeah, the Challenger is about as aerodynamic as a cinder block, but that’s what makes it so charming I guess.

The Mustang looks a lot more sleek than the Challenger does, which I assume is something that attracts more buyers. Then again, anyone looking for an old-school “muscle car experience” will be more than happy with a Challenger than a Mustang. It sits a lot higher than the Mustang does, and it doesn’t even attempt to try and act like a sports car.

Ford Mustang exterior design
It’s obvious that the designers of the Mustang have made an attempt to get it to cut through the wind better. This thing looks like a rocket compared to the Dodge in my opinion.

If I had one criticism of the exterior design of the Mustang, it’s that it looks as if they’re trying really hard to make it look as sleek as possible. It doesn’t need to look like an exotic car, IMHO. It has always been a simple looking car, and I hope they don’t ruin future versions of it by trying to be too aggressive with the styling.

Mustang vs Challenger interior

When it comes to interiors, there’s no comparison between the Ford Mustang and the Dodge Challenger (much the same way it was in my 350Z vs Mustang GT comparison). While I do find the interior of the Dodge Challenger to be very tight and cockpit like, it just doesn’t even compare to the sports car feel of the Mustang interior.

Dodge Challenger interior
The 2020 Dodge Challenger interior isn’t all that bad actually. I prefer these seats over the seats in the Mustang, but the dashboard is…meh.
  • In the Challenger, you’ll sit bolt-upright. For shorter drivers, it may be difficult to see over the dashboard.
  • In the Mustang, you’ll be sitting much lower to the ground, and in a slightly more reclined driving position.

I personally like the “sports car” feel of the Mustang. Even the base model feels high end and very modern.

2021 Ford Mustang interior
The Mustang interior is much nicer in my opinion. I hate the seats though. There’s no support!

Mustang vs Challenger straight-line acceleration

Accelerating from a dead stop in the Challenger and the Mustang are two completely different experiences.

  • In the V8 Challenger, you’ll instantly feel the torque as soon as you step on the gas. The torque hit is instant, and it comes on strong. And the sound that it makes! Dodge engineers really hit it out of the ballpark when it came to refunding the exhaust note of the Challenger, and I don’t think there’s a car on the market that sounds better.
  • In the V8 Mustang, straight-line acceleration is a little different. Instead of getting hit in the chest with gobs of torque like you would in a Challenger, acceleration comes on smoothly all the way to redline. The Challenger runs out of breath at around 4500 RPM, whereas the mustang keeps pulling all the way to its 7500 RPM redline.

Comparing the acceleration of a V6 Challenger to a four-cylinder Mustang is almost the same.

  • The V6 Challenger has more torque than a four-cylinder turbo charged Mustang, so acceleration will feel instant.
  • In the Mustang, it takes a bit of time for the turbo to build up enough boost to pull the car forward. It’s fast though. Make no mistake about that.
Me driving a 2020 Dodge Challenger Hemi V8
The wide-eyed look an my face when smashing the throttle in this 2020 Challenger with the Hemi V8 tells you everything you need to know about it’s straight line acceleration. It’s fun.
Me driving a 2021 Ecoboost Mustang
The Mustang, on the other hand, is a much more laid-back vibe. It’s fast…but the power doesn’t hit you all at once like it does in the Challenger.

Mustang vs Challenger value for the money

When it comes to overall value for your money, it’s difficult to say that the Challenger is better than the Mustang (or vice versa). The fact of the matter is that both of these cars are an incredible value for the money, since they offer a ridiculous amount of comfort and performance for a relatively low price.

2020 white Dodge Challenger
I can certainly think of worse (and far more irresponsible) ways to spend $35k. The Challenger is a great value!

In my opinion, after years of experience driving both of these cars, I tend to think that the Mustang is a slightly better value.

  • As a Mustang owner, I feel confident that I can get parts for my car in nearly any small town across the United States. The Mustang is one of the nations best selling cars after all, which makes parts and repair options better than what you would get with the Challenger.
  • Yes, the Challenger is a very common car as well, but the Dodge dealer network is much smaller and it may not be as easy to get parts and service depending on how far out in the sticks you live.

However, if you consider value for your money as the kind of performance you get for the amount of money you spend, I’d say that both of these cars are equal. You just can’t buy two higher-performing cars for the amount of money they cost.

Red 2021 Ecoboost Mustang
Even though the Challenger is a really good value, I’m of the the opinion that the Mustang is a better value. It’s just a better all around car IMHO.

Which of these two cars is easiest to live with as a daily driver?

I’ve been daily driving a Mustang since 2011. That should be all you need to know about which of these two cars I think is a better daily driver.

I think the Mustang is a better daily driver than the Challenger for a handful of reasons:

  • It’s smaller than the Challenger. Where I live in Southern California, parking spaces are small, and it’s not always easy to squeeze a big car into the parking lot of the local grocery store.
  • The V8 in my mustang GT gets better gas mileage than the V8 in the Challenger. I know, gas mileage isn’t much of a concern for anybody who buys the highest-performance version of either of these vehicles, but it’s worth noting. This was actually something I talked about at length in my overview of Dodge Challenger pros and cons.
  • The interior of the Challenger feels a lot more cramped than the interior of the Mustang. If you’re a single person who never hast to haul other people or a lot of cargo, either of these cars would be just fine. However, if you’re like most people, and you need to haul stuff (and people) from time to time, the roomier interior of the Mustang is going to be easier to live with.
  • There’s a Mustang for every budget (which is precisely why I included it my list of my favorite cheap V8 cars). It’s hard to find a “cheap” Challenger that hasn’t had the snot beaten out of it.
  • Aftermarket support for the Mustang is much stronger than it is for the Challenger (as I stated in my guide to the best project cars).

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