Challenger vs. Charger: Which Hellcat Is for You?
Between the Two 707-hp Dodge Muscle Cars, Which One Is Right for You?
Over the past few years, I have had the fortune of putting thousands of miles on Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat test cars, and it seems that most horsepower junkies all have the same basic question: which Hellcat car is better/which Hellcat car should they buy?
So today, we take a look at where each Hellcat Dodge shines brighter. If you are debating which 707-hp Dodge to buy, this should help you make your decision a little easier.
First things first: if you insist on driving a car with a manual transmission, or if you are concerned about rear-seat space, you’ve already made your decision on which Hellcat to buy. The Charger isn’t available with the manual transmission, and although the Challenger has the most comfortable rear seat in the muscle coupe class, the added rear-seat space of the Hellcat Charger is significant in terms of both space and ease of access.
With that in mind, we come to the first key metric when deciding between the Hellcat Challenger and the Hellcat Charger: the daily drive.
Living with a Hellcat
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many members of the Hellcat owner community who spend lots of time at a variety of different types of tracks, but to almost all Hellcat owners, the car’s comfort and how well it serves as a daily driver is a big part of the appeal. Aside from having 707 horsepower, both hellcat cars come with premium infotainment systems, heated/cooled leather seats, and really just about everything else you could want. The Hellcat cars are chock-full of high-end interior gadgets, but all of the key components of the interior are shared between the two, so you won’t need to pick one car or the other when it comes to getting a specific premium interior item.
On one hand, that is a good thing, as you won’t be pushed toward one of the Hellcat cars just to get a certain infotainment system or premium seats. On the other hand, these shared features don’t lend much help when picking between the Charger and the Challenger.
The key difference, of course, is the fact that the Hellcat Charger is a sedan and the Hellcat Challenger is a coupe, giving the Charger a marked advantage when it comes to interior space. I should point out that the Challenger is one of the few 2-door coupes I have tested that comfortably seats two adults in the back, so if you occasionally use your rear seat to haul people, the Challenger will work. However, the rear seat of the Hellcat Charger is as spacious as you would expect a full-size sedan to be. The rear doors also ease the loading and unloading of passengers (especially little kids in child safety seats) into the back seats.
Back seat aside, the interiors of both the Hellcat Challenger and Hellcat Charger are pretty much equal. Both cars feature a ton of passenger space for the driver and front passenger, premium finishes on the seats, doors and dash, and the top-of-the-line UConnect system. Regardless of which Hellcat Dodge you’re driving, the driver’s seat is extremely comfortable in any weather condition (heated and cooled) and with UConnect being one of the best infotainment interfaces on the market today, the navigation system, sound system, climate control, and even the performance gauges and performance timers are conveniently at your fingertips.
Thanks to the adaptive, adjustable suspension setup, the Hellcat Challenger and Hellcat Charger can both be set to offer the smoothest ride possible, so when you aren’t rocketing around turns in Track Mode, both cars ride remarkably well. As a result, these cars are both just as great as daily drivers as they are on the track, making them both rarities in the high-performance world.
Charger Front Seats
Ultimately, both the Hellcat Challenger and Hellcat Charger ride like a dream, so in picking which is best for you, you have to really look at how much you need easy access to your rear seats, and how much rear seating space you need. In every other way — from amenities to interior comfort to ride quality — these two cars are pretty much equal.
Challenger Front Seats
In fact, these two Hellcat-powered Dodge cars are pretty much equal in every way (shy of seating space), so when picking between the two based on performance measures, it is a battle of inches. However, each car has its own distinct set of characteristics that allow it to shine on the track.
The Drag Strip
The Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat are both far more than just straight-line screams, but blasting down a drag strip (or any stretch of smooth, straight driving surface) is what they do best. I’ve made hundreds of 0-60, 8th-mile and quarter-mile test runs with the two Hellcat cars. While the results are always impressive, the Challenger is always a touch quicker. Whether on an actual drag strip or testing on an unprepped surface, the Hellcat Challenger was generally a tenth or two quicker to 60 mph, with times for the Challenger in the 3.6 to 3.7 range, while the Charger was typically in the 3.8 to 3.9 range. The videos below show the Charger and Challenger dashing from 0-60, first from the windshield and then from the back bumper, thus offering the best sample of the exhaust tone under hard acceleration.
When we stretch the test run out to an 8th of a mile, the difference still comes down to the launch. Although the Charger is a touch heavier, it pulls just as well through the mid-range, so the biggest difference in track times is going to come down to the launch. Because the Challenger gets out of the hole a touch more quickly, it takes a starting line advantage that the similarly equipped Charger cannot make up on the top end of a drag race. The videos below show a solid 8th-mile run from each Hellcat, with a touch of wheelspin on the unprepped track.
Again, we are talking about two cars that are separated by less than a quarter of a second in every straight-line test I’ve conducted, but in the end, the Challenger has the advantage on the drag strip. Another example of the Challenger’s drag strip dominance is the fact that all of the quickest Hellcat cars in the world are Challengers, not Chargers. There are plenty of built Hellcat Chargers out there racing, but the lighter Challenger has the edge in this category.
The Road Course
Like many muscle cars, both the Hellcat Challenger and Hellcat Charger are regularly labeled as cars that are only good in a straight line, but there are two kinds of people who comment on the Hellcat’s handling abilities:
- People who have never spent time with either Hellcat car on a track with turns, and who are simply guessing that because they are both 4,000-lb. cars with 707 horsepower, they must be terrible anywhere other than a drag strip.
- People who have spent time with these beasts on a road course and, like me, they know how well the 707-hp Challenger and Charger will handle a road course.
The people in that first group should be ignored, as anyone in the second group will tell you that the uninformed folks in the first group are just plain wrong. Now understand the Hellcat Challenger and Charger don’t tackle a road course like the Viper, but having spent time with every new Challenger and Charger on a road course, I can say without question that the Hellcat cars are the best-handling muscle cars that Dodge has ever offered.
Once you set the adaptive suspension to Track Mode, both the Hellcat Challenger and Hellcat Charger will dive through turns with confidence, with the biggest challenge being the hard pull out of the corners. As you might expect, mashing the gas as you come out of a turn with either Hellcat car can lead to all sorts of wheelspin, but once you’ve gotten a feel for how hard you can accelerate out of a turn, these cars are a blast on the road course. The combination of the massive Brembo brakes and the high-tech suspension allows the Challenger and Charger to get down from big speeds in a hurry, while the adaptive suspension does a great job of keeping the cars planted in high-speed corners and tight turns alike.
Once again, while the difference between the two Hellcat-powered Dodge cars is minimal, there is an advantage … this time for the Charger. Even though they are mechanically identical, the Charger is a little longer and a little more aerodynamic, providing more downforce at high speeds, and generally feeling more stable in every on-track condition. I went into my first road course test session with the expectation that the two cars would feel pretty much the same, but there is no question that the bigger Charger feels more planted and more capable on a track with curves.
I should point out that while the Charger clearly handles better on the road course, that advantage was experienced at performance levels that will almost exclusively be experienced on a race track. In other words, the Charger handles a road course better, but in terms of regular driving — even when driving fast on normal roads — the difference is hard to notice. Still, for someone who is focused more on high-performance handling, the Hellcat Charger has the edge over the Challenger.
The videos below show a pair of Hellcat Chargers on the road course followed by a pair of Hellcat Challenger road course videos. While these videos fall short of offering a great feel for the Charger’s advantage in handling, these clips show how well the big Mopar monsters slip around a twisty track.
The Car Show
Finally, there are the high-performance Mopar fans who want a fast, comfortable street car that will turn heads at a car show. While driving each of the Hellcat Dodge cars, I spent some time cruising the local car club scene to see how the crowd responded to each.
Even though both cars are just as powerful, the Challenger got far more attention at car shows large and small. The whine of the blower and tone of the exhaust attracted some spectators to check out the Charger, but the Hellcat Challenger drew a crowd everywhere it went. Perhaps the 4-door sedan shape of the Hellcat Charger just doesn’t catch as much attention as the big, bold Challenger. In any case, the Challenger definitely got more attention at cruises and car shows.
When it comes to picking your ideal Dodge Hellcat car, it comes down to a few simple questions.
- Do you demand a manual transmission? If so, Challenger.
- Do you need the extra rear-seat space? If so, Charger.
- Do you spend most of your high-performance driving time drag racing? If so, Challenger.
- Do you want a car that offers slightly better handling and high-speed stability? If so, Charger.
- Are you buying this car to attract attention? If so, Challenger.
In the end, these cars are so evenly matched that it really comes down to those simple questions. Both cars offer incredible performance, premium interior features, and a driver’s seat that could have been snatched out of a luxury sedan, so for the driver, both of these cars are exhilarating and comfortable. Both cars will leave a smile on your face every time you drive them, but in a battle of inches, each car has its own advantages.
Although I spend much of my time drag racing, I have a family, I don’t demand a manual transmission, and I don’t care about attracting attention, so for my money, I would pick the Hellcat Charger. The slight compromise of losing a few tenths of a second on the starting line is a fair trade for the extra rear-seating space, the slight advantage in handling, and the more incognito look.
Therefore the conclusion for me is that the 4-door Hellcat is my choice for a daily driver that can also serve as a great weekend track toy at a variety of different venues.