Ford basically launched the modern muscle car era with its retro-styled Mustang in 2005 -- what once was a dying breed of vehicles saw a resurgence in popularity. Others have followed in Ford's footsteps, and several popular names from the late 60s, 70s and 80s have resurfaced in a modern skin.
What the Ford Mustang Gets Right
For starters, the Mustang is offered in a number of variations including a coupe, convertible and a Boss 302 model. The coupe and convertible are available in five trim levels, all of which are fairly impressive. We enjoy the power of the base 3.7-liter V6 engine, but the 5-liter V8 is downright awe-inspiring. An automatic transmission with a manual shifter is a nice addition in recent years.
Both engines are a joy to drive, but the power of the V8 will knock you back into your seat. The Mustang handles corners well, with handling that is fairly light and agile. The steering system is especially responsive.
What the Dodge Challenger Gets Right
Like the Mustang, the Challenger offers V6 and V8 options. The monstrous 6.4-liter V8 is true to the spirit of the muscle car era. With this engine the Challenger becomes a rocket ship, especially in a straight line.
The Challenger's sheet metal is very attractive, its cabin is spacious and uniquely designed, and its trunk extra-large. Available options and features on all three trim levels are good. The price of the lower trim levels of the Challenger will also appeal.
Which Performs Better?
The Challenger has a lot to offer potential buyers. It's cheaper, and engine choices are great -- especially the Super Sport's 6.4-liter V8. The Mustang also has two great engine options, a convertible body style, and a classy exterior. We think the Mustang's option list is a bit better. And on the road, the Mustang handles more like a finely-tuned sports car, while the Challenger is a bit awkward and cumbersome.
Our Verdict: Ford Mustang
Muscle cars are about attitude, but they need the performance to back it up. And that's where the Mustang's superior road manners give it an edge.