2018 Dodge Challenger vs. 2017 Volkswagen Beetle

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

The Challenger has standard Active Head Restraints, which use a specially designed headrest to protect the driver and front passenger from whiplash. During a rear-end collision, the Active Head Restraints system moves the headrests forward to prevent neck and spine injuries. The Beetle doesn’t offer a whiplash protection system.

The Challenger offers an optional collision warning system, which detects an impending crash through forward mounted sensors and flashes a bright light and sounds a loud, distinctive tone to warn the driver to brake or maneuver immediately to avoid a collision. The system also pre-charges the brakes to begin deceleration more quickly. The Beetle doesn't offer a collision warning system.

The Challenger offers all-wheel drive to maximize traction under poor conditions, especially in ice and snow. The Beetle doesn’t offer all-wheel drive.

Both the Challenger and the Beetle have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available blind spot warning systems, rear parking sensors and rear cross-path warning.

The Dodge Challenger weighs 585 to 1480 pounds more than the Volkswagen Beetle. The NHTSA advises that heavier cars are much safer in collisions than their significantly lighter counterparts.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the Dodge Challenger is safer than the Volkswagen Beetle:

 

Challenger

Beetle

 

Passenger

STARS

5 Stars

4 Stars

HIC

209

404

Chest Compression

.7 inches

.7 inches

Neck Injury Risk

29%

39%

Neck Stress

180 lbs.

202 lbs.

Neck Compression

73 lbs.

118 lbs.

Leg Forces (l/r)

190/375 lbs.

395/294 lbs.

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

Warranty

There are almost 4 times as many Dodge dealers as there are Volkswagen dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Challenger’s warranty.

Reliability

To reliably start during all conditions and help handle large electrical loads, the Challenger has a standard 625-amp battery (730 Demon). The Beetle’s 380-amp battery isn’t as powerful.

The battery on the Challenger is in the trunk, which protects it from hot underhood temperatures which can degrade battery life. By keeping the Challenger’s battery 20 to 30 degrees cooler, its life is increased by years. The Beetle’s battery is in the hot engine compartment.

J.D. Power and Associates rated the Challenger second among midsize sporty cars in their 2017 Initial Quality Study. The Beetle isn’t in the top three in its category.

Engine

The Challenger has more powerful engines than the Beetle:

 

Horsepower

Torque

Challenger 3.6 DOHC V6

305 HP

268 lbs.-ft.

Challenger R/T automatic 5.7 V8

372 HP

400 lbs.-ft.

Challenger R/T manual 5.7 V8

375 HP

410 lbs.-ft.

Challenger Scat Pack/SRT 392 HEMI 6.4 V8

485 HP

475 lbs.-ft.

Challenger SRT Hellcat 6.2 supercharged V8

707 HP

650 lbs.-ft.

Beetle 1.8T 1.8 turbo 4 cyl.

170 HP

184 lbs.-ft.

Beetle R-Line 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

210 HP

207 lbs.-ft.

As tested in Car and Driver the Dodge Challenger V6 is faster than the Volkswagen Beetle (automatics tested):

 

Challenger

Beetle 1.8T

Beetle R-Line

Zero to 60 MPH

6.2 sec

7.9 sec

6.3 sec

Zero to 100 MPH

15.5 sec

22.7 sec

16.8 sec

5 to 60 MPH Rolling Start

6.5 sec

8.3 sec

6.4 sec

Quarter Mile

14.7 sec

16.1 sec

15 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

97 MPH

86 MPH

95 MPH

Top Speed

119 MPH

118 MPH

124 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

An engine control system that can shut down half of the engine’s cylinders helps improve the Challenger 5.7/6.4 V8 Auto’s fuel efficiency. The Beetle doesn’t offer a system that can shut down part of the engine.

The Challenger has 4 gallons more fuel capacity than the Beetle (18.5 vs. 14.5 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.

Transmission and Drivetrain

An eight-speed automatic is standard on the Dodge Challenger, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only a six-speed automatic is available for the Beetle.

All wheel drive, available in the Challenger, provides the best traction for acceleration in wet, dry, and icy conditions. In corners, all wheel drive allows both outside wheels to provide power, balancing the car. This allows for better handling. The Volkswagen Beetle is not available with all wheel drive.

The Challenger’s optional launch control uses engine electronics to hold engine RPM’s precisely in order to provide the most stable and rapid acceleration possible, using all of the available traction. The Beetle doesn’t offer launch control.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the Challenger’s brake rotors are larger than those on the Beetle:

 

Challenger SXT

Challenger T/A 392/392 Hemi/Hellcat

Beetle 1.8T

Beetle R-Line

Front Rotors

12.6 inches

15.4 inches

11.3 inches

12.3 inches

Rear Rotors

12.6 inches

13.8 inches

10.7 inches

10.7 inches

The Challenger SXT Plus/R/T/GT’s standard front and rear disc brakes are vented to help dissipate heat for shorter stops with less fading. The rear discs on the Beetle are solid, not vented.

The Challenger stops much shorter than the Beetle:

 

Challenger

Beetle

 

70 to 0 MPH

151 feet

179 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

108 feet

125 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the Challenger has larger standard tires than the Beetle (235/55R18 vs. 215/55R17). The Challenger Demon’s tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Beetle (315/40R18 vs. 245/40R20).

The Challenger SXT’s standard tires provide better handling because they have a lower 55 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Beetle 1.8T’s standard 60 series tires. The Challenger Hellcat Widebody’s tires have a lower 35 series profile than the Beetle R-Line’s 40 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Challenger has standard 18-inch wheels. Smaller 16-inch wheels are standard on the Beetle 1.8T.

Suspension and Handling

The Challenger has standard front and rear gas-charged shocks for better control over choppy roads. The Beetle’s suspension doesn’t offer gas-charged shocks.

The Challenger offers an available driver-adjustable suspension system. It allows the driver to choose between an extra-supple ride, reducing fatigue on long trips, or a sport setting, which allows maximum control for tricky roads. The Beetle’s suspension doesn’t offer adjustable shock absorbers.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Challenger’s wheelbase is 16.2 inches longer than on the Beetle (116.2 inches vs. 100 inches).

For better handling and stability, the average track (width between the wheels) on the Challenger is 2.2 inches wider in the front and 3.3 inches wider in the rear than the average track on the Beetle.

The Challenger’s front to rear weight distribution is more even (52% to 48%) than the Beetle’s (59.3% to 40.7%). This gives the Challenger more stable handling and braking.

The Challenger SRT Hellcat handles at .92 G’s, while the Beetle Dune Coupe pulls only .84 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

The Challenger SRT Hellcat executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 2.3 seconds quicker than the Beetle Coupe (24.7 seconds @ .85 average G’s vs. 27 seconds @ .65 average G’s).

Chassis

The design of the Dodge Challenger amounts to more than styling. The Challenger offers aerodynamic coefficients of drag from .337 to .383 Cd (depending on bodystyle and options). That is lower than the Beetle (.37 to .39). A more efficient exterior helps the Challenger go faster and keeps the interior quieter. It also helps the Challenger get better fuel mileage.

Passenger Space

The Challenger offers optional seating for 5 passengers; the Beetle can only carry 4.

The Challenger has 8.6 cubic feet more passenger volume than the Beetle Coupe (93.7 vs. 85.1).

The Challenger has .7 inches more front legroom, 3.2 inches more front shoulder room, 1.7 inches more rear legroom and 4.9 inches more rear shoulder room than the Beetle Coupe.

Cargo Capacity

The Challenger has a larger trunk than the Beetle Coupe with its rear seat up (16.2 vs. 15.4 cubic feet).

Towing

The Challenger has a 1000 lbs. towing capacity. The Beetle has no towing capacity.

Servicing Ease

The Challenger uses gas struts to support the hood for easier service access. The Beetle uses a prop rod to support its heavy hood. It takes two hands to open the hood and set the prop rod, the prop rod gets in the way during maintenance and service, and the prop rod could be knocked out, causing the heavy hood to fall on the person maintaining or servicing the car.

The engine in the Challenger is mounted longitudinally (North-South), instead of sideways, as in the Beetle. This makes it easier to service and maintain, because the accessory belts are in front.

Ergonomics

The Challenger Automatic offers a remote vehicle starting system, so the vehicle can be started from inside the driver's house. This allows the driver to comfortably warm up the engine before going out to the vehicle. The climate system will also automatically heat or cool the interior. The Beetle doesn’t offer a remote starting system.

The Challenger’s instruments include an oil pressure gauge and a temperature gauge – which could save your engine! Often ‘idiot lights’ don’t warn you until damage has been done. The Beetle has neither an oil pressure gauge nor a temperature gauge.

On a hot day the Challenger’s driver can lower all the windows from a distance using the keyless remote. The driver of the Beetle can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

The Challenger’s standard speed-sensitive wipers speed up when the vehicle does, so that the driver doesn’t have to continually adjust the speed of the wipers. The Beetle’s manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted. The Challenger’s optional wipers adjust their speed and turn on and off automatically according to the amount of rainfall on the windshield.

While driving with high beams on, sensitive light sensors available for the Challenger detect other vehicles which could be blinded and automatically switch to low beams. The Beetle doesn’t offer automatic dimming high beams.

To shield the driver and front passenger’s vision over a larger portion of the windshield and side windows, the Challenger has standard extendable sun visors. The Beetle doesn’t offer extendable visors.

Optional air-conditioned seats in the Challenger keep the driver and front passenger comfortable and take the sting out of hot seats in Summer. The Beetle doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats.

On extremely cold Winter days, the Challenger’s optional heated steering wheel provides comfort, allowing the driver to steer safely and comfortably before the car heater warms up. The Beetle doesn’t offer a heated steering wheel.

The Challenger has a standard center folding armrest for the rear passengers. A center armrest helps make rear passengers more comfortable. The Beetle doesn’t offer a rear seat center armrest.

The Challenger has a standard dual zone air conditioning allows the driver and front passenger to choose two completely different temperatures so people with different temperature preferences won’t have to compromise. This makes both the driver and front passenger as comfortable as possible. Dual zone air conditioning costs extra on the Beetle.

Both the Challenger and the Beetle offer rear vents. For greater rear passenger comfort, the Challenger has standard rear air conditioning vents to keep rear occupants cool in summer or warm in winter. The Beetle doesn’t offer rear air conditioning vents, only heat vents.

To keep a safe, consistent following distance, the Challenger offers an optional Adaptive Cruise Control, which alters the speed of the vehicle without driver intervention. This allows the driver to use cruise control more safely without constantly having to disengage it when approaching slower traffic. The Beetle doesn’t offer an adaptive cruise control.

The Challenger’s standard steering wheel mounted cruise control is close at hand. The Beetle’s standard cruise control is on an over-crowded turn signal stalk.

Economic Advantages

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Challenger is less expensive to operate than the Beetle because it costs $288 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the Challenger than the Beetle, including $312 less for a water pump, $335 less for a starter, $120 less for fuel injection, $188 less for a fuel pump, $192 less for front struts, $250 less for a timing belt/chain and $422 less for a power steering pump.

Recommendations

J.D. Power and Associates rated the Challenger first among midsize sporty cars in owner reported satisfaction. This includes how well the vehicle performs and satisfies its owner’s expectations. The Beetle isn’t in the top three in its category.

Strategic Vision rates overall owner satisfaction with vehicle quality. The Dodge Challenger is ranked first in the Specialty Coupe category. The Volkswagen Beetle 2dr is ranked below average. The Challenger received the 2015 “Total Quality Award.”

The Dodge Challenger outsold the Volkswagen Beetle by over two to one during the 2016 model year.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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