Comparison Test: 2011 Dodge Challenger SRT8 vs. 2011 BMW 1 Series M Coupe

2011 Dodge Challenger Coupe

(6.4L V8 6-speed Manual)
  • 2011 Dodge Challenger Picture

    2011 Dodge Challenger Picture

    | June 24, 2011

63 Photos

  • Comparison Test
  • 2011 Dodge Challenger SRT8 Specs and Performance
  • 2011 BMW 1 Series M Specs and Performance

This comparison test between the 470-horsepower, 6.4-liter 2011 Dodge Challenger SRT8 and the 335-hp, 3.0-liter twin-turbo 2011 BMW 1 Series M Coupe is intentionally not apples to apples. And so what?

When was the last time you stood, bleary-eyed and groggy, drinking a watery coffee at some breakfast buffet deciding between a Red Delicious and a Granny Smith? In real-world breakfast decisions the hand wanders between what you should eat — the apples — and doughnuts. Warm, frosted, delicious doughnuts.

Challenger versus 1 Series M Coupe is not a comparison that can be solved by rubric, pyramid or with beans on a scale. For this comparison test we've abandoned the normal battery of charts and forms and taken a breakfast buffet approach to the dilemma. This time we drive, test and debate the cars with one question in mind: If our uncle Harold died and left us $50,000 with the specific instructions to buy something fun, which car would end up in our garage?

M Coupe vs. Challenger? What?
Whatever we'd buy with our windfall, it would have to be special. It would have to be limited edition (both of these cars are, with only 1,000 M Coupes and 1,100 Inaugural Edition 392s available). It would have to be fast, have a manual transmission, drive the rear wheels and it damned well better be a coupe.

The $49,585 as-equipped 2011 BMW 1 Series M Coupe was the obvious first pick. It's all-new: a shorter, lighter, smaller more nimble M car in the vein of the E30 M3 that lured many of us to the Bavarian brand.

Its 335-hp 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 sends power to the ground through a slick six-speed manual transmission and a pair of 265/35ZR19 Michelin Pilot Sport PS2s. Gearchanges don't happen with the rifle quickness of some straight-line-specific cars, but the feel and precision is there. Get everything just right and the 1 Series M Coupe blows past 60 in 4.5 seconds (4.3 seconds with 1 foot of rollout like at a drag strip) and powers through the quarter-mile in 12.9 seconds at 107.7 mph. You don't need all the power in the world when you weigh 3,346 pounds.

Speaking of All the Power in the World...
The 2011 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392 has it. We're talking about 470 hp and 470 pound-feet of torque from a naturally aspirated 6.4-liter pushrod V8. Four-hundred-and-seventy horsepower! Do you remember when the Viper didn't even have 470 hp? Or when the Corvette didn't? Oh...wait.

So it has a 135-hp advantage over the 1M, but the Challenger also weighs 4,257 pounds. No surprise then that it produces remarkably similar numbers at the drag strip: 4.7 seconds to 60 (4.4 seconds with rollout) and 12.9 seconds to the 1,320-foot mark with a trap speed of 111.0 mph. Wheelspin, unsurprisingly, is a problem when trying to twist 255/45ZR20 Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires. So is wheel hop.

Performance

  2011 BMW 1 Series M Coupe 2011 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392
0 - 60 (sec) 4.5 (4.3 with rollout) 4.7 (4.4 with rollout)
1/4-mile (sec @ mph) 12.9 @ 107.7 12.9 @ 111.0
Skid pad (lateral g) 0.96 0.91
Slalom (mph) 71.3 66.6
Braking 60-0 (ft) 103 106
Curb weight, as tested (lb) 3,346 4,257


If the Road's A-Windin'...Just Give It Up
Features, feel, looks and personal preferences on these two can be debated eternally, but there's one area where a clear winner emerges: Handling.

It's hardly surprising, then, that the smallest U.S.-market BMW wearing M3 shoes and suspension and packing a power upgrade by M is the standout on mountain roads. It responds to every input instantly and predictably. The biggest challenge is trying to stay below double the posted speed limit.

Traditionally when running the canyons of Southern California the faster car is the one with the faster driver. That theory doesn't apply here. Put your mom in the 1 Series M Coupe and she'll be at the lookout on Mulholland so far ahead of you and the Challenger that she'll have time for tea and her arthritis medicine. With M Dynamic Mode enabled, wheelspin and slip angle are expertly controlled, and driving fast — insanely, stupid fast — is an exercise in precision only available in a carefully metered instrument like an M car.

The 2011 Dodge Challenger's steering, quickened for 2011, is still too slow for roads with actual corners, and the big boat feels a full 3 feet wider than the 1. Count on sawing at the wheel like a ship's captain as the M Coupe disappears into the mountains.

These observations were validated by our track testing, which saw the M Coupe and its wider Michelin Pilot Sport PS2s sneak through our slalom at 71.3 mph. The Challenger leaned and clawed its way to a 66.6-mph run on Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires. The drubbing continued on the skid pad, where the M circled at 0.96g vs. the Challenger's otherwise respectable 0.91g performance.

Its size and power mean the M Coupe is built for carving corners and shaving apexes while the larger, heavier Challenger fishtails heroically a quarter-mile behind. But hey, powerslides are fun. Really fun.

No Regrets
It's easy to get lost in the minutiae of the data when fast cars are involved. The passionless results of weather-corrected track testing and the calculated weighing of feature against feature are a slap in the face to car guys everywhere. Some cars are just special even if the spec sheet doesn't tally up. And it doesn't add up in favor of the Dodge in this case.

But the unmeasurables do.

You're hooked to the Dodge from the second the start button is pressed. It erupts with a rock and a wobble from 6.4 liters of American iron. The whole car twitches and dips in response to a stab at the throttle. In that respect it's not unlike the utterly raw Challenger Super Stock drag car we raced a few years ago, except with this one you can terrorize the drag strip and your daily commute.

Maybe it's the size or the bright white paint and blue stripes, maybe it's that the 392 is an American car in Santa Monica, or maybe it's that we'd been revving the engine without moving for 9 minutes. Whatever the cause, any time a Prius driver flips you off, it's a win in our book. And it's the kind of win you'll never get in an M car.

Livability also goes to the Dodge. Its seats blend long-haul comfort with competent bolstering. The new dampers erase the old car's floaty ride and replace it with well-balanced firmness and compliance. Sixth gear at 70 works out to only 1,600 rpm in the Challenger, while the M Coupe churns at 2,250. There's also the twitchy ride and droning tire howl at speeds above 50. Don't forget, you're going to drive the M Coupe to those racetracks where it is so dominant.

These inconveniences are the price you pay for track focus.

Six vs. Eight
The new 6.4-liter doesn't rest on a baritone idle, though. This engine sings through the entire rev range. We remember the days when overhead-valve V8s would begin to choke at 5,000 rpm and demand a shift shortly thereafter. Those days are long gone and it's easy to let the siren song of 470 hp crash into the 392's 6,250-rpm rev limiter, tires ablaze. And every time you do, you giggle just a little bit.

The 2011 BMW M Coupe? It starts, runs, accelerates and idles like a vacuum. Sure, it's an expensive, exacting vacuum built by a team of engineers who fully understand sucking. And in the end it's a masterful machine carefully calibrated for sucking precision. But it's so focused on sucking that it's virtually emotionless. Even its burnouts are antiseptic.

A casual conversation between editors sealed its fate:

"You should drive the M Coupe before it goes away. It's good. Really good."

"I've got meetings all day and something for the kid tonight. Will I have any fun driving it home? I don't have time for Mulholland."

"Nah. Unless you drive it hard on the right road it's no different than a 135."

"OK, I'll take the Challenger."

Eat up, Fatty
At the end of the breakfast buffet, you don't have to explain to anyone why you took the apple. Nobody cares about apples. The 2011 BMW 1 Series M Coupe is like that. It's the safe answer to a singular problem. It's extremely fast and immensely effective as a driving tool. And when you appreciate it on those terms, there are precious few cars as good.

And that's precisely the problem. You'll need no terms to appreciate the 2011 Dodge Challenger SRT8. No racetrack, no mountain road, no measuring instruments, nothing but a heavy right foot. It's as far from a sterile expression of speed as can be created. It's loud, raw, unapologetically American and as quick as the M Coupe in the quarter-mile. It is speed and charisma.

And the explanation for why you bought it? Well, which do you prefer...apples or doughnuts?

The manufacturers provided Edmunds these vehicles for the purposes of evaluation.

Vehicle
Model year2011
MakeDodge
ModelChallenger SRT8
Year Make Model2011 Dodge Challenger SRT8 2dr Coupe (6.4L 8cyl 6M)
Vehicle TypeRWD 2dr 2-passenger Coupe
Base MSRP$42,780
Options on test vehicle392 Inaugural Edition Group ($1,995 -- includes dual blue center stripes, Mopar decal, silver metal brush center stack bezel, leather-trimmed seats with stripes, dash plaque, 20-by-9-inch aluminum wheels, bright exhaust tip, body-color/accent color grille); SRT Option Group II ($695 -- includes 13 Kicker SRT High-performance audio speakers, 200-watt Kicker SRT subwoofer, 322-watt Kicker SRT amplifier); Media Center 430N ($545 -- includes Sirius travel link with 1-year service, Sirius Satellite Radio, Garmin navigation system, audio jack input, 6.5-inch touchscreen display. 30GB hard drive with 4,250-song capacity, 368-watt amplifier, Media Center 430 CD/DVD/MP3/HDD, 7 Boston Acoustic speakers with subwoofer; not available in Hawaii, Guam, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas or Barbados); Gas Guzzler Tax Adjustment ($300 -- the amount of this option reflect the $300 increase to the gas-guzzler tax when the option fove-speed automatic transmission (DGJ) is selected. The gas-guzzler tax increases from $1,000 on the version of the car with the standard equipment six-speed manual transmission to $1,300 on the version with the optional automatic transmission); Front 245/45ZR20 and Rear 255/45ZR20 Performance Tires ($100 -- front 245/45ZR20 and rear 255/45ZR20 Goodyear brand performance tires); Quick Order Package 21X ($0- includes standard equipment).
As-tested MSRP$47,565
Assembly locationBrampton, Ontario, Canada
North American parts content (%)70
Drivetrain
ConfigurationLongitudinal, front-engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine typeNaturally aspirated, port-injected V8, gasoline
Displacement (cc/cu-in)6,424/392
Block/head materialIron/aluminum
ValvetrainPushrod, two valves per cylinder with hydraulic lifters, variable cam timing
Compression ratio (x:1)10.9
Redline, indicated (rpm)6,250
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)470 @ 6,000
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)470 @ 4,200
Fuel typePremium unleaded (recommended)
Transmission typeSix-speed manual
Transmission ratios (x:1)I = 2.97; II = 2.10; III = 1.46; IV = 1.00; V = 0.74; VI = 0.50
Final-drive ratio (x:1)3.91
Differential(s)Limited-slip
Chassis
Suspension, frontIndependent, high-mount upper A-arm, coil springs, monotube dampers, stabilizer bar, lateral and diagonal lower links
Suspension, rearIndependent multilink, coil springs, monotube dampers, stabilizer bar
Steering typeHydraulic-assist, speed-proportional, rack-and-pinion power steering
Steering ratio (x:1)14.4:1
Tire make and modelGoodyear Eagle F1 Supercar
Tire typeAsymmetrical, three-season, high-performance
Tire size, front245/45ZR20
Tire size, rear255/45ZR20
Wheel size20-by-9 inches front and rear
Wheel materialForged aluminum
Brakes, front14.2-by-1.3-inch ventilated and slotted discs with four-piston fixed aluminum calipers
Brakes, rear13.8-by-1.1-inch ventilated discs with four-piston fixed aluminum calipers
Track Test Results
Acceleration, 0-30 mph (sec.)2.1
0-45 mph (sec.)3.2
0-60 mph (sec.)4.7
0-75 mph (sec.)6.6
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)12.9 @ 111.0
0-60 with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)4.4
0-30 mph, trac ON (sec.)2.3
0-45 mph, trac ON (sec.)3.8
0-60 mph, trac ON (sec.)5.1
0-75 mph, trac ON (sec.)7.2
1/4-mile, trac ON (sec. @ mph)13.2 @ 109.6
0-60, trac ON with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)4.8
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)26
60-0 mph (ft.)106
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)66.6
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph) ESC ON66.0
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g)0.91
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g) ESC ON0.91
Sound level @ idle (dB)47.0
@ Full throttle (dB)82.0
@ 70 mph cruise (dB)63.6
Engine speed @ 70 mph (rpm)6,250
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsDifficult car to launch cleanly and consistently. It wants to either spin or wheel hop. Best run came with a 2,300-rpm launch, progressive clutch take-up with minor initial wheelspin and almost zero hop. Six-speed manual gearbox was better than expected, with positive, though slightly long throws, but willing to be shifted quickly. I had to be careful not to run into harsh rev limiter, though.
Braking commentsLong pedal travel with spongy feel; neither aspect improved or worsened. The Challenger tracks straight but there's a lot of ABS commotion and it feels like the ABS lets the tires slide more than usual. Still, very short stops and no fade.
Handling commentsSkid pad: Steering is woefully inadequate. Very light and gives little feedback about the front tires. But the front tires exhibited lots of grip, especially for such a big and heavy car. ESC on cut throttle aggressively. Slalom: Maybe because we ran the BMW first and the Challenger second, but this particular 392 just didn't feel quite as tight as the automatic version we tested several months ago. Steering is slow and overboosted, and the sheer width of the Challenger makes it a, you guessed it -- challenge -- to get around the course without clipping any cones. The grip is there, but the suspension and steering are not.
Testing Conditions
Test date6/1/2011
Test locationCalifornia Speedway
Elevation (ft.)1,121
Temperature (F)62.4
Relative humidity (%)45.4
Barometric pressure (in. Hg)28.9
Wind (mph, direction)3.6 headwind
Odometer (mi.)9,405
Fuel used for test91-Octane
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)14 city/23 highway/17 combined
Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)19.1
Driving range (mi.)439.3
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, as tested (lbs.)4,257
Weight distribution, as tested, f/r (%)54.8 / 45.2
Length (in.)197.7
Width (in.)75.7
Height (in.)57.1
Wheelbase (in.)116.0
Track, front (in.)63.0
Track, rear (in.)63.1
Turning circle (ft.)37.5
Legroom, front (in.)42.0
Legroom, rear (in.)32.6
Headroom, front (in.)39.3
Headroom, rear (in.)37.4
Shoulder room, front (in.)58.2
Shoulder room, rear (in.)53.9
Seating capacity5
Ground clearance (in.)4.8
Warranty
Bumper-to-bumper3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain5 years/100,000 miles
Corrosion5 years/100,000 miles
Roadside assistance3 years/36,000 miles
Vehicle
Model year2011
MakeBMW
Model1 Series M
Year Make Model2011 BMW 1 Series M 2dr Coupe (3.0L 6cyl Turbo 6M)
Vehicle TypeRWD 2dr 2-passenger Coupe
Base MSRP$46,135
Options on test vehicleValencia Orange ($550); Premium Package ($2,400 -- includes auto-dimming inside rearview mirror, auto-dimming power-folding exterior mirrors, eight-way power-adjustable front seats with power-adjustable lumbar support and two-way manually adjustable headrests, two-position memory for the driver seat and exterior mirrors, ambience lighting that is sourced from the exterior door handles and illuminates the area near the doors when the doors are unlocked, BMW Assist with Bluetooth. iPod and USB adapter); Heated Front Seats ($500 -- includes heated front seats with three levels of heat intensity).
As-tested MSRP$49,585
Drivetrain
ConfigurationLongitudinal, front-engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine typeTwin-turbocharged direct-injected inline-6, gasoline
Displacement (cc/cu-in)2,979/182
Block/head materialAluminum/aluminum
ValvetrainDOHC, four valves per cylinder, variable intake-valve timing
Compression ratio (x:1)10.2
Redline, indicated (rpm)7,000
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)335 @ 5,900
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)332 @ 1,500
Fuel type91-octane required
Transmission typeSix-speed manual
Transmission ratios (x:1)I = 4.11, II = 2.31, III = 1.54, IV = 1.17, V = 1.00, VI = 0.85
Final-drive ratio (x:1)3.154
Differential(s)Viscous limited slip
Chassis
Suspension, frontIndependent MacPherson struts, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Suspension, rearIndependent multilink, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Steering typeSpeed-proportional power steering
Steering ratio (x:1)12.5
Tire make and modelMichelin Pilot Sport PS2
Tire typeAsymmetrical summer, high-performance
Tire size, front245/35ZR19 93Y
Tire size, rear265/35ZR19 98Y
Wheel size, front19-by-9 inches
Wheel size, rear19-by-10 inches
Wheel materialAlloy
Brakes, front14.2-inch ventilated two-piece rotors with sliding calipers
Brakes, rearVentilated disc
Track Test Results
Acceleration, 0-30 mph (sec.)1.9
0-45 mph (sec.)3.2
0-60 mph (sec.)4.5
0-75 mph (sec.)6.6
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)12.9 @ 107.7
0-60 with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)4.3
0-30 mph, trac ON (sec.)2.5
0-45 mph, trac ON (sec.)4.0
0-60 mph, trac ON (sec.)5.4
0-75 mph, trac ON (sec.)7.5
1/4-mile, trac ON (sec. @ mph)13.6 @ 104.8
0-60, trac ON with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)5.1
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)25
60-0 mph (ft.)103
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)71.3
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph) ESC ON69.7
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g)0.96
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g) ESC ON0.96
Sound level @ idle (dB)48.2
@ Full throttle (dB)77.5
@ 70 mph cruise (dB)71.5
Engine speed @ 70 mph (rpm)2,250
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsDropping the clutch at 2,500 rpm provided the best launch with only a minor bit of wheelspin, and then the tires hooked up and I could very quickly feed in full throttle. Short-shifted at 6,000 (even though redline is 7,000) as the twin-turbo runs out of steam up high. The six-speed manual gearbox allows for incredibly quick, buttery-smooth, error-free shifts every time.
Braking commentsSuperb stopping every time. Pedal has very firm feel and a short stroke. The 1 M exhibits only a minimal amount of dive and tracks perfectly straight. Very little tire squeal or ABS commotion; short stops and no fade.
Handling commentsSkid pad: The 1 M Coupe goes inot a slight understeer mode around the skid pad, and surprisingly the chassis was not as willing to change this attitude via drop-throttle as would be expected. Yet the time was quick, and the grip is obviously excellent. Steering is quick and has a good weighting. Slalom: This car makes entering the slalom at 70 mph seem like no big deal. The 1 M is very composed, using its plentiful front grip to get around the cones. It's quite the slalom car, due to all that adhesion as well as its short wheelbase and relative narrowness. At least compared to, say a Dodge Challenger. The 1 M was equally adept using the MDM setting, with just a bit of brake added by the computer to keep the car in line. Without doubt, this is a very well-engineered car.
Testing Conditions
Test date6/1/2011
Test locationCalifornia Speedway
Elevation (ft.)1,121
Temperature (F)60.2
Relative humidity (%)51.4
Barometric pressure (in. Hg)28.9
Wind (mph, direction)3.81 headwind
Fuel used for test91-octane
As-tested tire pressures, f/r (psi)35/35
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)19/26
Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)14.0
Driving range (mi.)364
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)3,362
Curb weight, as tested (lbs.)3,346
Length (in.)172.2
Width (in.)71.0
Height (in.)55.9
Wheelbase (in.)104.7
Track, front (in.)60.7
Track, rear (in.)60.7
Turning circle (ft.)37.7
Legroom, front (in.)41.5
Legroom, rear (in.)32.1
Headroom, front (in.)37.9
Headroom, rear (in.)37.1
Shoulder room, front (in.)54.0
Shoulder room, rear (in.)53.4
Seating capacity4
GVWR (lbs.)4,255
Warranty
Bumper-to-bumper4 years/50,000 miles
Powertrain4 years/50,000 miles
Corrosion12 years/Unlimited miles
Roadside assistance4 years/Unlimited miles
Free scheduled maintenance4 years/50,000 miles
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Edmunds Insurance Estimator

The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2011 Dodge Challenger in WA is:

$185 per month*
* Explanation
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