differences in challenger models

Understanding Different Challenger Models

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Do you want to understand the differences between a Dodge Challenger SXT vs. RT vs. SRT8?  Well, I’ll tell you, and in plain English, too.

If you’re looking for an advanced, technical breakout of specs between these types of Challengers, look elsewhere.  I know full well that there are many who know much more than I do.  But if you want it broken down for you in a simple manner, read on.

The basics:

SE or SXT:  These models used to be called “SE”; now they are called “SXT”.  This is the base model, and the least expensive.  Slower V6 engine.  No HEMI engine.  RT and SRT8 owners may secretly laugh at you, although horsepower was significantly increased in 2011 and later models.  However if you’re renting, it might be an older-than-2011 model, and you may get the really watered down V6.  You can tell an SE or SXT because it has no stripes, doesn’t have that tiny pseudo spoiler on the back, and is missing some badges.  SXT’s are usually $10k less than RTs, and $20k less than SRT8s.

challenger SXT

Above, a Challenger SXT

RT:  There are a couple of types of RTs.  There used to be only RT and RT Classic, but now Dodge has made things even more complicated by introducing the RT Plus.  But don’t worry about it.  Just about all the rentals are RTs and RT Classics.  No matter which type of RT you get, you will have a powerful 375hp V8 Hemi engine, and really solid brakes (which you’ll need if you use the engine).  Stripes on the side.  Some R/T badging.  Typically costs $10k more than an SE, and $10k less than and SRT8.

challenger RT classic

Above, a Challenger RT Classic

SRT8:  Very very fast and powerful, with 470hp Hemi engine (latest models, if you rental is older than 2011 it will be 425hp).  Amazing brakes.  Performance exhaust and suspension.  Two large stripes on top, sometimes going from front fender to rear fender.  SRT badging.  Be prepared to spend $20k more than you would on an SXT, and $10k more than you would spend on an RT.

challenger SRT8

Above, a Challenger SRT8. I want one.

Here’s a comparison grid for you.  There are other differences in things like speakers, multimedia systems, leather interior vs. cloth, etc., but I’m trying to stick to the most important stuff.  If you want more detail, you should go to the Dodge site, but prepare to be overwhelmed with info.  Or you could call a Dodge dealer.

Cost (will vary widely based on options)$25k range$33k range$43k range

Engine3.6 Liter V65.7 Liter V8 Hemi6.4 Liter V8 SRT Hemi
Horsepower250 hp (2008-2010)
305 hp (2011-2012)
~375 hp425 hp (2008-2010)
470 hp (2011-2012)
Brakes4 wheel Anti Lock Disc BrakesHeavy Duty High Performance BrakesBrembo Performance Brakes
Wheels18" x 7.5" Aluminum Wheels18" x 7.5" Aluminum Wheels (RT) or 20" x 8" Aluminum Wheels (RT Classic)20" x 9" Aluminum Wheels

My opinion:  If you’re looking to buy or rent and money is no object for you, just get a SRT8.  Do it.  Why not get the most performance?  But, if you are like the rest of us and need to get the most for your money, I think the wisest thing to do is buy or rent (and definitely rent before you buy) a RT.  You are getting a ton of power and fun at 75% of the cost of an SRT8.

I honestly don’t understand buying an SE.  I have rented them, and the difference in lack of power was definitely noticeable to me (but it’s important to know that Dodge has really upgraded the power in the 2011 SXT models, from 250hp to 302hp, and I haven’t driven one of those yet).  The Challenger is a massive, heavy car, and it needs a powerful engine.  To me, buying an SE is like buying non-alcoholic beer.

However, if no other options are available, I do recommend renting an SE or SXT, just because it will give non-Challenger owners a taste of the overall experience, and show the quality with which Dodge cars are now made.  I couldn’t imagine myself saying this 10 years ago, but it’s true – American cars are now better made than their similarly priced Asian and European counterparts.

Many will disagree, but that’s my .02.

Now, lets get into the visuals.  I’m going to show you some of the differences in appearance, so you can be a good Challenger spotter out in the wild.

Striping:  First, an SE/SXT.  Note that the SXT has no stripes.

a stripeless sxt

A stripeless, buck nekkid SXT

The RT on the other hand, usually (but not always) comes with stripes on the side.  First, the RT side stripes found on RT Classic models:

rt with side stripes

The RT Classic has side striping that looks like this.

The other style stripes that RTs often have look like this:

RT side stripes

RT with "warpaint" side stripes

The SRT will usually have two stripes on the hood, sometimes (but not always) running all the way to the back bumper:

Not so subtle, but nothing about the car should be.


Party in the front, and party in the back.

Brakes:  Looking from the outside, there is not much to notice visually about the brakes with the SXT and RT, but you can always see those red Brembo brakes peeking out from the tires of an SRT.

Those red things cost quite a bit but are worth it.

 Badging:  Each of the grilles also has a badge (or lack thereof) telling you how much the person paid what model it is.

SXT or SE grille is also buck neckit.

The RT logo on the grille tells you that this is an RT.

This piece of plastic says, "Hey, I can borrow $45k and embarrass you on the freeway".

There are other badges on the sides and hood, for the SRT and RT.  The SRT has one on the side by the wheel…

Side badge on the SRT

…and another on the hood…

The RT has a hood badge, but it just says “HEMI”, without the “6.1″.

The RT Classics also have this great looking “Challenger” badge in cursive script on the side.  It’s a little thing, but I think it makes a big difference.

Spoilers:  The spoiler on the rear of the car is also different for each model.  The SE and base SXT have no spoiler…

…while the RT has a plain spoiler…

…and the SRT spoiler has a little badge on it.

Rims:  I don’t really care too much about rims.  Yes, I am white.  I’m sure I’ll make a lot of mistakes, so please forgive me.  But looking around, the SEs generally have rims that look like this:

Rims on a 2010 SE Challenger

For the SXTs in 2011, these have been dressed up a bit:

2012 SXT rims

The older standard RTs had pretty nondesript rims, too:

The old "blah" rims on a standard RT

But these also have been dressed up a bit for 2011/2012 (I think):

Rims for the 2011 RT

The RT Classic has always had rims that were different than other RTs. Here is what they looked like for 2010…

Retroish RT Classic rims

…and here’s what they look like for 2011/2012(?)…I think they look a lot meaner…

2011 rims for RT Classic

There is a theme here because the SRTs used to have blah rims as well…

Older model SRT rims

But in 2011 and 2012 these have gotten an image upgrade too.

Newer model (2011?) SRT rims

2012 SRT rims

Two last things about the SRT model.  SRTs have an in-dash timers so you can measure how long it takes to go 0-60, 60-0, do a 1/4 mile, etc.  Basically to encourage you to do all the things that would make the rental agency cringe.  Gotta love this car.

The interior of the SRT also has a red stripe.

That’s it!  Now you won’t look like a total rube when you go to rent your Challenger.  If I got anything wrong in the info above, please let me know so I can correct it.


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