Initially it sounds ridiculous to compare the Model S Plaid and Charger—and maybe it’s the g forces talking—but they have a lot more in common than you probably think (aside from the fact we’ve actually compared them before). For starters, both are full-size American four-door sedans. The Charger went into production in 2011, the Model S in 2012. Both were only offered out of the gate with rear-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is available today. Both were also relatively pedestrian compared to their 2022 counterparts when they first hit the market: The Tesla made 416 horsepower in its most potent trim, and the Dodge Charger produced just 375 hp. New powertrains have been their only substantive updates since launch.
Stupid Amounts of Horsepower
While Dodge has long sold a Charger SRT performance variant, it really took things to the next level when it launched the first Hellcat-powered Dodge Charger in 2015. Supplanting the 470-hp Charger SRT8 as the new top dog (cat?) in the Charger lineup, the then-new Charger SRT Hellcat made an unheard =0of 707 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque. The power came courtesy of a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 that drove the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic. Since 2015, the Charger Hellcat has grown wider and more powerful: Thanks to lessons learned on the Dodge Challenger Demon, the new 2021 Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye gains 90 hp and 57 lb-ft, now producing 797 hp and 707 lb-ft.
Tesla wasn’t far behind in the horsepower race. Following on the Model S P85’s heels was the first-ever dual-motor all-wheel-drive performance Tesla, the 2015 Model S P85D. Using front and rear motors, the Insane Mode-equipped P85D made 691 hp and 687 lb-ft of torque combined. After successive steps up the horsepower ladder with various Ludicrous models, Tesla recently released the 2022 Model S Plaid. It’s Tesla’s first-ever tri-motor vehicle, and the Model S Plaid makes a Hellcat-smashing 1,020 hp and 1,080 lb-ft of torque.
With its horsepower and torque advantage over the Dodge, plus an all-important traction advantage, the 2022 Tesla Model S Plaid is quicker than not just the Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye, but literally every other car we’ve tested. The Model S Plaid sprints to 60 mph in 2.07 seconds and on through the quarter mile in 9.34 seconds at 152.2 mph. The Charger Hellcat Redeye is no slouch, but its best 0-60-mph run is a respectable (and traction limited) 4.0 seconds, with a quarter-mile time of 11.9 seconds at 126.6 mph.
Nips and Tucks
Similarly, while both the 2021 Dodge Charger Hellcat Redeye and the 2022 Tesla Model S Plaid have received a lot of attention to their powertrains, neither Dodge nor Tesla has devoted a lot of time to the cars’ exterior sheetmetal.
The Dodge’s changes have been more extensive, however. The second-gen Charger sedan launched in 2011 featuring angular body work inspired by the Charger coupes of the late 1960s, but Dodge face-lifted it in 2015 to give it a more aerodynamic and athletic Coke-bottle shape. The softer, rounder Charger survives to this day with little change.
The Tesla’s visual changes have been more subtle. The most obvious change occurred in 2016, when the Model S got a small nose job, losing its black “grille” in favor of a grille-less nose that brought the Model S’ design in line with the then-new Model X and upcoming Model 3. The 2021.5 Model S represents another subtle change, with a larger radiator opening on the nose, a revised hood, and a new rear diffuser.
While Dodge has done more to the Charger’s exterior than Tesla has to the Model S’, the opposite is true when we’re talking interiors.
The new Model S Plaid represents a fairly major interior redesign for Tesla’s flagship sedan. In fact, the automaker says the front-seat-riser covers are the only carryover pieces. For the 2021.5 model year, the Model S Plaid replaces a traditional steering wheel with a less useful steering yoke, trades its signature portrait-oriented infotainment screen for a landscape-oriented one, and the car’s cabin materials are all more luxurious and upscale than before.
The Charger’s changes have been comparably minor. While it too has a newer steering wheel, it thankfully remains circular in shape. It also has a better infotainment system and interior in 2021 than it did in 2011, but the “spot-the-differences” game is much more difficult in the Dodge than it is in the Tesla.
Why Haven’t the Charger or Model S Been Updated Extensively?
Dodge’s rationale for not thoroughly updating the Charger is pretty obvious: Aside from the fact the car completes in a shrinking segment and still sells relatively well, the brand has had three different parent companies during the current model’s production run.
Tesla’s case is a bit more curious. Although the new 2022 Tesla Model S Plaid is the latest and greatest Model S, we found it a bit odd Tesla spent its money on an extensive midcycle update instead of a true second-generation Model S to compete with a new generation of electric car challengers from Audi, Mercedes-EQ, Porsche, and (eventually) Cadillac. A high-ranking Tesla source told us simply, “We didn’t feel like we needed to go into a whole new program to make the ‘best car. ‘”
We’re not sure Tesla made the right call, but it’s pretty easy to forget about that for now; we’re just enjoying these new horsepower wars.