Originally published December 24, 2015

Believe it or not, this isn’t the dumbest thing we’ve ever done. No indeed – and it’s not even close to being the silliest thing I’ve ever tackled (remember that time I road-tested a Hyundai Pony, for no discernible reason?).

Our forum watchdogs tend to tear into us whenever a B-segment crossover drifts into a C-segment shootout, so you can probably expect a few digitally rolled eyes at the comparison of these two machines, which nobody but Sméagol/Gollum would cross-shop. They have four wheels and two doors and internal combustion engines and there the similarity ends.

However, I feel like these two heroes have more in common than you might think. Each represents much of the essence of their parental brands, and each great fun in its own way: the MX-5, a barrel of spider-monkeys; the Challenger, a bucket of gorillas.

Head to head, it’s an unfair fight that just might shed light on previously unseen strengths and weaknesses. David, grab your Skyactiv sling; Goliath, give your Hemi club a few experimental swings. Let’s get this nonsense on.

Styling/Exterior

One’s a coupe, one’s a convertible, but both these cars make a statement from the curb before they even move an inch.

The Mazda: “Crouching Jaguar, hidden reliability.”

The Dodge: “Stay outta Riverdale!” *THUD*

In execution, the mighty-mite MX-5 looks even better in person than in photos. There are those who point out that it looks like Mazda cribbed the lines of the F-Type, but really, that’s the best kind of flattery there is. Matter of fact, park the Jag next to the Japanese drophead and the former starts looking nearly ungainly, not unlike an early Ferrari California in the wrong colour.

Part of the reason I and many others find it hard to summon up any love for the Fiat-ized version of the MX-5 is that Mazda got nearly everything right the first time. The nose is low, the LED headlights slitted in a manga scowl, the goofy grin of the pre-facelift previous-gen gone in favour of a sort of modernized S2000. There’s a lot to like here, even if the rear feels raised a little too high.

More unlikely pairs: Fraternal Twins: 10 Best Platform Sharing Models

If Fiat/Chrysler didn’t quite get the styling right on their Sushi Bolognese Fiata, then they knocked retro-looks out of the park with a big slugger approach. Yes, the Challenger doesn’t look quite as wide as the 1970s original thanks to a higher roofline, but apart from a straight-on view at the back end, this is a classically handsome machine. While the Camaro and the Mustang aim for a more modern overall feel, inside and out, the Dodge is just plain big. Those few little tweaks of the facelift (a more furrowed brow over the headlights) just add to the biggering. Throw in some retro decals and a totally superfluous “Shaker” hood, and you’ve got the automotive equivalent of firing off your shootin’ irons into the air.

On one hand, a delicate fillet of tuna belly; on the other hand, a porterhouse the size of a hubcap. Both tasty.

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