2008 Dodge Magnum

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2005 Dodge Magnum

This 2005 review is representative of model years 2005 to 2008.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

Uniquely styled, practical station wagon with available potent Hemi V8.
Pros:
  • Legendary HEMI V8 with fuel-saving design
  • Roomy
  • Sharp handling
Cons:
  • Thick windshield posts
  • Some costly options
  • Overly stylish gauges

Is it possible for an American station wagon to be cool again? If the new Dodge Magnum wagon can't do the trick, it's unlikely that any U.S. wagon can.

Dodge has reintroduced the domestic station wagon with the robust Magnum, which is an early 2005 model. Like the old domestic wagons, it's roomy and practical, with an available V8 and rear-wheel drive. But it's different in most respects from the bulky, clumsy handling old American wagons that gave that type of vehicle a bad name.

The Magnum shares major mechanical components with the nifty new Chrysler 300 sedan, including a Mercedes-Benz inspired independent rear suspension and availability of Chrysler's legendary HEMI V8. Moreover, the Magnum is relatively inexpensive for what it offers.

Unique Styling
The Magnum's styling is unconventional and eye-catching. My test Magnum proved especially appealing to young drivers, who like different types of utilitarian vehicles that make sense to them.

The Magnum has an imposing grille, long roof, high sides and unusual rear end, which has a hatch that opens deep into the roof to facilitate loading cargo, instead of taking up lots of room by swinging way up and out. It can be opened while standing close to the rear bumper in tight parking spots.

The high sides—or "belt line"—might make it seem as if occupants will feel submerged, but the supportive front bucket seats are upright for good visibility. However, thick windshield posts and low inside rearview mirror occasionally partly block visibility.

Spacious Rear Seat
Large seats in the spacious rear area provide good under-thigh support, and their split seatbacks fold forward and sit flat to enlarge the cargo area, which is long but rather shallow.

The base $21,870 Magnum SE has a 2.7-liter V6 with 190 horsepower, which delivers adequate acceleration. Much better is the 3.5-liter 250-horsepower V6, which is a $1,000 option for the SE.

Best Engine
Best Magnum engine? There's no contest here—it's Chrysler's latest version of the HEMI V8, which is standard in the top-line $29,370 Magnum RT.

The HEMI is a 5.7-liter V8—also used in the Dodge Ram pickup—and its hemispherical combustion chambers (hence the "HEMI" name) help generate 340 horsepower and lots of torque.

As with the original 1950s Chrysler HEMI, the current version doesn't provide instant neck-snapping acceleration off the line. But, also like the original, power builds smoothly and quickly—and never seems to let up, allowing the Magnum to hit 60 mph in a swift 5.9 seconds and 100 in about 15 seconds.

The HEMI has a legendary reputation. The first version arrived for 1951 and was America's first 300-horsepower production car engine in 1955—a fact honored by naming the current sedan the "300." It was dropped in 1959 because it was very expensive to build, but was revived for the 1960s and early 1970s—then discontinued again because of the gasoline supply crunch.

The 2005 300 sedan with the HEMI costs $32,370, so the engine is a bargain in the Magnum.

Unique Fuel Saving Feature
The latest version of the HEMI has a feature no other HEMI has had: a Multi-Displacement system, which imperceptibly disables four cylinders during idle and cruise conditions to save fuel. The HEMI delivers an estimated 25 mpg on the highway and 17 mpg in the city, which is decent for a nearly two-ton wagon. Without the engine cut-out feature, the HEMI would be a lot more fuel-thirsty.

A Mercedes-designed 5-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift feature is hooked to the HEMI. The other two Magnum engines work with a 4-speed automatic and get several additional miles per gallon.

Safety Features
Optional for the Magnum is a $590 Protection package with side-curtain airbags. Standard for the RT and optional for $775 on the SE are anti-lock brakes and an anti-skid traction control system.

The SE is fairly well equipped, with such items as air conditioning, cruise control, an AM/FM/CD player and a tilt-telescopic steering wheel.

Along with the HEMI V8, the RT has leather upholstery, a power driver seat, an upgraded sound system, firmer suspension and 18-inch tires (vs. 17-inch) with polished alloy wheels.

Good Roadability
While a little heavy, the steering is quick and feels good, with a nice linear action. Curves can be taken quickly and safely, and an easily modulated pedal activates strong brakes. The RT has a firmer ride than the SE, but it's not harsh. The rear-wheel-drive design helps provide a more balanced feel than one provided by a front-wheel-drive vehicle. An all-wheel-drive system will be offered this fall.

Major options aren't inexpensive. They include an $895 power sunroof. Power adjustable pedals for shorter drivers are in a $925 RT option package, which also contains heated front seats. The pedals cost $125 for the SE, but must be ordered with the $2,500 SXT Quick Order package with its traction control and anti-skid systems. Satellite radio costs $325.

Upscale Interior
Doors have large outside handles and open wide to allow easy entry to the upscale interior. It's quiet in there, especially considering that this is a wagon with an open cargo area instead of a sedan with a closed-off trunk.

The white-face gauges with red needles are more stylish than practical for a quick read. But power window switches and major controls can be quickly reached and work precisely. Dual front console cupholders are well placed.

The Magnum really has no direct competition. Its distinctiveness could be a definite plus.

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BB02 - 9/22/2014 9:45:13 PM