I just saw a guy at a stoplight in a Dodge Magnum with a bad billet grille and a set of overwrought dubs. He looked as if he may earn additional income by starring in bear porn flicks: shaved head, prematurely gray, bushy handlebar mustache, etc. I glanced down at the fender tag to check the model. Just as I'd figured. Six cylinders. For what the fool spent on bling, he could ve had a Hemi. And make no mistake, for all of the so-called sports-tourer's conveniences and avant-garde styling, you want this car for the optional 5.7 litre pushrod V8.
The Magnum s essentially a study in stylish compromise no third-row seat like mom s Country Squire of yore, but decent hauling capacity is part and parcel of the package. Thoughful touches lifted from Chrysler s years of minivan experience abound, but think of the Mag more as a less-cute PT Cruiser designed to appeal to enthusiast drivers with a need to haul stuff.
And so I treated it as such, barking the tires on launches, making ill-advised maneuvers my daily-driver Durango would (literally) kill me for, and generally having a wonderful old time with all that horsepower at my command. Sometimes you just wanna needlessly lay on the accelerator to feel the Hemi burble under your right foot. Other times you simply wanna whack it and feel the torque press you back into the seat. Most of the time it s other times. The fun of that goddamn motor simply doesn t get old, ensuring that you ll never see the EPA s 17mpg city. And it s simple to get even more stupid with the economy if you dig into Chrysler s Merc-sourced five-speed AutoStick trans, stumbling along in 2nd gear just to hear the rumble out the chrome-tipped twin pipes.
For all that muscle, it s not anything close to a 440-equipped 69 Sport Suburban, however; the Magnum s refined no wallow, nav system, firm, comfortable seats, et cetera. The interior s a tad too plasticky for our tastes it s as if DCX spent all of the money on the surplus Mercedes bits and skimped on prettifying the inside. Then again, having grown up on musclecars, I'll take the cheap-interior/great-powertrain combo over the inverse, but one would think that for 35 large (as tested) both would be standard. Still, everything falls nicely to hand, and there s no back-straining to release the foot-operated e-brake. (Was the lack of a handbrake a concession to anti-hoon forces?)
One issue I ve had with both Chrysler LX cars I ve driven (the Charger R/T is the other), however, is the steering. While it works wonderfully in parking lots and is relatively easy to toss through corners, it emphatically needs more weight at speed on the highway. And given that the Magnum harkens back to the day when V8-engined full-size cars ruled the Eisenhower Interstate System, that seems like a pretty serious misstep on DCX's part. Supposedly, the SRT8 models rectify this, but I ve have yet to get any seat time in one. Still, it seems like a no-brainer, across-the-line fix to a problem that mars an entire group of vehicles. It s my one major beef with a car that I otherwise love very much and was sad to see go at the end of its tenure. (Fade in mopey Jets to Brazil track here.)
One thing that s tough to get used to in the Magnum is the weight of the car; the sprightly Hemi and the well-geared autobox get it off the line quickly and the suspension does a commendable job of getting it around corners. While the four-wheel discs are quite capable of dragging the beast s velocity down, I found myself laying into the pedal harder than I expected to stop in the required distance. Still, the pedal modulation is good and predictable, unlike some other ChryCo vehicles I ve encountered in the past.
While I didn t haul much more than a couple of overnight bags during the course of my four days with the car, I did wring it out on the Pacific Coast Highway between Santa Cruz and San Francisco, as well as in the Napa Wine Country, the former of which led to a re-enactment of Dan Neil s infamous Ford Expedition test for the Raleigh News & Observer, which it passed albeit not with flying colors. While it was relatively easy and quick to ready the cargo area for action, the cool-looking sloping rear roofline can interfere a bit with the um, festivities, and the crevice between the load floor and the folded seatback was a little tough on the back of my conscripted co-tester. Ah, the pain one endures on the quest for truth in auto journalism. If Joseph Campbell were still of this earth, he d be all up in my steez, no doubt.
Which brings me to my final point about Dodge's wagon: in an informal poll of women I know, they seemed to prefer the Magnum to the Charger. I mentioned this to Spinelli, theorizing that the Hemi appeals to their primal side, while the wagon styling appeals to their practical, maternal side. He responded, Dr Freud's Car Corner, ladies and gentleman. Maybe we ll fire that recurring feature up when Hoon of the Day leaps the dogfish. In the meantime, I leave you with the following final, vaguely inappropriate musing: The Dodge Magnum: Beefy enough for a wannabe gay porn star, practical enough to stir the loins of a thirtysomething woman. Think of it as some perverse automotive version of Miller Lite. [by Davey G. Johnson]
The Truth About the Magnum SRT8 [Internal]