Dodge Magnum Shoots for a Distinctive Feel

SEPTEMBER 16, 2008
Jean Swenson and Ashly Knapp

You don't need eyes or ears to be able to tell the difference in the new Dodge Magnum. The 2005 model is so different inside and out, you can actually feel the difference with your hands. The interior gives a real tactile thrill, one that is decidedly different.

Unique and Uncommon Styling

The window switches are shaped a bit different than in other cars. It's not just the shape of the switches or the knobs—it's their function, movement, and the sensation of the materials. The bucket-like seats are uniquely sewn and shaped. The distinctive headrests provide a feeling of great safety and support. Trevor Creed, Chrysler's top designer, calls the Magnum a "family, flexible sport wagon, and it's not just the design, it's the holistic approach—the whole riding experience is magic."

There are certainly some classic Dodge cues throughout the Magnum. The grille is definitely from the Dodge heritage, and the entire vehicle exudes that muscular stance found on other Dodge family members. Particularly noticeable at first glance is the shorter side glass all-around—the roof looks chopped, like a hot rod.

The Magnum has an overall length of 190 inches, a long 120-inch wheelbase, and an overall height of 58.4 inches. It will compete with the Subaru Legacy and Volvo V70. The Magnum comes in one body style: four doors with an expansive, one-of-a-kind hatch trunk that is part of the tapered roofline. As with any well built vehicle, you have a tremendous number of ways you can order your Magnum. At first, all Magnums will be rearwheel-drive–powered by a choice of two 6-cylinder engines, 2.7- or 3.5-liter. A HEMI-powered 5.7-liter (345 cubic-inch) V8 that puts out 340 hp and 390 foot pounds of torque is available in the RT model.

Roomy Interior and Extras

Go ahead and open the driver's door, which is thick and gratifying. Pull it closed and sit in the quiet interior cabin. The cabin is well appointed with a four-spoke steering wheel and is complemented by four well placed white competitive gauges with silver accents. The interior is spacious and comfortable. There is world-class storage and cargo space with split, fold-down rear seats and an armrest. The front center stack is loaded with a new heating and air conditioning unit that reads the temperature on your body, not the ambient cabin.

The center console is chock full of pleasantries. The optional 5-speed automatic offers AutoStick. Slap it away from you with the back of your right hand and you go up a gear. Slap it toward you with the palm of your hand to downshift. It's such a good design that Chrysler's parent Mercedes uses it instead of their original design. The optional navigation system is one of the best available. Its integral entertainment system will not only work with your MP3 devices, it will also work with your Bluetooth-equipped telephone.

The Magnum has all the necessary safety in place with dual air bags and full-length side curtains to protect you in a side impact or rollover. Antilock brakes are available. The Electronic Stability Program will catch you in a slide. Try it during your test drive. Overall, it's a pleasant surprise to see that luxury and performance have a sparkling new shape.

Jean Swenson and Ashly Knapp are independent research reporters and the founders of

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