My Next Car – Dodge Magnum

I have a bit of a thing for station wagons.  There’s something about a long-roof that appeals to me beyond the additional utility; if done well, the wagon version of a four-door car takes a basic sedan and makes it look just… right.  The best recent example of this phenomenon is the 2005-08 Dodge Magnum.

It was available with the ticking time bomb 2.7L V6 (see this search result for reasons why you should never buy a car with this engine), the positively prehistoric 3.5L V6, as well as two versions of the Hemi V8.  The Magnum was produced during Chrysler’s ill-fated “partnership” with Daimler-Benz and their even more ill-fated Cerberus ownership period, which results in two easy observations: they were virtually unchanged beyond their initial design and specs, and to reiterate a tired but still relevant critique, their interiors contain enough cheap, hard plastic trim to build an entire fleet of these:

With those caveats in mind, I’m only interested in the R/T and SRT-8 V8 models.  The SRT-8 models received a 6.1L V8, good for 425 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque.  Magnums weren’t that popular to begin with, and these high performance models are exceedingly rare; only one shows up for sale within a 100 mile radius of me.  The R/T models are powered by a standard 5.7L V8 with 340 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque, making it no slouch.  A quick search shows 11 of these cars for sale within 100 miles of me, making a low-mileage example easier to find.

Pros:

  • Meets most of my criteria.
  • Due to low demand and fears of Chrysler’s stability, prices are reasonable and falling.  Low-mileage cars can be found for under $17k.
  • Despite Chrysler’s (well-deserved) reputation, these cars are pretty reliable and inexpensive to fix.

Cons:

  • Claustrophobia.  As you can see from the picture, the Magnum suffers from the same styling malady as it’s platform-mate, the Chrysler 300: while the tall-door, short-window theme might look cool, it kills outward visibility, which is further hampered by the Magnum’s angled roof line.
  • The above issue, coupled with the aforementioned Mr.-Potato-Head-skin interior, creates a driving environment that is less than ideal.
  • Complete lack of a manual transmission option.

If it sounds like I’m being a bit hard on the Magnum, I’m just trying to be honest with myself and not talk myself into a flawed car.  However, it is a true muscle car wagon – a definite rarity.  I’ve been saying for some time now that wagons are due for a comeback, even though these cars failed in the marketplace – but that just makes them cheaper and more interesting.  As a result, I can have a faster, more stylish family truckster than Clark Griswold could have hardly imagined.

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