The vintage styled reintroduction of the Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro exemplified the retro jump undergone by the American auto market. Both of those models followed the trend set by the 2005 Ford Mustang. Along the same train of thought, the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 brought back popular names with a lesser degree of retro styling. But before the Mustang went retro and the Charger returned, Dodge brought back a lesser known vintage name with the Dodge Magnum.
The Magnum was originally introduced in 1978 as a large yet sporty 2-door luxury coupe as the Chrysler Corporation struggled to keep the rear-wheel drive V8 coupe alive, but the trend towards more fuel efficient compacts took over and the Magnum was replaced by the slightly smaller Dodge Mirada. The 1978-1979 Magnum are collector’s items due to their rarity and fading muscle car era styling, but the sort of cult-following it received was still a surprise when Dodge announced a reincarnation in 2004. Even more surprising, was the fact that the car that once embodied luxury and performance in a coupe returned as the first station wagon offered by Dodge since the early 1990s. The station wagon, which had been very popular in the United States until the minivan and sport-utility vehicle took over the family vehicle market, had began to look like a more viable option to a new car buyer who wanted better fuel efficiency than an SUV and a sportier feel than is offered by minivans. The 2005 Dodge Magnum offered fuel economy, a roomy interior, and a fairly sporty exterior and the return to the large American station wagon was an instant success.
The 2005 Dodge Magnum
The Dodge Magnum is a station wagon intended to be a versatile vehicle for hauling cargo and people, but Dodge made sure that it had resurrected some of the spirit of the original Magnum as well. That spirit was provided by a lineup of engines that began with a mild V6 that focused strictly on economy and ended with the return of the first Hemi engine in a Dodge car. The Dodge Magnum SE came equipped with a 2.7L V6 making 190 horsepower, and someone who wanted a bit more power without compromising efficiency could select the Magnum SXT, which came with a 250hp 3.5L V6. The engineers wanted the Magnum to be as functional as possible and more capable in harsh weather, the SXT offering an all wheel drive option. The AWD SXT sports a Mercedes Benz 5-speed automatic transmission with the AutoStick feature, while the RWD V6 model comes with the standard 4-speed automatic transmission.
Magnum buyers who were a little more concerned with power than economy could select the Magnum R/T, and with its 5.7L, 340 horsepower Hemi engine featuring Chrysler’s Multiple Displacement System (MDS). The R/T packed a punch, with quarter mile times in the low 14 second range, and still offered drivers around 30mpg in real world tests on the highway. Like the SXT, the R/T also features an all wheel drive package, and all of the R/T models come with the AutoStick 5-speed transmission.
The SRT-8 is Introduced
There were just the three trimlines offered at the introduction of the Magnum, rumors of a performance model were confirmed in late 2005 as the Dodge Magnum SRT-8 was introduced. The heart of the SRT-8 was the 6.1L Hemi making an advertised 425hp, although tests have proven that number to be lower. The Street and Racing Technology (SRT) division did more than just pack their rendition of the Magnum full of power. The suspension was redesigned to allow for greater horsepower. To stop this muscular wagon, performance Brembo brakes are tucked under each of the 20″SRT-designed aluminum wheels. The Dodge Magnum SRT-8 also wears a more aggressive skin, with specially designed front and rear fascias, along with a unique sport interior with race inspired seats that offer a comfortable ride, but also a firm position during spirited driving. The modifications made to the SRT model of Dodge’s sport wagon allowed the car to dash down the quarter mile in the low 13 to high 12 second range; as fast as the 2005 Mustang GT.
The Dodge Magnum wagon proved to be a popular alternative to the family-friendly SUVs and minivans of the day. Offered on Chrysler LX platform which is shared by the Chrysler 300 and the Dodge Charger, the Magnum came out of the gate very strong but sales faded as the 300C and Charger proved to be the more popular selection as they are all essentially the same vehicle with the exception of the added cargo room in the Magnum. Thanks to its sinister almost hearse-like appearance, the Magnum became a popular car for hot-rodders who needed a practical family vehicle who wanted something with style and power. There would be no real changes during the 2006 or 2007 model years, but for the 2008 model year, Dodge unveiled a slightly more aggressive exterior design focused around a new front end. However, sales continued to disappoint new corporate owner Cerberus, and in 2007 it was announced that the 2008 model year would be the last for the Dodge Magnum. The Chrysler 300 is offered as a wagon around the world, and in Canada, so there are speculations that with the upcoming refresh of the popular 300, there will be a US market wagon, but those prove to be nothing more than rumors at this point.
Much like the original Dodge Magnum, the 2005 to 2008 Dodge Magnum wagon was a very popular vehicle for its time, but market trends and increased fuel prices raised concerns about efficiency and this negatively impacted the sales of both generations of the model name. It is unclear whether the Magnum name will return to the lineup, but in its short 4 years the Magnum wagon has secured itself in history as one of the most powerful American made wagons ever.- Patrick Rall
Do you drive a Magnum or are thinking about getting one? Offer us some feedback and opinions! Will the Magnum last through the next decade? Do you have any history with the classic Magnum?