MSRP
$23,370
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2007 Dodge Magnum Expert Review:Autoblog


Click image for gallery of high-res photos by Drew Phillips and the author.

Can you hear that? I make a rich woman beg, I'll make a good woman steal... It's George Thorogood's "Bad to the Bone." The stereo isn't on. The car isn't even running. But you hear that song quite clearly as you approach this wagon. Yep, you heard that right. It's a badass wagon we're talking about. Think that's an oxymoron? Think again. Even if it wasn't as black as Satan's pupils, it would still qualify as evil looking. But this particular sample is black and therefore perfect. So sinister and muscular and functional.

We'll admit that wagons aren't everybody's first choice for a cool conveyance, but if utility is high on your list of priorities, they have SUVs and vans beat by a mile in our book. Wagons offer just as much cargo room without sacrificing a car's typically better ride, handling, braking and acceleration. Think of this Dodge Magnum SRT8 as a Charger with a really big trunk. So the car is pretty capable to begin with.

These LX cars have been quite successful for Chrysler, and for good reason. Based on an older E-Class Mercedes platform, they offer rear-drive, full-size comfort in a more refined package than many American buyers are used to. All that at a bargain basement price too. The Hemi versions in particular offer a lot of bang for the buck. But when you add the SRT badge, things suddenly get more than a little wicked. Chrysler has promised a freshened Magnum for 2008, but when we got the call to drive a 2007, we still felt compelled to give it a whirl. Follow the jump to come along for the ride.





Drivetrain


All conversations about the SRTs begin and end with the engine. In place of the already hot 5.7-liter Hemi, goes a smokin' 6.1-liter version with an additional 80 hp. The Street and Racing Technology engineers work their black magic, and on goes the classic Hemi orange block and black valve cover paint to remind us of the heritage of this legendary powerplant. Those namesake hemispherical combustion chambers were seen as the source of dominant power back in the day. That's one of the reasons Hemi 'Cuda convertibles can bring over $2 mil at auction today. That "Street HEMI" of the '60s and '70s produced a not coincidental 425-horsepower from its 426 cubic inches of displacement. Today's Hemi gets a similar output from less than 90% of that displacement. And that power is available at the dip of a toe, no matter how fast you're going or what gear you're in.

The SRT team starts with your run-of-the-mill 5.7, then bores the cylinders by 3.5mm, increases the compression ratio from 9.6:1 to 10.3:1, redesigns the cylinder heads, intake and exhaust systems for increased flow, and bumps the redline from 5,000 to 6,000 rpm. There's actually not a lot left from the standard 5.7 when they are through with it. Valves, cams, manifolds, rods, pistons, crank, oil pan...all get changed. The block is even given more reinforcement. The result is seemingly endless grunt whenever you want it. Output is rated at 425 bhp @ 6000 rpm and 420 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm and feels at least that strong. Lots of power served up just raw enough to have character. No Audi RS4 replacement, but more than good enough in its own right.

That power is routed through an A580 five-speed AutoStick that can be reluctant to downshift on its own. Upshifts during regular driving are smooth and unremarkable but under full throttle they seem a bit abrupt. Not the smoothest transmission, but good enough for all but the most accomplished of drivers, or people who happen to have sampled a modern Lexus or BMW A/T. A tap to the right or left when in Drive will allow you to hold a gear, which will be displayed on the dash for you. Forgetting to shift for yourself will mean that a Roush 427R can pull away from you on the freeway, which can be a bit embarrassing at first. Thank God for second chances. The best part about the automatic is that it makes burnouts as simple as pressing both pedals for a second or two and then letting the brakes out.



Oh, don't forget to disengage the ESP traction control first. That makes it so much better when you want to release your inner juvenile delinquent. But be forewarned that mileage will be atrocious the more you do this and tires will disappear faster than hot dogs at a power eating contest. We managed about 14 mpg overall, and that was with a good 300 miles of freeway driving at semi-sensible speeds. One additional caveat is that it likes to guzzle the expensive stuff, and that meant about $70 per fill-up for its 19-gallon tank here in California.

We happened to have the car during a day out with a Cizeta and a Superformance Le Mans Coupe (tough life, I know) and had to use almost 5/6 of the speedo to catch up a couple of times. The car remained stable and solid and felt like it would just keep going if we needed it to. The claimed 169 mph top speed seems entirely plausible. But there were times when other drivers somehow managed to overlook us when changing lanes, and we had a chance to see that scrubbing speed was just as easy as piling it on.



Suspension

We'll start with the brakes here. First, let's not forget this is a large vehicle. Heavy too at 4,260 lbs., but tests show it will decelerate from 70-0 mph in approximately 170 feet. It can do the quarter-mile in the mid 13s, but this Dodge Magnum SRT8 can also do 0-100-0 mph in the mid 16-second range. That's some serious stopping power. Thank the 14.2-inch-front and 13.8-inch-rear vented Brembos for that. They are strong and easily modulated and even when they had to reduce our triple-digit velocity by half in one emergency maneuver, they just did what they were asked to do with no drama.

Those brakes reside within appropriately large, 20-inch polished 5-spokes, wrapped in 245/45 Goodyear F1 summer tires (you can opt for 255/45s out back at no extra charge). Lots of grip along any vector. Not just because of the tires, but the car sticks like glue. SRT-special shocks, modified spring rates, different bushings, plus big anti-sway bars make a huge change to the handling. The ride height is lowered by just one-half inch, but it feels like a lot more. The Electronic Stability Program (ESP) has also been reprogrammed to allow a little more antisocial behavior before cutting in. But switching it off still makes it even more fun when you feel the need. Having sampled "lesser" MOPAR LXes, this thing seems so tight. Body roll is negligible in comparison, but still noticeable if you've just stepped out of a sports car. Very little sacrifice in ride too, which makes us wonder why all suspensions aren't tuned like this.

Although there is a slight delay to inputs, we suspect that physics has a lot to do with it. No matter how well you tune it, it's still a nearly 4300 pound car. The steering ratio is a bit quicker than lesser Magnums, with a bit more friction in the system, but those 9-inch wide, fly-paper-wrapped wheels take a bit of time to transmit inputs into directional change. Nothing offensive, just not razor sharp. Certainly no sports car, but it is one hell of a ride. The fact that we would even begin to compare its manners to a sports car might seem ludicrous, but with all that power and prowess on tap, it's easy to do. Reminding yourself that it's a muscle wagon, you'll be impressed with its balance and road manners. If you're using a Roush 427R for comparison, you might feel slighted. But only just.



Exterior

From the outside, the appeal of the Magnum is understandable too. No wagon since the Nomad has managed to stir the soul so thoroughly. That Dodge Ram crosshair grille, raised beltline and tapering roofline are pure muscle. Especially in Brilliant Black with those midnight tint windows, it screams "felon on board." You can also order one in Bright Silver or Inferno Red Crystal Pearlcoat, and they look cool too, but we highly recommend black. It just fits. Especially in SRT trim.



With its menacingly lowered stance, polished wheels prominently displaying those red Brembo 4-piston calipers, and the SRT-specific body changes, the appeal becomes lustful. Rather tasteful SRT badges appear in prominent locations front to back. The honeycomb grille and tweaked nose better manage airflow for increased cooling AND reduced front-end lift. A revised rear fascia and larger, uncapped tailpipes lend a certain purposefulness at the stern. Nothing too radical, just an evolution of the theme.



Interior

SRT labels appear more abundantly inside, but are still fairly tastefully executed. SRT buyers also get red-stitched leather and suede seats that grip relatively well and are quite comfortable. Just like their corporate cousins', the seats are power-adjustable with intuitive Mini-Me knobs that emulate the portion of the chair you are adjusting. You also get "carbon fiber" leather trim on the steering wheel, and faux fiber trim on the center console and dash. Upgraded gauges, including a 180-mph speedometer, a tachometer and temperature gauges, add even more to the sporting atmosphere. As nice as all that sounds, it is inside that the shortcomings of this car become apparent.



Nobody will get into this car and think it is anything other than a hot-rodded full-size American wagon. Plenty of room for people and stuff, plenty of nifty features, and plenty of acres of various plastics. Incredibly elegant touches contrast so sharply with cheapo parts-bin bits. It just screams $20,000 commuter and can be a bit of a letdown if the window sticker and exterior draw you inside unawares. Rather annoying but not in an offensive way. More of a disappointment because everything else seems so right. Eventually you get used to it. We don't predict many owners will be dragging friends inside to brag about the interior, but in the end it does its job and doesn't divert necessary resources from where they really matter, under the hood and fenders.



As you can see from the photos, there is plenty of storage room up front and lots of cargo space out back. Nice big opening to access the hold as well. The huge subwoofer assembly takes up a lot of room, but with so much volume back there, you'll hardly notice. Our tester featured the upgraded stereo to go along with the sub, as well as Sirius and GPS/Navigation in the same unit. The Navi in particular was a bit frustrating to operate, continually tempting us to use it as a touchscreen, even though it isn't one. The selection knob at the right wasn't very user-friendly either. Redundant steering wheel controls were a nice touch for some features, but they were a bit confusing and didn't seem eager to let us back up a screen when we wanted to. All quibbles, but not insignificant ones.



Conclusions

When it comes down to it, we had to remind ourselves over and over that this is a $40,000 vehicle. The performance level is so high that you can easily come to expect so much more from it. If you look at other $40,000 wagons, you won't find anything that offers anywhere near this level of power. Not this much room or style either. Upgrading the interior to make it feel more acceptable for a $40,000 vehicle would likely have resulted in this being a $50,000 vehicle. The truth is that the Magnum makes a pretty good platform to build on. At a premium of about $15,000 over a base V6, The SRT8 might seem like too big of a jump to some. At $6,000 above a standard Hemi, it seems like a bargain.

The extra power is worth that much alone. Not just the peak gains, but there is way more power everywhere across the range. The handling improvements transform the driving dynamics of the car too. Those massive brakes add so much to driver confidence and serve to really balance the package as well. You're not as afraid of probing the limits if you know you can rein it in without concern. At speed this wagon shrinks around you and starts to behave in ways that belie its heft. More than just a stiffened Magnum, it feels like an altogether different vehicle. And if you dip into the throttle, the experience is mind altering. You have to turn your head and look out that rear hatch, seemingly miles in the distance, to remember that this thing can haul stuff as well as it hauls ass.

Definitely not for everyone, it is priced within reach of everyman. Base price is around $38,000 and fully optioned it will come to about $44,000, but discounts and rebates will usually keep it under 40. For that money you will get a large, rear-drive people mover, that happens to be capable of smoking its tires, and just about any other vehicle you're likely to encounter along the way. To put its performance in perspective, let's look at how it stacks up against a BMW M3. Just for kicks. With a 0-60 of around 5 flat, and a quarter mile time of 13.6 @ 106, the Magnum SRT8 is as quick as an E46. With a 70-0 distance of 170 feet, it also stops nearly as well as the M3. All 4260 lbs. of it. It's skidpad reading of 0.87g matches the Bavarian's score too. We certainly don't mean to compare the two, but point this out to show how truly capable this wagon really is. Throw in the extra cargo space and you can start to understand the appeal. Like anybody interested in one needs convincing. I'll make an old woman blush, and make a young woman squeal...I'm here to tell ya honey, that I'm bad to the bone.


Dodge Magnum SRT8

Vehicle type: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 5-door wagon
Base price: $38,345
Engine type: pushrod 16-valve V-8, iron block and aluminum heads, port fuel injection
Displacement 370 cu in, 6059cc
Power (SAE net) 425 bhp @ 6000 rpm
Torque (SAE net) 420 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm

Transmission 5-speed automatic with AutoStick shifting

Length: 197.7 in
Width: 74.1
Wheelbase 120.0 in
Height 57.9 in
Track, f/r: 63.0/63.1 in
Ground clearance: 5.1 in
Curb weight 4260 lb
Weight distribution, % f/r: 52/48

Cargo capacity: 71.6 cubic feet

Car and Driver performance data
Zero to 60 mph 5.1 sec
Zero to 100 mph .12.1 sec
Standing 1/4-mile 13.6 sec @ 106 mph
Top speed (drag limited) 169 mph
Braking, 70-0 mph 170 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad 0.87 g
EPA fuel economy, city/highway: 14/20 mpg

This baby hauls more than cargo.

Introduction

The Dodge Magnum is a full-size American station wagon with spacious cargo capacity. It's engineered for safety. And all-wheel drive is available for all-weather capability. But what makes the Magnum special is its hot rod styling and rumbling engines. There's nothing else quite like it. 

The headliner is the SRT8 with a 6.1-liter V8 Hemi that puts out 425 horsepower and 425 pound-feet of torque to propel the Magnum to 60 mph in about five seconds. That's quick. It's especially quick for a big American station wagon. The Magnum SRT8 can reportedly accelerate from 0 to 100 and back to 0 in less than 17 seconds. 

However, it's not necessary to go to the SRT8 to enjoy the Magnum experience. The Magnum experience begins with the 3.5-liter V6, about 10 grand cheaper than the SRT8. Or kick up a notch with the R/T and its Hemi, a rumbling 340-hp 5.7-liter V8. The least-expensive Magnum is the SE with a 2.7-liter V6 that gets 21/28 miles per gallon and retails for less than $24,000. 

While these cars are not miserly, there is some attention given to fuel economy. The R/T boasts technology that shuts down four of the Hemi's eight cylinders when the car is just cruising, delivering up to 30 miles per gallon during those moments. Put in everyday terms, if you used it to commute on the freeway at a steady 60 mph, you could average 25 miles per gallon. Or you could stand on the gas and take off. 

The all-wheel-drive models are designed to offer excellent cornering balance under all driving conditions and improved traction in snow and wet-weather conditions. 

The Dodge Magnum was launched as an all-new product line for the 2005 model year and expanded for 2006 with the SRT8. For 2007, the Magnum is largely carryover, but with changes to option packages. All models benefit from the addition of a palette of new exterior colors, standard privacy glass, an automatic oil change alert, and low-risk deployment air bags. DVD-based navigation with GPS is widely available. A new Road/Track Performance Group is available for rear-wheel drive R/Ts that includes 20-inch wheels, improved intake and exhaust for an additional 10 horsepower, a performance suspension, and comfort and convenience items. 

Lineup

The 2007 Dodge Magnum is available in four models. 

The SE ($22,945) uses Chrysler's proven 2.7-liter aluminum V6 mated to a four-speed automatic transmission and rated to tow 1000 pounds. Standard equipment includes premium cloth interior, air conditioning, cruise control, power windows and locks with remote entry, a 60/40 split rear seat with center armrest, AM/FM/CD sound system, tilt-telescoping steering column, rack-and-pinion steering, 17-inch wheels and disc brakes. 

The SXT ($26,855) comes with a 3.5-liter single overhead cam V6 and a five-speed automatic with AutoStick. SXTs are available with all-wheel drive ($29,285). The SXT comes with ABS with Brake Assist, all-speed traction control and electronic stability control, aluminum wheels, tinted glass, cargo cover, and an eight-way power driver's seat. For 2007, the Convenience Group III ($375) bundles automatic headlamps, one touch express up and down front windows and dual-zone climate control. Also available on the SXT this year is a GPS navigation system ($1,895). 

The R/T ($31,040) gets the 5.7-liter V8 Hemi and a five-speed automatic transmission with AutoStick. The R/T is also available with all-wheel drive ($33,040). The R/T features a leather interior, bigger and beefier brakes, a 19-gallon gas tank, 18-inch polished aluminum wheels, dual exhausts, foglights, and a Boston Acoustics premium six-speaker sound system with a 288-watt digital amplifier. An updated Road/Track Performance Group tweaks the V8 for an additional 10 horsepower, adds 20-inch wheels and performance suspension ($3,350). 

The SRT8 ($37,670) features the 6.1-liter V8 Hemi and a five-speed AutoStick automatic. Manual air conditioning is standard on the SRT8, as are power-adjustable, sport-bolstered front seats; cruise control; power locks, windows and mirrors; power adjustable pedals; ESP; antilock brakes with Brake Assist; and 20x9-inch forged aluminum wheels with Goodyear F1 high-performance tires. The uniquely tuned, load-leveling, tauter and firmer suspension lowers the SRT8's ride height by half an inch. Brakes are vented disc front and rear. 

Options include dual-zone automatic climate control; a power passenger seat; heated front seats; electronic vehicle information center; electrochromic rearview mirror; air filtration; self-sealing (but not run-flat) tires; hands-free cell phone capability; power adjustable pedals; GPS navigation system with integrated six-disc CD/MP3 player; rear seat, DVD entertainment system; Sirius Satellite Radio; sunroof; roof rack; cargo cover and net; and load-leveling shocks. One of the several paint colors, Inferno Red, costs extra ($225). 

Safety features on all models include advanced multistage dual front airbags and the LATCH child seat anchor system. Side-curtain airbags designed to improve head protection for front- and rear-seat occupants are optional ($390). ABS with Brake Assist, traction control, and Chrysler's Electronic Stability Program are optional ($1025). 

Walkaround

The styling of the Magnum is so distinctive that a picture will say far more than words can. It's a long, low, beefy station wagon on a wide track, with a big bold grille and a chopped top. It would be an understatement to say the Magnum has presence. 

However, it's not called a station wagon, at least not officially. The EPA classifies it as a sport utility. Dodge calls it a sport tourer. Some call it a sport wagon. That's what it is in our book: a sporty wagon, a cross between muscle car and station wagon, a hot rod hauler for grown-ups who haven't grown up, or haven't needed to, but eminently civilized, of course. 

The grille is clearly from the Dodge Ram truck family, but it's smaller, softer and classier. The headlamp units are a nice integrated wedge shape. We like them better than those on the Chrysler 300, a Magnum sibling, which try harder to be retro. The air dam/bumper cover wraps up under the headlamps and grille, and looks impressively beefy and functional. The SRT8 gets a mesh grille insert surrounded by a blockier fascia with a more aggressive air dam and enlarged, brake-cooling ducts. 

From the side, the Magnum looks like it could be rolled onto the floor of a custom rod show. The wheel cutouts are profound, especially imposing with the 18-inch, 10-spoke wheels on the R/T and borderline brutish with the SRT8's 20-inchers and ultra-low profile rubber. A big visual effect is created by the tinted glass and roofline sloping back and pinching the rear window. This serves an innovative purpose. The one-piece liftgate is hinged about two feet up into the roof, providing a vast and liberating opening to the cargo area. It requires less ducking to reach things in there, and will be easier on lower backs of all ages. 

The SRT8's roof-mounted wake diffuser is deeper, and its rear bumper mirrors the front's blockiness, with cutouts for the two, oversize, chrome exhaust tips. 

Interior

If you have any doubts about the Dodge Magnum carrying as much as an SUV, fold the rear seat down flat, lift the gate, easily climb inside and crawl around a bit. Dodge lists the cargo capacity as 27.2 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 71.6 cubic feet with them down, while the EPA total interior volume indicates 133.1 cubic feet. But those numbers don't sway buyers as much as their own eyes, so have a look. We did, and the cargo area looks wider, flatter, longer and easier to access than most SUVs. It's just not as tall; but how often do you stack loads to the ceiling? It's usually the length and width and flat floor that matter, and the Magnum excels by those measurements. 

We also climbed in the back seat and crawled around a bit. There was room to do so, only 10 percent less than in the front seat, according to the SAE volume index. In people terms, the rear seat's measurements come within an inch of the front's except in legroom, where the rear seat gives up just over an inch and a half to the front. The 60/40 split rear seat seats three people, but a wide, center armrest with cupholders drops down to make it more comfortable for two. There's plenty of head clearance despite the roofline, which poses no rear visibility problem for the driver. Even so, the chopped-top proportions left us feeling a touch claustrophobic in the back seats. 

The driver should have no problem finding a comfortable position. The steering wheel offers both tilt and telescope adjustments and the pedals are power adjustable. Adjustable pedals can help people of small stature (petite women, for example) position themselves farther away from the airbag-equipped steering wheel, lessening the chance of airbag-related injuries. 

Fabric covers the seats in the SE and SXT. Leather comes standard in the R/T and the SRT8 and is optional in the SXT. We found the regular seats generally supportive. The SRT8's deep-dish sport seats were especially effective in keeping our backside in place during aggressive motoring. However, all of the seats were somewhat short in thigh support. 

The four-spoke steering wheel is sharp, with buttons for cruise and sound control. We really like the Magnum's gauges, handsome and all business, white background with black numbers and stainless trim rings. We dislike the Mercedes-Benz column stalks with the turn indicator lever drooping down around 7 o'clock and the wimpy cruise control stick perched up at 11 o'clock. (We dislike these controls just as much on Mercedes cars.) It's too easy to turn on the cruise control when you meant to signal a lane change. 

The center stack is clean and tidy in black, with switches that were easy to click and knobs where knobs should be for the climate control and radio. The navigation system's screen displaces the stereo faceplate, with controls for both functions arrayed around the perimeter. 

The console compartment is decent sized, with two levels, the upper stamped with recesses for holding sundry items, and contains practical coin holders. There's also a sunglasses holder within the driver's reach. And speaking of specialized holders, the optional cargo organizer keeps grocery bags from topping over and incorporates a nook designed for holding a one-gallon milk jug. 

The Magnum takes an innovative approach to placement of the entertainment system's video screen. In lieu of suspending it from the ceiling or planting it in the backside of the front seat head restraints, Dodge pivots the Magnum's up out of the front center console. This positions it for viewing between the front seats at just above knee level. We're not sure what this will do for passengers susceptible to motion sickness, but it does preserve the driver's view out the back window. Speaking of things in the way, don't pop for the upgraded sound system that parks a monster subwoofer in the cargo area right behind the rear seat if your Ma. 

Driving Impression

The Dodge Magnum is a car we enjoy driving, especially the SRT8, though we like all the different models. All that horsepower, all that torque, predictable handling, and a solid, comfortable ride. 

The five-speed automatic transmission upshifts smoothly. Even in AutoStick mode, however, it sometimes upshifted before we wanted it to. Gear engagement often lacked the crispness we believe should be the norm in a car with the SRT8's credentials. The shift lever moves through a slotted gate, with AutoStick actions managed with sideways movements at the bottom end of the gate. 

Power in the SE with its 2.7-liter V6 is barely adequate for a car weighing close to two tons, and the base, four-speed automatic is basic. 

The SXT is better, with some 30 percent more horsepower and torque on tap, plus a five-speed automatic, in a car weighing barely 50 pounds more than the base SE. The SXT's 3.5-liter V6 makes 250 horsepower and, in these days of high horsepower V8s, that number might have lost its meaning, but 250 horsepower is a lot, and it's especially effective with the 250 pound-feet of torque this engine offers. The SXT is more fully featured for the money, too, including sharper wheels and tires more befitting the car's abilities. It's rated to tow 2000 pounds and gets an EPA-estimated City/Highway 19/27 mpg. The SXT uses a five-speed automatic with AutoStick for manual gear selection. 

The R/T is our favorite with its 5.7-liter V8 Hemi, although even with all that power and torque, the acceleration isn't neck-snapping; the R/T has a tall final drive ratio of 2.82 in the rear-wheel-drive version and 3.07 with all-wheel drive, which may be great for gas mileage and quiet running, but tempers acceleration. There were times it felt like it had 340 horsepower, and times it didn't. There were more times that it didn't feel like it had 390 pound-feet of torque, which might be because the torque peaks at a relatively high level, 4000 rpm. With horsepower peaking at 5000 rpm, that's a relatively narrow stretch of maximum happy performance for such a big engine. 

The R/T engine's Multi-Displacement System, or MDS, cuts out half of the eight cylinders whenever horsepower is not needed. At a steady 60 miles per hour or less on a flat highway, it only uses four cylinders and gets about 30 miles per gallon. With a response time of 0.04 seconds, we couldn't feel when it went from a V4 back to a V8 when we hit the throttle to speed back up again. The R/T is rated by the EPA at 17/25 mpg. Although technically capable of towing 3800 pounds with the optional tow package, Dodge does not recommend using the R/T as a tow vehicle. The R/T uses a five-speed automatic transmission with AutoStick. 

The R/T longs for grippier tires. It comes with Continental Touring all-season tires, P225/60R18, which were the likely cause of the Electronic Stability Program's occasional intrusion into our hard but not overboard driving. As the tires lost their limited bite, the ESP feathered the throttle. With stickier tires, it's unlikely that intrusion would occur. A good idea is to add the 20-inch wheels available this year with their high-performance rubber, even though they may not last as long or work as well in the winter. We also felt the front wheels bouncing at times, which was the only blemish on an otherwise great ride, tested in a variety of road conditions. 

The brakes are fully up to the task. The front vented rotors measure 13.6 inches, an inch larger than the SE and SXT, and the rear vented rotors are 12.6; additionally, the front brakes use dual piston calipers. Couple that mechanical strength with ABS with Brake Assist, which balances the braking between front and rear and, no worries, you're going to get stopped when you need to. On twisty mountain roads we repeatedly hammered the brakes into downhill curves, and the pedal never once showed any sign of stress or distress, or brake fade. 

Summary

The Dodge Magnum is a landmark car. There is no other car like it. When equipped with all-wheel drive, it will do almost anything an SUV will do, with distinctive style, more speed, better handling and better fuel mileage. The Magnum excels with its quiet cabin and smooth and solid ride. Its interior is well thought-out, and the underlying rear-wheel-drive design with a long wheelbase and short overhangs allows a lot of room inside. The styling might be too aggressive for many, but the practical arguments for this car are hard to beat. The SRT8 trades fuel economy for muscle car fun and succeeds, but the other models are easier to live with day to day. 

NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Tom Lankard filed this report from Northern California. 

Model Lineup

Dodge Magnum SE ($22,945); Magnum SXT ($26,855); Magnum SXT AWD ($29,285); Magnum R/T ($31,040); Magnum R/T AWD ($33,040); Magnum SRT8 ($37,670). 

Assembled In

Brampton, Ontario, Canada. 

Options As Tested

front and rear seat side curtain airbags ($390); power sunroof ($950); Convenience Group II ($1,005) includes automatic climate control, heated front seats, automatic headlights, eight-way power passenger seat; Electronic Convenience Group ($630) includes instrument cluster with display screen, compass, vehicle information center, traveler/mini trip computer, security alarm, steering wheel mounted audio controls and HomeLink programmable, universal, remote opener. 

Model Tested

Dodge Magnum R/T ($31,040). 

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