It's time for some cars--and rear-drive ones, at that By Matt Stone Photography by the author Motor Trend, January 2004 The Chrysler Group has been developing a new-from-the-tires-up, rear-drive-platform architecture for several years, and the first products based on it will make their way to market this spring. The Chrysler 300 is a broad-shouldered, square-jawed, full-size luxury sedan, and the fastbacked sport-wagon variant is named Dodge Magnum. At approximately 197 inches long atop a 120-inch wheelbase, they're about the same size as a Lexus LS 430. These two bodystyles are brand-unique at this point, although the Magnum will be sold in Europe wearing the 300 sheetmetal and badge. Three powerplants will be offered: a base 2.7-liter, 200-horsepower V-6; a 3.5-liter V-6 (from the current front-drive 300M) rated at about 250 horsepower, and --drum roll, please--a refined-for-car-duty version of the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. All V-6-powered models will be equipped with four-speed automatic transmissions. The Hemi packs a 340-horsepower punch and is backed by the same five-speed automatic trans used in 12-cylinder Mercedes cars. In keeping with Chrysler's modus operandi of "hiding its future in plain sight," the new cars are dead ringers for the thinly disguised 300C and Magnum SRT-8 concepts unveiled last January. The design and level of materials evidenced in the production-spec interiors correspond with what we've seen on the Crossfire and Pacifica, further indicating that the company is finally paying attention to cabin quality and detail. The product-development team is particularly proud of the cars' interior room, packaging, and first-ever Boston Acoustics sound systems. The Magnum's cargo area isn't huge--Dodge has been clear that this isn't a sport/utility or a "station wagon" in the classic sense--but there are several clever details. The rear-deck's upper hinge point is cut far forward into the roofline, so the hatch opens high, wide, and out of the way. There's a false floor that allows a bit of hidden storage beneath it, or it can be configured into "shopping-bag" mode to help hold cargo upright and in place. Even though this platform was on the drawing board prior to the DaimlerChrysler-Benz merger, it ended up employing approximately 20-percent Mercedes-Benz component content (from the previous E-Class)--no bad thing. Chrysler will serve the 300 in four trim levels: base (2.7-liter V-6), Touring and Limited (3.5-liter V-6), and Hemi-powered 300C. The Magnum comes in three different flavors, each corresponding to an engine offering: base (2.7), SXT (3.5), and R/T (Hemi V-8). Pricing, more details, and driving impressions coming soon.