Two tons of fun. By Thos L. Bryant • Photos by Guy Spangenberg November 2004 Yes, it is bigger and heavier than I would like, but the Dodge Magnum RT sings to me. And the song is that of a temptress whispering, "Let's go, let's go, let's go." Recently introduced as a 2005 model, the Magnum RT derives from the Chrysler 300C platform and that means rear-wheel drive, the Hemi V-8 and a good amount of technology packaged in a muscle car. Even though some people might describe the Magnum as a "station wagon," that term doesn't come up in any of the Dodge literature, and for good reason. The Magnum is described by Dodge's alliterative Craig Love of the Product Team as a car that "offers the right formula of proportion, packaging and performance that sets it apart from the competition." Around the Road & Track office, we went ahead and used the station wagon term anyway: "Finally, a station wagon with an attitude… a car that can haul stuff and haul ass at the same time," said Design Director Richard M. Baron. He went on to predict that a lot of sport-utility-vehicle owners probably would look favorably upon the Magnum and climb down from their oversize trucks. Senior Editor Andrew Bornhop tossed in his opinion: "Chrysler has succeeded on the look of the car, somehow incorporating a bold truck-influenced nose on a wagon-shaped body with a decidedly hot-rod attitude." Others on the staff bandied about terms like "industrial-strength styling," and "looks long, low, powerful and a bit menacing." Along with its great looks, the Magnum also boasts an excellent drivetrain, starting with the heavily promoted and now again-famous Hemi moniker on the 5.7-liter V-8. This engine produces an abundance of horsepower (340 bhp at 5000 rpm) and all-important torque (390 lb.-ft. at 4000). Considering that the curb weight is 4200 lb., all this power is needed to provide the performance Dodge wanted to offer and buyers demanded. In our track testing, we were delighted to find that the Magnum RT charged from 0-60 mph in a very quick 6.1 seconds, and ran the quarter mile in 14.6 sec. at 97.4 mph. The Hemi has a pleasant rumble to its exhaust note, and it's an engine that hustles up through the rev range with a linear delivery of power. Punching the throttle in around-town driving produces a quick leap off the line, and getting into the revs out on the open road brings about brisk acceleration. Hooked up to the 5-speed automatic transmission, the combination gives the driver a lot to play with, thanks to the slap-shift feature that allows you to go up and down through the gears manually. Beyond the power of the Hemi, though, there is another story. Chrysler is justly proud of its multiple displacement system (MDS), which seamlessly shuts down four cylinders when the Hemi is in cruise mode. The pushrod design of the engine lends itself to having electronic engine controls deactivate the valve lifters for four of the cylinders based on engine load and throttle position. The switching is based on torque demand, and when you really jump on the throttle, the system lights up the other four cylinders immediately. All of us tried to identify times when the engine made the change, but never could feel it. And the good news is that it produces better fuel efficiency than you might expect from a 5.7-liter V-8. The EPA driving cycle numbers are 17 mpg city and 25 highway, with the latter clearly showing the effectiveness of the MDS. Great style, inside and out, makes the Magnum a popular choice with our staff. The dash, with its four white-faced instruments, is relatively simple but fitting for the car; and there’s plenty of room for people and luggage, despite the chopped roofline. Beneath the skin of the Magnum lies a suspension system tuned to provide quite a smooth ride at the expense of really good handling traits. The front suspension comprises A-arms with lower lateral and diagonal links, while at the rear there is a multilink setup that derives from the previous Mercedes-Benz E-Class design. Our day at the test track showed that the Dodge circled the skidpad at 0.72g, which is near the bottom of the range of cars we test, partly because the stability control could not be completely shut off. The Magnum exhibited heavy understeer throughout the process, and again in the slalom test for transient handling, where it posted a respectable speed of 61.7 mph. The car takes a set going into a corner and holds it pretty well all the way through, even with some additional throttle application. There is not as much body sway as one might expect given the size of the Magnum, but you will be constantly aware of the car's weight and width. We knew going in that this was not a car that would be overly agile and nimble, but in real-world driving most everyone came away with good impressions of the Dodge as predictable if not particularly sporty. The rack-and-pinion steering was overboosted and lacking in feel for some, and there was a general sense that there was too much roll softness in spirited driving conditions. Associate Editor Mike Monticello figured he would gladly trade some of the smooth ride quality for better handling feel, and we all agreed with him. But it's also helpful to the Magnum that the engineering team designed it to be fitted with Electronic Stability Program (ESP, yaw control), traction control and anti-lock braking. All of these devices help the Dodge to maintain its line through tight cornering maneuvers as well as being very useful to owners who live in the Snowbelt states. Take note, too, that the Magnum SXT and RT models will be available with all-wheel drive for those who live where the going gets really tough. Accommodations inside the Magnum RT are pretty nice. Our test car was fitted with leather upholstery and all the other comfort and convenience items we expect these days — air conditioning, power windows, a stereo system and so on. The overall styling of the interior is clean and simple, and the dash looks rather plain — in a chopped-top car from the 1950s, but the view out is actually fairly decent. And the space inside is quite roomy, with ample leg and head room front and rear. The luggage space is also fairly large, and the rear hatch opens well forward along the roofline, so it's quite easy to maneuver large boxes into the rear. The large flat floor area back there conceals more storage beneath, so you can put many small oddments down there and not have them rolling around loose. When you look at all the specifications of this car and evaluate the performance with the Hemi V-8 (there are two V-6 engines available too), it's no wonder that most everyone is impressed with the Dodge Magnum RT as a bargain: $30,520 as tested. The styling is distinctive and there's nothing anonymous about it — you know what it is as soon as you see it. As Monticello noted in the log, "The whole chopped-roof, hot-rod styling of the Magnum is spot-on, and that it's a practical wagon makes it that much better." Engineering Editor Dennis Simanaitis said, "I agree with my colleagues on this fine wagon: Excellent power, good seats, sensible controls and exemplary room front and rear. Philosophically this is a practical person's SUV. I'd argue this is the enthusiast's perfect second car." The Hemi benefits from a multiple displacement system (MDS) that shuts down four cylinders when cruising. Each editor’s sporty driving stint didn’t give it a chance, hence our 12.5-mpg figure.