Wicked wagon, available with a Hemi heart. By Jim Hall • Photos by Guy Spangenberg June 2004 Our Detroit Editor, Matt DeLorenzo, had a chance recently to get behind the wheel of Dodge’s bold new Magnum. His initial impression of this radically different-looking wagon? That its looks are pretty polarizing: You either love it or hate it. Count me among those in the first category. The base Magnum comes with a 2.7-liter V-6 that makes 190 horsepower, the mid-level model gets a larger 3.5-liter V-6 that’s good for a solid 250 bhp, while the big daddy RT model gets the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 along with its thunderous 340 horsepower and a healthy 390 lb.-ft. of torque. And with prices ranging from $22,495 for the 2.7-liter model to $29,995 for the Hemi, the Dodge Magnum is one cool grocery-getter that offers a lot of bang for the buck. You’ll find DeLorenzo’s First Drive feature, along with contributing photographer Guy Spangenberg’s excellent images, in the June 2004 issue. ----- A truck nose, a wagon back, a Hemi heart. Smartly styled yet spacious, the Magnum has the shape of a wagon with the heart of a hot rod — a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. By Matt DeLorenzo • Photos by Guy Spangenberg June 2004 Few cars in recent memory have been as polarizing as the new Dodge Magnum. Offered in only one body style, one that us older-timers refer to as a station wagon ("sport tourer" to you hipsters), it has the bold, in-your-face front end of the Ram pickup. The Magnum's polarity hangs on these two points: Why is it offered in a niche body style and why does it look like a truck? On both points, count me among those who believe that Dodge's lineup should include sedans as well as wagons and that cars should look like cars. The front end of the Magnum is a bit too brutish for my tastes and while the low, pillbox greenhouse tapers gracefully above the rather slab-sided body, I wish Dodge had built the sexy Charger sedan concept from 2000 to reintroduce the Hemi to its car lineup. But Dodge made its point with the Magnum by lining up its entire range on the tarmac at a small airport in the Anza-Borrego desert in Southern California. With the Viper on the extreme right side of the line and the heavy-duty Ram on the left, at the intersection of the car and truck lineups sat the Magnum and it looked perfectly natural. Part car, part truck, the latter critical to Dodge's fuel economy plans for it hopes to certify the Magnum, because of its flat load floor, as a truck, which has less stringent federal mpg requirements. The debate over car and truck ended once I slid behind the steering wheel. Here, the rear-drive Magnum definitely feels like a car, and with 340 bhp at 5000 rpm and 390 lb.-ft. of torque at 4000 rpm, it is a hoot on an open stretch of highway. The engine rumbles and snorts and pulls like a Brahman bull, allowing the Magnum to flick slower traffic out of the way like rodeo clowns. Equally impressive was the way the Multi-Displacement System — which disables four cylinders under certain speed, load and throttle positions to save fuel — worked imperceptibly. The Hemi never lacked power when it was summoned with my right foot. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't catch the MDS system in action. The 5-speed automatic with its AutoStick sequential shifting operates seamlessly, and the rack-and-pinion steering is direct and linear in action, although I would prefer just a touch more effort, especially at medium and higher speeds. The independent MacPherson-strut front and 5-link trapezoidal rear suspension, copied from Dodge's parent Mercedes (it's an E-Class clone) does an admirable job in balancing ride with handling. Over a variety of road surfaces, the suspension was compliant and yet in turns, the vehicle exhibited little in the way of body lean. The Magnum feels as if it's carved out of the proverbial block of wood. It's tight, solid and does a masterful job of insulating the passenger cabin from tire and road noise. Even rearward vision, which is always a concern when you see how low the rear liftgate plunges, was good. Despite the car's high beltline, the comfortable front bucket seats are mounted high to give good all-around viewing. Unlike its sister, the Chrysler 300, the Magnum has a much more understated interior with aluminum bezels around the white-faced instruments and some chrome accents on the steering wheel, door handles and the gated shifter as the only bright cabin highlights. There's no ersatz wood or carbon fiber mucking up what is a straightforward layout. The Magnum is offered in three trim levels. A base 2.7-liter V-6 SE model makes 190 bhp and 190 lb.-ft. of torque and with a 3.9:1 rear end isn't as much of a slug as the numbers would suggest for a car tipping the scales at 3855 lb. The mid-line model is the 3.5-liter V-6 SXT, which has 250 bhp and 250 lb.-ft. of torque, and the top-line RT comes with the 5.7-liter Hemi. With prices starting at $22,495 for the 2.7-liter Magnum and $29,995 for the Hemi, the Magnum makes a big impression for relatively few dollars.