The 2005-2009 Dodge Magnum: Hemi Wagon
The Chrysler 300/300C and the Dodge Magnum were launched at the same time, for the 2005 model year. Together, they were the first Mopar cars with rear wheel drive, not to mention V8 engines, not to mention Hemi V8 engines, since the Dodge Diplomat and its siblings were dropped at the end of the 1989 model year.
The Magnum was a wagon version of the Chrysler 300, though Dodge claimed it was a new niche, the “grand tourer,” playing off the “new niche” PT Cruiser. It shared the 300’s powertrain, complete with optional Hemi V8 engine, and was likely created with European sales in mind.
The company had not made a wagon in some years, so, unlike the new 300, there was no direct predecessor. However, it did replace the large Dodge Intrepid sedan; the heavier weight of the Magnum made it slower with the same V6 engine, but the Hemi’s extra power overcame that, at the cost of gas mileage. The Magnum had much more cargo space and much less interior space than the front wheel drive Intrepid, and boasted optional all wheel drive.
In Europe, the Dodge Magnum, rebadged to Chrysler 300C Touring (since there was no Dodge brand in Europe). It was adapted by switching to EU-complaint lighting and a 300 front clip, and adding an optional diesel engine.
Dodge research showed that the brand was associated with “power, muscle, unique, sleek, and protective” (the best seller was the Dodge Ram, and the halo car was the Dodge Viper). The Magnum was designed accordingly.
Inside, both 300 and Magnum were disappointing to many returning Chrysler customers, with stripped-down, spartan, low-budget interiors. A four-gauge cluster was clear and easy to read, nicely backlighted, and well shielded from the sun, but the plastic felt thin and looked cheap, with blunt surfaces adding to that down-market impression. Some customers also reported being scratched by the rough, unfinished “inside” part of the map pockets.
At the time, Curtis Redgap wrote, “I couldn’t help wondering where the terrific dashboards that Chrysler used to design had gone. The condition inside this ‘sports tourer’ (let’s not call it a a station wagon!) was stark, with little to break up the plastic bleakness except the bright trim rings and outline around the console.” He did praise the steering wheel mounted audio controls and the sport seats of the Magnum SRT8.
Dodge improved the gauge cluster for 2008, as shown below, and somewhat reduced the “chunky” look, adding more curves and changing the steering wheel buttons as well, but the overall effect was similar.
A former officer of the law, Mr. Redgap wrote more happily about the handling of the 6.1-liter-V8-powered wagon:
Shooting out towards the other side of the road course, I deliberately manhandled the car, slewing it to the left, then clobbering the accelerator swinging it to the right, really unloading the chassis. This usually invites either complete disaster or a pretty bad spin out. Especially when I had put the maneuver on the Magnum at 65 miles an hour. However the computer works, it took the abuse in stride, didn’t whip the body at all, bounced once, then undulated a little wiggle and straightened right out, like it never happened. Wow! This thing is darn near seductive!
About that time, a hard right hander was coming up. I was at 60 miles an hour. The corner looked like it was made for 40. ... the Magnum and I are in the apex of the corner. The tires are bawling in protest, the body is leaning over somewhat heavily, and centrifugal forces are trying to push the Magnum into the tall grass. Just at that moment, I choose to snap off the throttle, eliminating a force normally used to hold the car in a tight turn. The Magnum and I should have taken a long smokey slide into embarrassment with that trick. Didn’t happen. In fact, I am not exactly sure what happened. Except that I did feel like Mario was driving or at least had given me lessons.
Sales of the Dodge Magnum were promising until the Dodge Charger appeared, and then they faded. Some police departments tried Magnums as test vehicles, but the Charger (essentially a Dodge version of the Chrysler sedan) squad package quickly pushed out the Magnum. Burke Brown said that the Magnum was meant to continue after the Charger — which was planned from the start — but it was dropped regardless.
All wheel drive was available from the start, and Magnum R/T could tow 8,900 pounds; a hatchback style gate included about two feet of roof to make it easier to load. The 3.5 and 5.7 engines both required midgrade (89 octane) fuel, while the SRT8 took premium and the 2.7 took regular. The following chart is based mainly on Michigan State Police tests, with 2.7 figures from Chrysler, and SRT8 figures averaged from road tests.
Both V6 models had a Chrysler four-speed automatic at first, except with all wheel drive; those cars got the same Mercedes five-speed as the Hemi cars. The four-speed was replaced by the five-speed in 3.5-powered cars starting with the 2006 model year.
|Engine||2.7 V6||3.5 V6||5.7 Hemi||6.1 Hemi|
|hp @ rpm||190 @ 6,400||250 @ 6,400||340 @ 5,000||425 @ 6,000|
|torque||190 @ 4,000||250 @ 4,000||390 @ 4,000||420 @ 4800|
The Magnum and 300C were the first modern (as in “post Cadillac 4-6-8”) production vehicles in North America to use cylinder deactivation. The Multi Displacement System (MDS) seamlessly turned off the fuel consumption in four cylinders of the 5.7-liter HEMI engine when V-8 power is not needed; the system worked flawlessly for most owners, including police departments, when the correct oil was put in. There were many early problems as people refused to use the specified oil. See our Hemi page.
In Michigan State Police testing in September 2004, the 3.5 liter V6 did 0-50 in 6.65 seconds, 0-90 in 19.43, the quarter mile in 16.94 @ 84.38, and braked from 60 mph sto a stop in 143.4 feet.
Annual model year changes
The big news for 2006 was the new Dodge Magnum SRT8, with a 425 horsepower 6.1 liter V8 engine, with a claimed 0-60 in the “low five second range,” 0-100-0 in the mid-16s, and braking from 60 mph in just 110 feet.
In addition, the four-speed automatic gained variable line pressure mid-year, increasing efficiency, while the five-speed was, also midyear, made standard on the SXT (3.5 V6), complete with “range select” (a sort of manual shifting). Tire pressure monitors were standard on R/T for the first time, and a cruise control indicator was added across the board. A new option was the rear-seat DVD system, with the head unit in the dashboard and screen in the center console unit, ready to be flipped up for rear-seat viewing; it could play through wireless headphones while front occupants listened to music. The usual color adjustments were made, and bright grille and bodyside-molding inserts were added to the SXT (which also gained fog lamps and body-color heated folding mirrors, and bright headlight bezels). The R/T badge was changed and a High Output badge added to the 3.5 models. Other minor interior changes were made, particularly to SXT and R/T. The rear-drive SXT got new wheels, both standard and optional.
2007 brought a six-CD DVD-based navigation radio with GPS, satellite radio, privacy glass, new wheel and tire options, automatic oil change alert, low-risk deployment air bags, power adjustable pedals, and new colors and packages including a Road/Track Performance Group (big wheels, high-performance tires, 10 more horsepower from engine tuning, performance seats, legacy R/T badging, and luxury options), and the SRT-8 got rear seat video and new colors.
2008 changes included a facelift with a lowered and stretched front grille, chrome elements, dual angled headlamps, a restyled hood for SRT8, optional high intensity discharge (HID) headlamps, and new wheels. The interior was freshened, including the instrument panel, center console, and door trim; chromed highlights throughout the driver’s area; carbon fiber highlights on SRT8; soft touch points throughout the interior, including arm rests on the doors and top of the center console; seat mounted side airbags in addition to side curtain airbags; new radios including MyGIG; Sirius back-seat TV optional; iPod interface on UConnect models; MDs status display (four vs eight cylinders firing) added to Hemi models; and a new tire pressure monitoring system.
The end of production for the Dodge Magnum was announced in late 2007, not long after the 2008 facelift, to cut a shift at the factory (which was quite capable of building all four LX cars at once). The car’s initial popularity faded when the Dodge Charger appeared. Burke Brown, the LX project leader, told Allpar that the original plan was to produce all four LX cars at once: Charger, Challenger, 300C, and Magnum. A combination of marketing (wanting to launch the dissimilar Magnum and 300C first) and funds changed the plan. Full interview.
Dodge Magnum Engineering
The base engine was a 2.7 liter V6, retuned from the LH cars for more low-end torque, and hooked up to a four-speed automatic. Next up was the 3.5 V6, then the base Hemi V8, with 340 horsepower, and finally the SRT V8; the base Hemi (the only engine on Magnum R/T, and only available on that car) had a front-rear weight ratio of 52:48. All engines had electronic throttle control (“drive by wire”), to help the stability control system; it also made for a smoother cruise control and tailored throttle response to operating conditions. A large pedal motion at a standing start opened the throttle less than the same pedal movement at highway speeds.
The all-wheel-drive system added a front differential and a transfer case, and was a full time system: power was sent to both axles at all times. The planetary-center differential delivered 62% of the torque to the rear axle.
A combined ABS and traction control system was standard with all but the base 2.7 liter engine, and optional on that; Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum were the first Chrysler cars with all-speed traction control. The ABS was faster than past systems. The traction control included an automatically activated “Winter Mode” that altered the shift schedule, and the stability control included directional stability control using wheel-speed sensors to detect excessive yaw.
The rear suspension / differential was a module isolated from the body. The front suspension was also cradle mounted and had dual ball joints in the lower links for added tuning ability.
According to Chrysler, the low glass-to-body ratio gives Dodge Magnum a protective appearance and an unmistakable road presence. A large cargo opening was created by hinging the top of the rear gate midway between the C- and D-pillar (the hatch included two feet or so of roof). Underneath the fold-flat floor were a spare tire and compartments which can hold flares, jumper cables, and the like, with closed side compartments.
HID headlights were optional from the start, along with headlight washers, rain sensing wipers, and an infra-red backup alarm in the rear bumper.
Seats were over two inches higher than in the LH cars for easier entry and exit. The Magnum R/T was finished in dark grey leather with ochre accents, and the instrument panel and door trim were two-tone grey.
The controls had an unusual Mercedes-style cruise control on a stalk on the top left of the wheel, and the headlight control had stiff, loud detents, making it clicky and somewhat cheap-feeling. The “variations of gray” was old compared with many other cars in the price range. The car used a foot emergency/parking brake, given the lack of a manual transmission.
The 60/40 split rear seats stowed in the floor when needed; the cargo area had an upper piece to create a flat load floor with the rear seats stowed in the forward position. Storage on both sides of the floor had deep pockets behind the wheels. A small, removable cooler docked into an electrical connector on the left side of the compartment to keep items cold.
Though Chrysler had chosen rear wheel drive before the merger, hooking up with Mercedes provided existing technologies and parts, including the A580 electronic automatic, and Mercedes’ stability control, steering, rear suspensions, electronics, and seats; the traction and stability control systems, axles, wire harnesses, five speed automatic transmissions, steering columns, and some other components were shared with Mercedes (Wolfgang Bernhard claimed 20% of the Magnum’s components were shared with Mercedes).
AutoWeek’s Mark Vaughn quoted chief engineer Burke Brown as saying that while Mercedes provided many components, “few parts are straight out the Benz bin.” He cited the front suspension as having a lower roll center and wider track, for example.
Return of the Dodge Magnum?
In 2009-2012, there were rumors that Dodge would make a new Magnum based on the 2015 Dodge Charger. The car would sold in Europe, and would actually be created with that in mind. The car shown above is a rendering which JackRatchett tells us will incorporate an air suspension — so this would be “parking mode.” (No rumors of an air suspension exist, and most likely a production car would use smaller wheels with a greater ride height.) The rumors never did pan out, as Chrysler 300 sales in Europe remained stubbornly low.
Production figures were supplied by Claude Lacombe, and are from Chrysler records; rear wheel drive unless otherwise stated. U.S. sales are via Chrysler Corporation. Canadian sales are generally around 10% of U.S. sales; most of the remainder are worldwide. All sales are by calendar year.
Comparing the dimensions against the Dodge Intrepid
|2005 Dodge Magnum||2000 Dodge Intrepid|
|Overhang||34" front, 42.5" rear|
|Weight||3,855 - 4,336 lb||3,446-3,556 lb|
|EPA gas mileage||19/27 (3.5)||18/26 (3.5)|
|Weight distribution||51/49 (V6)||64/36|
|Interior volume||105.9 cubic feet||107.6 cubic feet|
|Cargo volume||27.2 cubic feet (770 L)
71.6 with rear seats folded
|18.7 cubic feet (530L)|
|Built in...||Brampton, Ontario|
|Front head room
|38.4 (983)||38.3 (974)|
|Front leg room||41.8 (1061)||42.1 (1070)|
|Front shoulder room||58.7||59.1 (1500)|
|Front hip room||56.2||56.4 (1431)|
|Seat travel||10.6 driver, 8.7 passenger||8.7 (220)|
|Rear head room||38.1 (968)||37.2 (945)|
|Rear leg room||40.2 (1020)||41.6 (1056)|
|Rear knee clearance||4.8 (122)||5.9 (151)|
|Rear shoulder room||57.6 (1464)||58.3 (1482)|
|Rear hip room||55.5 (1409)||56.8 (1442)|
|Cargo bay opening||11.3 square feet|
|Model||2004 Price w/Dest||2014 Equiv.||Features|
|Magnum SE||$22,495||$28,275||2.7-liter V-6. 60/40 split rear folding seat, remote keyless entry, CD, manual tilt/telescope steering column, reversable cargo load floor. Options: eight-way power driver seat, adjustable pedals, rear cargo management, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, traction control, stability control, and emergency brake assist.|
|Magnum SXT||$25,995||$32,674||3.5-liter V-6, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, traction control, stability control, emergency brake assist, eight-way power driver’s seat, 17-inch aluminum wheels and sunscreen glass, all SE features. Options include Protection Group (self sealing tires, side curtain airbags, cabin air filter), Boston Acoustic stereo, UConnect cellphone integration, sunroof, and heated leather seats.|
|Magnum R/T||$29,995||$37,701||Hemi V-8. 18-inch aluminum wheels, dual exhaust, larger brakes, fog lamps, exterior chrome, leather seats, and Boston Acoustic six-speaker 288-watt digital amplifier. Options included 3,800 pound towing package.|
- 2008 changes • SRT-8 test drive • SRT-8 track drive • LX powertrains and features • Police cars • 1980s Dodge Magnums
- Magnum SRT8 Concept • Magnum SRT8 production car • Snow and ice performance
- Burke Brown on creating the LX cars