- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 26, 2004

Trying to categorize the 2005 Dodge Magnum is difficult. Dodge calls it a “Sports Tourer” but the term doesn’t explain all of the capabilities of this unusual vehicle.

The Magnum is capable of many tasks. It looks something like a station wagon but it isn’t that at all. It’s similar to a sport utility yet it’s not an SUV either. It’s akin to a sedan, but the rear is more useful than a sedan’s trunk because the rear hatch opens upward.

The Sports Tourer has sports-car similarity for it can go fast and holds the road like glue.

It has rear-wheel drive, a hot engine, and handles like a dream. All rear-wheel-drive cars have better handling compared with front-wheel drive, but they tend to slip out of control, especially on slippery surfaces.

But with all-speed traction control, anti-lock brakes, and an electronic stability program, Dodge has been able to return to the use of rear-wheel drive for both performance and safety.

If the need to tow something should arise, the Sports Tourer can pull anywhere from 1,000 pounds to 3,800 pounds depending upon the engine selected.

Currently, there are three engines available: A 190 horsepower 2.7-liter V-6 engine with a four-speed automatic transmission costing $22,495; a 250 horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 engine with a four-speed automatic costing $25,995; and a Hemi, with a 340 horsepower 5.7-liter V-8 engine linked to a five-speed automatic transmission with AutoStick costing $29,995.

All-wheel drive is also available.

I drove the models with all three engines and, naturally, enjoyed the 5.7-liter the most. That’s the one with the HEMI.

It also contained a number of amenities such as the Sirius Satellite Radio.

Another desirable safety feature is a telephone system that allowed me to receive and place cellular calls hands-free.

A microphone in the rearview mirror and the radio speakers are employed for conversation.

These Magnums are built on a strong body, allowing the latest technology to be used in the suspension system.

As a result, the handling is very good and the ride is comfortable even when all five seats are occupied.

Incidentally, the Magnum now comes with the latest innovation in tire technology that provides a sealant in the inner liner of the tire to fill a puncture, thus reducing the possibility of having to stop along the roadside to fix a flat.

The Magnum also has a load of crash protection features.

For example, computers analyze a crash and use appropriate measures to protect the passengers.

Side-curtain and frontal air bags would be deployed at a force depending upon the severity of the crash.

These computers not only figure out how severe the crash will be, but also determine the size and weight of the front-seat passengers.

And the body structure uses crush beads and stiffeners to offset the impact.

Even the auto-windows feature includes safety. Should any object — such as a child’s hand — get in the way of a rising window, the window will reverse downward.

Naturally, the Magnum has a child seat anchor system and an energy-absorbing steering column.

Somehow, all these safety features are becoming the norm, because all manufacturers are making safety their No. 1 priority.

But what I didn’t expect to find in this Dodge product was the high degree of quality.

Throughout the car the fit and finish is top-notch.

It’s obvious this manufacturer has come a long way from the days of old when cars of various qualities rolled off the assembly line.

But I still have one problem. I can’t figure out what category classifies the Magnum.

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