- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 14, 2005

Design is one of the significant reasons we yearn for that automobile of our dreams. The styling of a vehicle is what grabs our attention and makes us look into picking and buying one vehicle over the other.

DaimlerChrysler has had numerous design successes in the past few years, but none can be more impressive than the Dodge Magnum sports wagon. When the term station wagon is being avoided at all cost by most other manufacturers, Dodge is jumping into the market with a vehicle that adds romance and excitement.

Based on a platform similar to its sibling 300 sedan over at Chrysler, the Dodge Magnum offers a more muscular stance without giving up the sophisticated features buyers’ desire. The exterior design of the Magnum can be equated with a customized show car. The greenhouse, the term used for the glass area of a vehicle, displays a “chopped-top” design. And while this may seem to limit visibility from the passenger compartment, it does not. Yes, it takes a little adjustment, but within a few miles you will feel completely at ease with your view of the outside world from the driver’s seat.

The muscular stance begins right at the large trademark crosshair grille, giving a hint of the wide front fenders that are filled with 19-inch alloy wheels and beefy tires. Four large doors offer easy ingress and egress.

One inventive feature is the large opening of the tailgate. A complaint by many owners is the lack of a wide opening provided by most wagons. Dodge successfully makes this a strong point in the Magnum design. The Magnum’s tailgate is hinged deep into the roof to offer an extremely large opening, which makes loading odd-sized articles easy and effortless.

Available power comes in three forms, from a very powerful V-6 engine to the proverbial muscle-car power of the Hemi V-8. Yes, Virginia, there is a Hemi in here. Well, there can be if you want. However, even though the Hemi V-8 offers heart-pounding performance with its 340 horsepower, the 3.5-liter V-6 isn’t anything to scoff at. I can remember not too long ago when V-8 engines were having a difficult time coming up with 200-plus horsepower, but this V-6 produces 250 horsepower. A five-speed automatic transmission is the sole choice here, but you can equip your Magnum with either the standard rear-wheel drive or move up to a full-time all-wheel-drive system.

Now, if economy is more your style, there is a provision for you in the Magnum lineup, the 190 horsepower 2.7-liter V-6. Granted, you do not get the performance of the other engines, but here you can have all the versatility of the Magnum with reasonable economy.

The Magnum interior is comfortable and accommodating with large bucket seats up front and a 60/40 split fold-down rear seat that offers plenty of room for three passengers. Fold down both sections of the rear seat and you create a 71.6-cubic-foot cargo-carrying compartment.

The one thing you cannot get with the new Magnum is anonymity. There wasn’t one place I could go where I was not be approached by the curious, asking questions about this wagon.

From that reaction alone, I can see that the Dodge Magnum has changed the way people think of the once-lowly American station wagon. It’s the 1950s all over again.

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