Applied to neither a gun nor private investigator, Dodge's most recent use of the Magnum name was slapped instead on a station wagon. Not just any wagon, the Magnum was based on the same platform as the period Charger sedan that followed it to market, and was sold for the 2005 through 2008 model years. So, where did this Charger station wagon go?
Dodge dropped the Magnum after 2008 for reasons that should become clear if you think about what happened to the economy that year. Before that, the Magnum sold decently—for a station wagon—in America, with sales topping the 50,000 mark at least one year. Weirder still, Dodge refreshed the Magnum for 2008, meaning the updated model lived for a single year before it was culled.
If you were to ask us,the Dodge Magnum wagon suffered a premature death—can you imagine if one of these things came with a 707-hp-plus supercharged Hellcat V-8 like the one introduced to the surviving Charger sedan for 2015? So, while we imagine what could have been, let's take a look at how the Dodge Magnum came to be—and why it's no longer with us.
Dodge Magnum: History, Engines, Specs
When the Magnum arrived for 2005, it wore chunky, low-slung bodywork with a plunging roof and huge flared fenders. It clearly shared its angry, chonky vibe with the contemporary Dodge Charger sedan, but beat that four-door to market by one model year somehow. (Yep, a wagon based on the hit Chrysler 300 was introduced to the Dodge lineup before the Charger sedan, technically.) The Magnum's headlights, grille, taillights, and other key skin markers were slightly different. This wasn't simply a Charger wagon, at least not outwardly.
It is worth noting that the Magnum's aggression depended heavily on which trim level one selected. Entry-level SE and SXT models sat up high on tall-sidewall tires, looking somewhat dorky and like, well, traditional American station wagons. A 190-hp 2.7-liter V-6 was standard (along with an old-school four-speed automatic), while SXT trims brought a slightly larger-caliber 250-hp 3.5-liter six with the same four-speed. These could sit even higher if equipped with all-wheel drive—available on SXT—which brought a slightly lifted suspension and a Mercedes-sourced five-speed.
The R/T version brought larger, bolder wheels and a lower stance (except, of course, those with the available all-wheel drive option, which like on the lower trim also came with a slightly raised suspension for better clearance).Also included? A 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engine putting out 340 hp. All Magnum R/T models also upgraded to the aforementioned five-speed automatic transmissionand handsome 18-inch wheels. The R/T was capable of ripping from zero to 60 mph in around six seconds flat, not bad for something that weighed nearly two tons.
Finally, introduced for 2006 was the high-performance Magnum SRT8 powered by a 425-hp 6.1-liter Hemi V-8.Crouching low on its suspension and riding on huge (for the time) 20-inch wheels with rubber-band-thin tires, the SRT8 was the meanest, baddest Magnum. This top-dog wagon proved itcould hit 60 mph in as little as 5.1 seconds in our testing—putting it on par with the period Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG wagon.
Oh yeah, there were cop Magnums, too, outfitted with beefier running gear just like their more common Charger counterparts. Surely the five-oh enjoyed the Magnum's extra cargo space and even angrier look.
A Station Wagon Bred for Comfort and Performance
Dodge lucked out when designing the LX platform that underpinned the Charger and Magnum—as well as the Challenger coupe and Chrysler's 300 sedan. The vehicles were developed at the tail end of the DaimlerChrysler partnership, so there was a healthy crossover between the rear-wheel-drive LX architecture and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Direct parts sharing included the five-speed automatic transmission in certain Magnum models, as well as the optional all-wheel drive system.
Engineers for Chrysler will say the "E-Class with a Dodge badge" comparison is overblown, and note that even though the LX bones live on today beneath the current Charger, Challenger, and 300, what Benz lineage there was has faded somewhat after continuous updates over the past 16 years. But there is no denying the Mercedes lurking beneath the Magnum and its ilk. When it debuted for 2005, the Magnum was huge—the wheelbase is an incredible 120 inches!—and startlingly refined for something from the Pentastar. These just ate up highway miles with a certain Germanic solidity.
Also, despite their slammed rooflines, Magnums were quite spacious inside. Credit that huge wheelbase and generous exterior dimensions, which opened up stretch out space front and rear even for taller passengers. And the Magnum's cargo space was nothing to sniff at, either: 27 cubic feet behind the rear seats, and up to 72 cubic feet with the rear bench folded. The Charger sedan's trunk was comparatively tiny, with only 16 cubes of space—good for a sedan, but no comparison to the Magnum's open cargo area.
If the relatively affordable, huge, rear-drive, V-8-optional Magnum had a shortcoming, it was its interior. While the wagon's hardware, styling, and driving experience clearly transcended early-2000s expectations for a Chrysler product, the cabin was anything but transcendental. Truck-like expanses of unadorned, mediocre plastics meet at more or less right angles to define the shapes of the door panels and dashboard. To call it uninspired would be an understatement, particularly in contrast with the extroverted exterior styling.
A Quick Refresh, Then a Hurry-Up to Die
The Magnum's formula proved compelling enough to notch up about 40,000 sales annually between 2004 and 2007, an anomalous performance for a station wagon in America. Despite this, and a refresh Dodge had prepared for the 2008 Magnum, the wagon was canceled for 2009. This introduced the strange, one-model-year-only '08 Magnum as a dead wagon rolling.
Most of the 2008 Magnum's updates centered on its front end, where the original's blocky, wide-eyed headlights were swapped for slimmer rectangular units framing a similarly slimmed-down Dodge "crosshair" grille. SRT8 models gained a hood scoop, and new wheel designs adorned the entire lineup. Dodge fiddled slightly with the interior, but it remained basically the same.
So, what happened to the Magnum? Sales seemed okay, and there weren't any other large American station wagons with available V-8 power lurking around. Well, Chrysler's restructuring in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis happened. Chrysler wanted to slim down its operations and focus on core (read: profitable) models—to whit, other oddballs such as the Pacifica (the tallish crossover thing that preceded today's minivan by the same name), PT Cruiser convertible, and Crossfire sports car joined the Magnum in the dustbin. At least, that's the company line—some, including Chrysler design boss Ralph Gilles, say that an unnamed executive who later left the company was solely responsible for the Magnum's death and that internally the wagon had cheerleaders. The Magnum would live on in slightly different form as the Chrysler 300 Touring wagon overseas, but only for a few more years.
It's difficult to push thoughts of what could have been from one's mind. The Charger and its two-door Challenger sibling lived on, seeing major updates a few years later, receiving ever-more-powerful V-6 and V-8 engine options until, in 2014, some unhinged genius within Chrysler decided to shove the 707-hp supercharged 6.2-liter "Hellcat" V-8 into the big sedan and coupe. Thus began an escalation in the horsepower wars, and today the Charger and Challenger are available with up to 707 to 797 horsepower. Dodge also sells both in "Widebody" form with pumped-out fenders. Had the Magnum survived to today, it, too, could have more than 707 horsepower and possibly an available Widebody treatment. With the Charger sedan capable of more than 200 mph, the Magnum could have been among the fastest station wagons in the world—if not the fastest.