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Test drive: 2005 Dodge Magnum RT

"Has it got a hemi?" You bet your sweet you-know-what it does!

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2005 Dodge Magnum

2005 Dodge Magnum RT: Jason's in love

© Jason Fogelson
I’m a sucker for horsepower and torque. The 2005 Dodge Magnum RT delivers 340 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque from its 5.7 Liter Hemi V8 engine. That’s almost one hp per cubic inch and more than a lb-ft of torque per cubic inch of engine. The 2005 Dodge Magnum RT delivers all that engine in a package that’s comfortable, hot-looking and very useable. With a 3 year/36,000 mile basic, 7 year/70,000 mile powertrain warranty, the 2005 Dodge Magnum RT carries a base price of $29,870 ($32,080 as tested).

First Glance

Hot rod station wagon. Seems like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Not any more. The Magnum embodies the hot rod aesthetic, with a lowered, chopped stance and clean lines. A bold, truck-like grill decorates the front of the car. Nothing but the wind could have shaped the body, which swoops away toward a tapered wagon back. This is no retro-wagon, it’s a whole new look. It’s like nothing you’ve seen before on the showroom floor, a bold, aggressive design that is eye-catching and unique. Fit and finish are first rate, as I have come to expect from DaimlerChrysler products lately. The Magnum features big 18" aluminum polished wheels that fill the fender wells nicely and accentuate the aggressive stance. The RT model features the Hemi engine, and Dodge has wisely chosen not to make a big deal about the engine with decals or hood scoops. Two small chrome HEMI badges, one on each front quarter panel, are the only hint about what’s under the hood. Very tasteful and subtle, especially for a feature that’s been so heavily advertised. I’ve never received as much attention from other drivers as I did in the Magnum. The first question most guys will ask you about the Magnum is "Does it have a Hemi?" Men want to be Magnum, women want to date him.

In the Driver's Seat

2005 Dodge Magnum RT

2005 Dodge Magnum RT: Straightforward dash and comfortable seats

© Jason Fogelson
Sliding in to the Magnum RT’s leather trimmed bucket seat, I immediately felt at home. Eight-way power adjustments made it a cinch to find a comfortable driving position. A tilt and telescope steering column helped customize the fit. Though the car looks low from the outside, it doesn’t feel low from the driver’s seat. Visibility is good, even to the rear through the mail-slot shaped window. My girlfriend’s mother was visiting, and gave excellent marks to the back seat for comfort, especially the rear seat climate controls. My big concern about the Magnum’s unique shape was utility. With its tapering rear roof, would the cargo space be useable? My dog Layla (a 40 lb chow-husky mix) proved to me that the Magnum still works as a station wagon. I squeezed my pet barrier in behind the back seat, and invited Layla to go for a ride. She was able to comfortably ride in the cargo compartment while enjoying the view in all directions, though we both wished for rear glass that could open independent of the hatch. As it is, the hinge for the hatch is so far forward that it’s tricky to figure out whether cargo (or animal) will fit or get hit by the closing tailgate. The Magnum will make a much better grocery hauler than construction truck.

On the Road

I don't mean to sound like a juvenile delinquent, but this car kicks some serious butt. Not since my parents' '76 Olds Custom Cruiser Wagon with a huge 455 V8, which I routinely and vigorously abused, have I enjoyed driving a station wagon so much. I used to rev the Olds in neutral and drop it into drive to get my kicks, but with the Magnum it was just a matter of pressing on the gas. Thanks to traction and electronic stability control systems, the Magnum chirps the tires on takeoff, then rockets up to speed. Freeway merges are a breeze, and there’s no incline it can’t handle. Passing on two-lane roads is a worry-free affair, as there’s always more go when you need it. Despite the snorting power, the Magnum is composed and well-behaved for ordinary around-town driving, and downright smooth on the highway, a great demonstration of manageable power. A well-laid out dash and gauge cluster helps keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. On the corners and in the canyons, the Magnum is a blast, providing reliable handling and a firm ride. Its powerful four wheel anti-lock disc brakes come in handy with that big engine moving you around. I never got tired of driving the Magnum RT. It was fun every turn behind the wheel.

Journey's End

2005 Dodge Magnum RT

2005 Dodge Magnum RT: Way-forward hinges make it harder to tell what'll fit

© Jason Fogelson
So, do I mention the elephant in the room? With that great big engine pushing over 4100 lbs of Magnum, the EPA says you can expect to get 17 mpg in the city, 25 on the highway. It could be worse; Dodge’s "Multi-Displacement" technology allows the Magnum to run on as few as four cylinders while cruising at speed, resulting in higher economy. The transition from V8 to V4 and back again is totally transparent on the road, and a great idea. Still, I got just over 17 mpg during my time in the Magnum, hardly stellar mileage in these days of expensive gas. The Hemi demands 89 or better octane, and saving money on the cheap stuff isn’t advisable. I spent $42 filling up the Magnum’s 19 gallon tank one time. Just imagine the potential fuel bills as gas climbs higher and higher. Not to mention that whole social responsibility thing that people keep talking about. It’ll be hard to justify the Magnum on the basis of utility -- there are plenty of vehicles that will deliver more carrying capacity with better gas mileage. But how about fun per dollar per mile? The 2005 Dodge Magnum delivers on that made-up equation with a reasonable MSRP, high performance, comfort and gotta-have-it appeal. I just might have to clear some space in my garage.
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