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The face-lifted 2008 Dodge Magnum continues to avoid the stodgy wagon mold, thanks to its specialized blend of sporty good looks, practical utility and satisfying performance.
Distinctive exterior style, roomy interior, strong V8 acceleration, excellent highway manners, available all-wheel drive.
Lackluster performance from the base V6 engine, some low-budget interior materials.
Available Magnum Models
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More aggressive styling up front highlights the changes to the 2008 Dodge Magnum. There are also a couple new features and minor interior trim upgrades.
Even though the Dodge Magnum wagon has only been on sale a few years, style- and performance-minded families have taken to it like bees to honey. Or, to harken back to the Dodge muscle car of the late 60s and early 70s, like Super Bees to honey with respect to the Hemi V8-equipped R/T and SRT8 models. But that's not really surprising given the Magnum's appealing combination of handsome and purposeful styling, family-sized utility and wide range of trim and engine choices.
For 2008, the Dodge Magnum's good looks have been updated with a revised front fascia, newly sculpted hood and a reshaped grille. Exclusive to this year's SRT8 model is a functional hood scoop. Magnum R/T and SRT8 models also feature newly optional HID headlamps for greater visibility and an extra dose of high-tech sophistication. Inside, Dodge has sought to remedy the Magnum's lackluster interior design with select soft-touch surfaces, a redesigned and more driver-oriented instrument panel, and LED lighting for the cupholders and door pockets on the R/T and SRT8.
These changes aren't terribly significant, but thankfully the 2008 Dodge Magnum didn't need much fixing. It continues to offer value that's hard to beat if you're in the market for a midsize or large performance-oriented wagon or an all-wheel-drive sport-utility alternative. It's solidly built, surprisingly agile and still one of the most distinctive-looking vehicles on the road. The SRT8 is more functional and less costly than high-buck, high-performance European sport wagons, and the more pedestrian SXT and R/T models measure up extremely well against other sporty wagons like the Volkswagen Passat and Saab 9-3 and 9-5 SportCombi, while returning livable fuel mileage. However, the Magnum does lack the people-carrying ability of the latest three-row crossover SUVs. Shoppers needing to haul around lots of people on a regular basis may want to instead look at vehicles like the Mazda CX-9 or the GMC Acadia/Buick Enclave/Saturn Outlook triplets.
The 2008 Dodge Magnum wagon comes in four trim levels: base SE, midgrade SXT, V8-powered R/T and maximum-performance SRT8. The base Magnum SE starts off with 17-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, fully powered accessories, a telescoping steering wheel and CD/MP3 player with an auxiliary audio jack. The SXT features a more powerful V6, 17-inch alloy wheels (18s for all-wheel-drive versions), a power driver seat and satellite radio. The sportier R/T adds a V8, 18-inch alloy wheels, firmer suspension tuning, leather upholstery, upgraded audio and heated front seats. The high-performance SRT8 is equipped much like the R/T, but has a much bigger V8 engine, 20-inch alloy wheels, upgraded Brembo brakes, sport-tuned suspension and steering, unique interior and exterior detailing, leather/suede upholstery and a power front passenger seat.
Major options are typically grouped in packages. Depending on the trim level, Dodge also offers a sunroof, xenon headlights, automatic climate control, a hard-drive-based navigation system, Bluetooth connectivity and a rear-seat entertainment system. An R/T Performance Group package with 20-inch wheels and performance-grade exhaust/steering/suspension/seats is also available for the Magnum R/T. For the SRT8, there's an option to order a 13-speaker Kicker audio system.
The base Dodge Magnum SE comes standard with a 2.7-liter V6 engine that generates 190 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque. Upgrading to the SXT gets you a 3.5-liter V6 putting out 250 horses and 250 lb-ft of torque. For serious hauling of people or toys, the R/T is a more satisfying choice with its 5.7-liter V8 good for 340 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque; the optional Performance Group adds an extra 10 horses. Stepping up to the big-dog SRT8 puts a pumped-up 6.1-liter V8 under the hood that cranks out 425 hp and 420 lb-ft of twist. The base car puts its power through an old-school four-speed automatic transmission, but all others are equipped with a modern five-speed automatic. Magnum SXT and R/T models have the option of either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, but the others are rear-drive only.
Four-wheel disc brakes are standard on all Magnum models, and antilock brakes, traction control, stability control and power-adjustable pedals are optional on the base SE and standard on all other Magnums. The SRT8 is also equipped with full-length side curtain airbags, which are optional on the others. Self-sealing tires are available on all except the SRT8. In government crash testing, the Magnum received five out of five stars for driver and front-passenger protection during frontal collisions, and four stars for front occupants and five stars for rear occupants during side crashes.
The 2008 Dodge Magnum is a large wagon and features a cabin that's quite spacious for its driver and up to four passengers. Behind the 60/40-split rear seats there are nearly 28 cubic feet of cargo room, and dropping them reveals up to 72 cubic feet of space -- about as much as a top-rated compact SUV. The rear liftgate swings up rather than out for easy access, and the Magnum offers an optional cargo organizer as well. In keeping with its racy aspirations, the SRT8 features four-place sport seats with high-grip suede inserts and a newly available ReConfigurable Display (RCD) in the instrument cluster that offers drivers instant feedback on their personal performance numbers.
The Magnum's base V6 engine provides adequate power and a pleasant enough driving experience, but acceleration can be a bit sluggish off the line or under load. If you can't live with that, we suggest you upgrade to either the more powerful V6 in the SXT or the V8 in the R/T. The handling is surprisingly composed on higher trim levels, and the hot-rod SRT8 is a downright blast to drive, with tons of torque, a sport-tuned suspension and bigger brakes that allow you to maneuver quickly through tight corners. The downside to choosing the SRT8 is lousy gas mileage, and most buyers will find that the R/T offers a better compromise of performance and economy. All 2008 Dodge Magnums have excellent highway manners, with a composed ride and a quiet cruising demeanor.
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