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Auto Corner: Dodge Magnum SRT8 Brings Out the Muscle in You

25 September 2010   John Dickerson
It's a retro-styled cruiser, a domestic hotrod.
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Don’t be fooled by the Magnum’s family-friendly size. This muscle wagon can hang with European super cars, and for less than $40,000.

Last week I was driving one of my favorite V-6 coupes on the market, the $50,000 Audi A5. A Ford Mustang GT ($28,000) pulled next to me at a stoplight, and I couldn’t even bring myself to make eye contact with the driver.

I knew he’d want to race (how many Mustang GT drivers don’t?), and I knew his American muscle would win – at practically half the price. Still, in the name of auto reviewing, I gave him the nod and hammered the German V-6 when the light turned green. The Mustang outpaced the Audi by nearly an entire car length.

As, um, mature, as it may sound, such drag races are precisely what muscle cars are built to do. Unfortunately for the American automakers (but fortunately for you), Ford, GM and Chrysler have poured millions into classic muscle car redesigns that hit showrooms just as the stock market dove into the 7,000’s.

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Critics say the American automakers’ fight to survive may kill this muscle car revival before its rumbling engine turns over. But those critics are overlooking the target buyers. Most who want a retro-inspired muscle car weren’t born yesterday. Such buyers have a few pennies tucked away, and likely won’t be using their muscle car to drive back to college in the fall.

For such pure enthusiasts, the obscenely low prices of 2010 create an opportunity. There is one legitimate obstacle however; two-door muscle cars can be uncomfortable around town and completely out of the question for backseat passengers.

Enter the Dodge Magnum SRT8. The testosterone-infused Magnum offers La-Z-Boy-like seating for five, a wagon hatchback and a 425-horsepower V-8 as powerful as the 7.0 liter HEMI’s of yore.

As with the popular retro Mustang and Camaro, the Magnum can be had with a mileage-friendly V-6, a standard V-8, or an even more powerful (in this case, insanely powerful) performance V-8. At the top of the Magnum’s engine chain is a Nascar-like HEMI with 425 horsepower. For baby boomers hoping to relive the Muscle Car era, look no further. This over-the-top rocket hangs at the track with Audi and BMW super car sedans that cost more than twice as much.

If Tim the Toolman Taylor drove a wagon, this would be the one. The entire vehicle shakes when the 6.1 Liter V-8 rumbles to life. And yes, you can smoke nearly any living, rumbling car off the line – many late model Porsches and BMW convertibles included.

Probably the only thing un-muscle-carish about the Magnum SRT-8 is just how comfortable the interior is –- and not just for a high school kid and his girlfriend. We’re talking truly comfortable for five grown adults.

Also unlike some muscle cars of yore, the Magnum can stop and turn nearly as well as it can snap passenger’s necks, thanks to huge 20-inch tires and Brembo brakes.

Best of all, this unrivaled muscle wagon can be had for less than $39k. (Between you and me, the only five-seaters this powerful that I’ve driven are the $100k Audi S8, with it’s Lamborghini V-10,  the equally pricey BMW M5 sedan and the more affordable $55k Cadillac CTS-V). Not only does the Magnum sprint to 60 in just five seconds. It powers on past 100 mph in less than 13 seconds.

Whether you’re looking for such Mopar muscle or simply for a retro-styled cruiser, the Dodge Magnum is worth your examination. Finally, a domestic hotrod that can smoke import racers off the line and look like a million bucks at the same time.

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With muscle car cues from 60’s and 70’s, the Dodge Magnum blends
contemporary ergonomics with classic styling.

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