For 2006, the Dodge Magnum’s big news is the SRT8 version, powered by a 425 hp, 6.1-litre V8 Hemi engine that manages zero to 100 km/h in the low five-second range.

There are several changes to the regular Magnum line-up, including bright grille and body moulding inserts on the SXT; fog lamps, body-colour heated mirrors and bright headlamp bezels added to SXT; new interior chrome and brushed silver accents; an eight-way power passenger seat replaces the six-way; there’s a cruise control indicator light on the instrument panel; a new seatbelt alert; an audio input jack is added to the CD stereo; and a new optional DVD video entertainment system available for the centre console. The 3.5-litre RWD models get a five-speed automatic transmission, the R/T gets a tire pressure monitor warning lamp, and there are new 17- and 18-inch aluminum wheels. On the exterior, Silver Steel Grey Metallic Clear Coat replaces Mineral Grey, and Stone White replaces Cool Vanilla. On the R/T’s Convenience Group II package, automatic headlamps and express-up windows have been added.

The Magnum is the wagon version of DaimlerChrysler’s LX line-up, alongside its siblings Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger. Like the 300, it’s available in front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive.

The base SE model comes with a 2.7-litre, V6 engine that makes 190 hp, and while it brings the price down, it’s somewhat anemic when it comes to hauling the big car around. Standard features on the SE include air conditioning, four-speed automatic, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and traction control, electronic stability control, speed-sensitive power locks, power mirrors and windows, CD with four speakers, 17-inch steel wheels and rear wiper.

The mid-line SXT has a 3.5-litre V6 that makes 250 hp and is an excellent compromise between the smaller six and the V8. The mid-line also includes a cargo cover and net, four-speed automatic, heavy-duty engine cooling, power driver’s seat and 17-inch aluminum wheels. The SXT can be ordered in RWD or AWD.

The R/T features the Hemi, a 5.7-litre V8 with Multi-Displacement System. In light load conditions, such as highway cruising, it seamlessly shuts off four cylinders (it’s virtually impossible to detect it) for added fuel economy. The package also includes a five-speed automatic with manual shift mode, dual exhaust, chrome headlamp bezels, leather seats, six-speaker Boston Acoustics stereo and 18-inch polished aluminum wheels. The R/T also comes in RWD or AWD.

The SRT8 uses a 6.1-litre V8 Hemi engine with five-speed automatic; it does not have the MDS feature but is full power all the time. It comes with all of the R/T’s features, plus unique front and rear fascias, satin finish bumper inserts, body-colour rear spoiler, mesh grille insert, brake duct system, sport seats with red accent stitching, modified air cleaner and induction system, upgraded half-shafts, 20-inch forged wheels, lower ride height, red-painted brake calipers, custom cluster graphics with 300 km/h speedometer and increased output fuel pump.

The Magnum is definitely an in-your-face vehicle, with an aggressive front end, muscular stance and “chopped” styling. Its low profile results from a high beltline that can make rear-seat passengers feel a little lost in its depths, and compromises rear visibility.

The rear hatch is cut deeply into the roof, and it swings straight up and out of the way, making it easy to load the bi-level floor. Valuables can be hidden under its tri-fold panel, or the panel can be locked into position to create various-sized cargo areas.

Much of the Magnum’s engineering comes straight from Mercedes-Benz, and while the ride is stiff, handling is crisp and agile; unlike Hemi-powered cars of old, this one can do more than just go in a straight line. The interior contains a lot of plastic and the dash looks Spartan, but then, something’s got to give when you can get this much power under forty grand. The SRT8 just adds to the fun: there’s just something so right about a 425 horsepower station wagon.

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