2006 Dodge Magnum SRT-8
2006 Dodge Magnum SRT-8; photo by Peter Bleakney. Click image to enlarge


By Chris Chase

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Dodge Magnum, 2005-2007

You could say 2005 was a “big” year for Chrysler. That was the model year that saw the return of rear-wheel drive to the automaker’s car line-up, in the form of the Dodge Magnum wagon and its sedan-bodied platform mates, the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger (the latter arriving later in 2005 as a 2006 model).

These cars were a big hit because of their rear-drive layout and available V8 power. Less-potent V6 models were offered too, as was all-wheel drive.

For the Magnum, the base SE model’s power came from a 2.7-litre V6 (190 hp). The mid-range SXT got a 3.5-litre V6 (250 hp) and the R/T used Chrysler’s ubiquitous 5.7-litre Hemi V8 motor (340 hp). In 2005, all six-cylinder cars got a four-speed automatic transmission, while V8 models featured a five-speed automatic. For 2006, 3.5-litre cars got the five-speed transmission, too. That year also brought the Magnum SRT8, which was powered by a monstrous 6.1-litre version of the Hemi V8 that made 425 horsepower.

Verdict

Highs: Cool looks; wide range of available engines
Lows: Fairly thirsty; rear-wheel drive not ideal for a Canadian winter

You’d never guess it from the styling or the all-American powertrains, but these cars were based on a previous-generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class platform – one of the few good things Chrysler got out of its short-lived merger with Mercedes.

The Magnum’s wagon body style makes it the most practical of these so-called LX cars (Charger/Magnum/300), but the low roofline means that there’s less cargo space here with the rear seats in place than in many smaller wagons.

The Magnum’s fuel consumption numbers vary widely – not surprising, considering the vast array of engine options here. The smaller V6 got Natural Resources Canada ratings of 11.4 L/100 km (city) and 7.7 L/100 km (hwy), while opting for the 3.5-litre engine upped consumption to 12.2 and 8.1 L/100 km (city and hwy, respectively). The Hemi-powered version was rated at 13.9 and 8.8 L/100 km (city and hwy). Adding all-wheel drive to the 3.5-litre model had a significant impact, creating fuel consumption on par with the rear-drive Hemi car. Strangely, all-wheel drive Hemi models actually do slightly better in the city than the rear-drive version. Go for the SRT8 model, and the numbers rise dramatically, to 16.5 and 10.9 L/100 km (city and hwy); its 6.1-litre V8 is the only one that requires premium fuel.

2006 Dodge Magnum SRT-8
2006 Dodge Magnum SRT-8; photo by Chris Chase. Click image to enlarge

Common trouble spots include leaking transmissions (fluid leaks out around an electrical connector in the transmission case) and a shifter that won’t move out of park, caused by a broken plastic clip in the shifter assembly; click here for a DIY fix with photos

In cars with remote locks, the key fob transmits a signal to the car that the key is the right one. When the fob battery dies, the car won’t start, and the remote lock/unlock function won’t work.

In V8 cars, a noisy cooling fan is likely caused by a part of the fan housing touching the fan blades.

Some owners of cars with the optional power moonroof complain that it doesn’t close properly. This has been addressed in the U.S. by way of a few Technical Service Bulletins.

2006 Dodge Magnum SRT-8
2006 Dodge Magnum SRT-8; photo by Chris Chase. Click image to enlarge

Also, look out for power window problems, caused by faulty window regulators.

Interestingly, despite the Dodge Charger and Magnum being virtually the same car (with different bodies, obviously), the Magnum gets a “far worse than average” used car rating, while the Charger gets an average to above-average rating.

Crash safety is good: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the Magnum five stars in frontal impact tests, and four and five stars (front and rear occupant protection) in side impact testing.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) doesn’t have test results for the Magnum, but the similar Charger sedan earned a “good” rating in that organization’s frontal offset crash test. In side impact tests, a Charger without the optional side airbags scored a “poor” rating, and upgrading to a car with side airbags only improved things to “marginal.”

2006 Dodge Magnum SRT-8
2006 Dodge Magnum SRT-8; photo by Chris Chase. Click image to enlarge

An interesting note is that the NHTSA and Natural Resources Canada both classify the Magnum as an SUV.

Between the Magnum’s launch in 2005 and now, cars from that year are worth about half of their original MSRPs. According to Canadian Red Book, that means you could get a Magnum SE for about $14,000, while a rear-wheel drive R/T model is worth about $19,000. For 2007 models, the SE carries a value of just under $20,000, while that rear-drive R/T version is worth just under $31,000; the SRT8’s value is around $36,000.

A 2006 Magnum SXT is quite attractive at less than $19,000, while the R/T seems like a decent value too, at $23,600.

Despite what I’d call a strictly average reliability history, this is one car I think is worth a look, particularly if you crave a practical, reasonably-priced car that doesn’t scream “soccer parent”. While the snorty Hemi V8 is a very nice engine, the Magnum does just fine in everyday use with the 3.5-litre engine. Get yourself familiar with the known issues (the forums listed below are good resources), have any prospective purchase checked out by a trusted mechanic and you should be set.


Online resources

For a start, check out LXForums.com. The general Magnum discussion section is busy, even if much of the talk is about performance and cosmetic modifications. Keep looking and you’ll find some more useful technical stuff. Then there’s the Knowledge Base, a dedicated section for Magnum how-tos and do-it-yourself fixes and maintenance stuff. Also, look up the Magnum section at DodgeTalk.com. There are pages upon pages of topics here, though they’re not organized in any discernable manner. The Magnum section in the Edmunds.com forums is pretty good, too. There’s a not-very-busy Magnum section at DodgeForum.com; CustomMagnums.com caters to the owners who are into modifying their cars; and the SRT8 Owners Club is for owners of Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep SRT models.


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First Drives:

Test Drives:


Recalls

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2005299; Units affected: 19,747 (includes other models)

2005: On certain vehicles, the cup plug which retains the park pawl anchor shaft in the 42RLE automatic transmission could be missing or not properly staked in its bore, potentially allowing the shaft to move out of position and preventing the transmission from being placed in the PARK position. If this occurs and the parking brake is not applied, the vehicle may roll away and cause an accident without warning. Correction: Dealers will install a bracket to ensure that the park pawl anchor shaft is retained in the proper position.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2006102; Units affected: 654 (includes other models)

2006: On certain vehicles equipped with a 2.7-litre engine, the exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) tube may contact the brake tubes, which may result in a brake fluid leak and potential engine compartment fire. A brake fluid leak may also result in extended stopping distances. Correction: Dealers will inspect the brake tubes for damage and replace if necessary. A clip will also be installed to secure the brake tubes to the right front shock tower in order to maintain proper clearance to the EGR tube.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2006373; Units affected: 5,886 (includes other models)

2007: On certain vehicles, the Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) control module software may cause the rear brakes to lock up during certain braking conditions. This could result in a loss of vehicle control and cause a crash without warning. Correction: Dealers will reprogram the ABS electronic control unit.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2006218; Units affected: 345 (includes other models)

2007: On certain vehicles equipped with the 42RLE automatic transmission, the Powertrain Control Module (PCM) may cause a momentary lockup of the drive wheels if the vehicle is traveling over 65 km/h and the operator shifts from drive to neutral and back to drive. Correction: Dealers will reprogram the PCM.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2004227; Units affected: 1,452 (includes other models)

2005: On certain vehicles, the bolt that secures the front shoulder belt Adjustable Turning Loop (ATL) D-ring to the ATL bracket may not be tightened to the appropriate torque level. This may result in the front seat occupants being improperly restrained in the event of a vehicle crash. Correction: Dealers will inspect the ATL bolt, and tighten as necessary to the specified torque level.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2004226; Units affected: 2,539 (includes other models)

2005: On certain vehicles, the fasteners that secure the battery positive cable to the bulkhead pass-through stud may be missing or not tightened to the appropriate specifications. This could result in a potential instrument panel fire. Correction: Dealers will visually inspect and re-torque the fastener on both sides of the bulkhead pass-through stud. Any fasteners found to be missing or damaged will be replaced.


Manufacturer’s Website

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

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