Chopped, dropped and channeled, the 2006 Dodge Magnum SRT-8’s rumble reverberates in your ears long after the engine is shut down, its source one of the coolest station wagons you’ve ever seen. When you hear this Magnum’s exhaust note, you know there have been a good number of modifications performed under the hood, and you’re right. This, quite honestly, is the most impressive station wagon we’ve driven in many miles. It may not possess the sophistication of a European sports wagon, but who cares. In fact, after a few short minutes behind the wheel of the 2006 Dodge Magnum SRT-8, we forgot all about those wagons from across the Atlantic.
The SRT-8’s power would have been enough to inspire desire just a short few years ago, but today a vehicle must deliver more than straight-line performance. And deliver the Magnum SRT-8 does. This car is more than just powerful – it handles well, and the surprising thing is that it’s not a custom hot-rod hopped up on aftermarket parts. You can buy the Magnum SRT-8 directly from your local Dodge dealer.
In the SRT lineup there is just one version of each model, at least for right now. The way Dan Knott, director of Street and Racing Technology, and his team play the game, just about anything can happen and usually it does – to the great delight of enthusiasts. We sure haven’t been disappointed by what has emerged from behind those SRT garage doors.
All SRT vehicles are aimed at one thing: Performance. To create the 2006 Dodge Magnum SRT-8, engineers made a gamut of changes over the base Magnum but with the understanding that drivers have to use these vehicles on city streets, and that most SRT owners generally drive their cars more frequently than buyers of other high-output vehicles. You see, SRT contends that its customers are driving enthusiasts, not car collectors.
The 2006 Dodge Magnum SRT-8 falls right into the profile of the SRT philosophy. It’s an exciting, responsive automobile with the drivability of a traditional family car, but with the performance and handling of a sports car.
Nuts and Bolts
Under the 2006 Dodge Magnum SRT-8’s hood sits a Hemi V8,bored out to 6.1 liters (the normal Hemi measures 5.7 liters of displacement), thus giving it just the right touch of muscle to perform its magic. Improved intake flow, induced by a ram-type intake manifold, and reworked combustion chambers help elevate the horsepower and torque of this beefy V8 by 25 percent over the 5.7-liter unit, to 425-horsepower and 420 lb.-ft., respectively. In fact, at 69.8 horsepower per liter, this motor’s output exceeds even that of the legendary “Street Hemi” from the late 1960s and early 1970s. Power is directed to the rear wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission equipped with a specially calibrated AutoStick manual-shifting mode.
While the drivetrain’s performance is quite impressive, the tweaking of the engine is only the beginning. Bringing a car like the Magnum SRT-8 to a stop is certainly a challenge, but doing so with a vehicle that weighs in at a hefty 4,260 pounds is a work of engineering prowess. The SRT-8’s Brembo braking system consists of big ventilated discs at all four corners, with red-painted four-piston calipers in residence all around. Dodge says the Magnum SRT-8 will stop from 60 mph in just 110 feet.
However, the dilemma with some antilock braking systems is their tendency to initiate action far too early. Most performance car owners have a better feel for what the car is doing, so for those with elevated abilities, the SRT folks allow this Magnum to reach a higher braking threshold before initiating ABS. This also goes for most of the Magnum SRT-8’s other electronically controlled features, including the stability control system.
As you would expect, the Dodge Magnum SRT-8 is equipped with a performance suspension that includes SRT-tuned dampers, specially tailored spring rates, unique bushings, and larger stabilizer bars. The Magnum SRT-8 sits lower than a stock Magnum, and that power rack-and-pinion steering features excellent on-center feel as well as precise turn-in response.
The whole package rides on beautiful 20-inch forged-aluminum wheels shod with high-performance Goodyear F1 three-season tires with asymmetrical tread. Sized 245/45R20 in the front and 255/45R20 tires in the rear, the Goodyears put plenty of rubber to the road.
Driving the Dodge Magnum SRT-8 is an emotional adventure, beginning when you fire up the big V8. There was no doubt, after the first twist of the ignition key, that we were in for a treat on this test drive. And clearly, Dodge has faith in this car, because part of our driving was conducted at a closed track where we could let the car, er, wagon loose, driving it as hard as we liked to experience just how well it reacted to maximum acceleration, maximum braking, maximum cornering – or all three. Let’s just say it goes like a striped cat and can stop on the proverbial dime.
It goes without saying that with this big SRT-modified Hemi V8 sitting under the hood, the 2006 Dodge Magnum SRT-8 will spin the tires as much as you like. Be patient with the gas pedal and the car will launch from a dead stop to 60 mph in about five seconds, trailing a Viper sports car by just more than a second. Dodge also claims quarter-mile trap times in the mid 13s.
But acceleration is only part of the equation when it comes to sporting machines. performance cars must handle well, too, and this Dodge easily wins our stamp of approval. We find it difficult to believe a vehicle that is as large and hefty as this Magnum can negotiate a twisting mountain road with the finesse of the SRT-8 version. And though a manual transmission isn’t offered, the standard AutoStick is fun to use. Just slap the shifter over to manual mode and toggle up and down through the gears.
Screaming down the front straight of the autocross course then jumping on the brakes for a hard right turn finds a firm pedal that instantly responds to input. As the Magnum SRT-8 turns in, we get off the brakes, adjust our line, and roll into the throttle for the exit and a sharp left. The Magnum sticks incredibly well, belying its size and heft. Through a slalom course, the Magnum dances through the cones, coming ever so close to sending them flying but never losing its composure. Just as in a game of horseshoes, close counts here.
Then, as we come around the last hairpin turn and see the timing light in the distance, we confidently stand on the accelerator and feel the rear wheels start to break loose. But the sticky 245/45R20 front and 255/45R20 rear Goodyear F1 three-season tires grip and launch us full force toward our objective. Flashing through the gate our lap time appears up on the big screen, showing numbers that are seconds faster than our earlier runs. The Magnum SRT-8 flawlessly responded to every request, and delivered an exhilarating ride while making better lap times appear effortless.
After our first drive of the 2006 Dodge Magnum SRT-8, we could live with this car day in and day out, despite its prodigious thirst for premium fuel. Not only does it offer a comfortable interior and a flashy exterior design blended with plenty of interior space, it’s an intense blast to drive.
It may be difficult to imagine a large, practical, and versatile station wagon ever being thought of as a performance-oriented vehicle, but that is exactly what the 2006 Dodge Magnum SRT-8 is. It transcends the usual sport wagon image, and not only does it look cool, it is the ultimate in a cool, hot-rodded wagon, and the design works well at accommodating so much of what busy folks need in their vehicles today.
Noticeably different from a normal Magnum, the SRT-8’s wide, fat performance tires are mounted on equally large and stylish 20-inch forged aluminum wheels. We are not overly fond of some of the larger diameter wheels we see on the road, but the ones Dodge has chosen for the Magnum SRT-8 work well.
From any angle, the Magnum SRT-8 looks aggressive. In fact, it looks as though it is going to eat any challenger’s lunch. The big crosshair signature grille is more ominous than on other Magnums thanks to its mesh insert, but that impression might have something to do with the SRT-8’s half-inch lower stance, too. The SRT-8 also gets fat 3.5-inch rear exhaust outlets, which look terrific. Order your Magnum SRT-8 in any color you like, as long as it’s black, silver, or red.
What’s equally cool about the Dodge Magnum SRT-8 is the fact that under that bad-boy image, it’s a station wagon. Look toward every other high-performance car on the streets and you’ll rarely find one to use for hauling around a load of two-by-fours or an eight-foot ladder. Just be sure to lash things down because the urge to run hard could overcome you at anytime.
One trick design element of all Magnums is the way the rear tailgate opens. The hinges are positioned forward of the normal placement, midway between the C- and D-pillars, which allows the door to swing high and wide, creating easy access to as much as 71.6 cubic feet of rear cargo area. Not only can you carry a great deal of unusually shaped cargo in the Magnum SRT-8, you can easily load and unload the stuff.
Entering and exiting the front sport seats is quite easy, and the rear doors open wide to offer good access to the rear seat. Try saying that about your typical sports car. The cabin comes straight from the regular Magnum, dressed up with special trim and a 180-mph speedometer.
The Dodge Magnum is a station wagon. Isn’t that a dull design to use for a performance car? While some might think the Magnum’s exterior design would get stale quickly because it’s a wagon, the lines are radical and edgy, and we think it’s got a long shelf life. Cool aspects about the SRT-8 are the giant forged aluminum wheels, lowered suspension, and subtle but effective styling tweaks that give it an aggressive appearance.
Is the Dodge Magnum SRT-8 really fun to drive, or is it just big wheels and a slammed appearance? We had so much fun driving the Magnum SRT-8 that the Dodge folks nearly had to pry the keys from our hands. The growl of the exhaust reminds that a powerful, 425-horsepower V8 is sitting under the hood and that all we had to do was tickle the accelerator pedal to make the Magnum snap to attention.
Why buy the 2006 Dodge Magnum SRT-8 when I can get a 5.7-liter, 340-horsepower V8 Magnum RT for about $30,000, almost $8,000 less than the SRT-8? Think of the 2006 Dodge Magnum SRT-8 as a Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG Wagon for half price, and you see the value in the car. And for that extra $8,000, you get 85 more horsepower coupled with Euro-grade braking, steering, and suspension hardware. The Magnum RT is a fast car in a straight line. The Magnum SRT-8 is a fast car carving any line.
Test Vehicle: 2006 Dodge Magnum SRT-8
Price Range: $37,995 (including $675 destination charge)
Engine Size and Type: 6.1-liter V8
Engine Horsepower: 425 at 6,000 rpm
Engine Torque: 420 lb.-ft. at 4,800 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed automatic with AutoStick
Curb weight, lbs.: 4,260
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): N/A
Length: 197.7 inches
Width: 74.1 inches
Wheelbase: 120 inches
Height: 57.9 inches
Leg room (front/rear): 41.8/40.2 inches
Head room (front/rear): 38.7/38.1 inches
Max. Seating Capacity: 5
Max. Cargo Volume: 71.6 cubic feet
Competitors: Audi A4 Avant, Audi A6 Avant, Audi S4 Avant, BMW 3 Series Wagon, BMW 5 Series Wagon, BMW X3, BMW X5, Cadillac SRX, Chevrolet TrailBlazer SS, Infiniti FX, Jaguar X-Type Sportwagon, Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8, Land Rover Range Rover Sport, Mercedes-Benz E-Class Wagon, Mercedes-Benz M-Class, Porsche Cayenne V6, Saab 9-3 SportCombi, Saab 9-5 SportCombi, Volkswagen Passat Wagon, Volkswagen Touareg, Volvo V70 R, Volvo XC90 V8
Photos courtesy of DaimlerChrysler and Dan Lyons