Wagons foughtÂ long and hard against the overwhelming army of minivans that spilled onto the scene in the middle of the 1980s, but by the dawn of the next decade it was clear they were facing a grim future. Full-size wagons had once been the vehicle of choice for families who needed a way to transport all of the kids and luggage on a vacation or across town to soccer practice, but minivans presented a cheaper, roomier and more appealing option that quickly spelled doom for wagon sales. The first to bite the dust were the big, sedan-based wagons from Ford and General Motors, and eventually the mid-size Camry and Accord wagons would also disappear. Aside from the offerings of stalwarts Volvo and Subaru, it became difficult to find this class of vehicle outside of the compact market segment.
It is perhaps most surprising that Dodge, a company which remained firmly on the sidelines throughout the full-size station wagon battles that raged in the 1980s and early 1990s was the one automaker to bring back the idea of a rear-wheel drive, V-8-powered family hauler. In fact, given that it was Dodge which introduced the market to the concept of the minivan at the end of 1983, the automaker was perhaps more directly responsible than any other for their demise. However, the injection of engineering smarts that had resulted from Chrysler's merger with Daimler-Benz meant that Dodge now had access to a very modern sedan platform that was exactly the right length for the addition of a covered cargo area. In 2005, hot on the heels of the popular Chrysler 300C, the Dodge Magnum muscle wagon was born. With the availability of a high horsepower V-8 engine combined with all-wheel drive, it seemed as though Detroit finally had an answer to the German sleds that had dominated the sport wagon scene for almost tens years.
Of course, Dodge realized that no matter how impressive the Magnum might be, there was still a considerable buyer base who were not interested in a vehicle quite that big. The car company had recently ceased production of the popular Neon and were looking to fill a niche in their entry-level segment. Instead of returning to the tried and true formula of a four door sedan, Dodge instead went with an upright, hatch inspired wagon. This article talks about the two best used wagons available from Dodge, the Magnum and the Nitro, which both present very different takes on a traditional automotive concept.
2005 - 2007 Dodge Magnum
The 2005 - 2007 Dodge Magnum manages to co-opt a significant amount of the same aggressive exterior styling found in the Dodge Charger, but avoids some of the vehicle's more over the top features, particularly when it comes to the headlight treatment. The overall effect is one of confident strength, making the vehicle especially appealing to those who require the utility of a wagon but fear sliding into automotive anonymity as a result of purchasing a bland minivan or crossover.
The excitement continues under the hood, where base Magnums feature a 2.7-liter V-6 that generates 190 horsepower and 190 lb-ft of torque. The majority of wagons feature either this motor or the larger, 3.5-liter V-6 that produces 250 horsepower. While each of these engines do a good job of getting the Magnum around town, gear heads will most likely be drawn to the Hemi V-8 option, which produces 340 horsepower and a stump-pulling 390 lb-ft of torque. Both 6-cylinder engines are matched with a 4-speed automatic while the Hemi engine is treated to a 5-speed Autostick transmission that allows for some manual control over shifting on the part of the driver. All-wheel drive is also available as an option.
The 2005 - 2007 Dodge Magnum's interior is quite practical, providing 71 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded down along with several storage bins designed to keep cargo from sliding around the rear floor. This places the vehicle squarely in the same range as many mid-size SUV's when it comes to overall volume. Seats are comfortable and rear passengers have nearly as much space as those in the front, with R/T trim buyers benefiting from leather covers and a much more powerful stereo.
With no other recent domestic full-size used wagons to choose from, the 2005 - 2007 Dodge Magnum owns the market, and also stands up well when compared to competitors from both Europe and Japan.
2007 Dodge Caliber
Straddling the line between wagon and crossover is the 2007 Dodge Caliber. The vehicle manages to combine the high seating position found in small SUV's with the tall roofline of the Chrysler PT Cruiser. There is also the added attraction of an available all-wheel drive system sweetening the deal. The Caliber is a unique replacement for the standard disposable compact automobile and allows many drivers to own something a little more out of the ordinary than they might otherwise be able to afford.
At its heart, the Caliber is designed as an economy car, and this is reflected by the base 1.8-liter, 148 horsepower 4-cylinder engine which sees 28 miles per gallon in the city and 32 miles per gallon in highway driving. A 2.0-liter unit is available in mid-level trim vehicles and bumps power up by an additional 10 horses, while range-topping Calibers avail themselves of a 165 horsepower 2.4-liter engine that also pitches in 172 lb-ft of torque. This final motor is found exclusively with a continuously-variable automatic transmission, while the first two can be ordered with a 5-speed manual in place of the slush box.
The 2007 Dodge Caliber's unique dimensions allow it to offer a fairly impressive amount of interior room when compared to other compact vehicles. Dodge is counting on this particular feature to help lure families out of cramped economy sedans and into their spacious wagon. The vehicle's features are focused on functionality, but buyers can equip their Caliber with a refrigerated compartment designed to hold beverages, along with nooks for storing cell phones and MP3 players. Materials quality is along the lines that most would expect in a vehicle at an entry-level price, but Dodge has done their best to ensure that the Caliber never feels cheap. This vehicle's unique design and genre-busting attributes help to make it an uncommon used wagon choice for novelty-seeking shoppers.