By on July 27, 2011

A few weeks back, SRT CEO and Chrysler Group Design boss Ralph Gilles hinted that a new LX-platform station wagon could be coming back, as the NYT reported:

“With the Magnum, we owned the station wagon segment,” Mr. Gilles said. “It was always a pleasure to go to car shows and trade fairs and see the number of Magnums that owners had personalized with such obvious loving care.”

Asked if a design for a second-generation Magnum might be found in one of his sketch pads, Mr. Gilles just smiled.

“Stay tuned,” he said. “Great things are coming. That’s all I can say.”

But now Gilles is changing his tune completely, telling the Fox Car Report that the rumor simply came about because the launch event was held in California (one of the Magnum’s biggest markets), and Gilles noted that he saw them “everywhere” and that every one of them was customized. While noting that the he “needs to get to the bottom of that” customized Magnum phenomenon, Gilles made it clear that the “rumor” was just him waxing nostalgic and that “we’re focusing on the products we have.”

But if Chrysler is desperate to make inroads in California, and the Magnum resonated there, might there be some sense in a neo-Magnum? After all, Sergio Marchionne has noted with disapproval how few variations are available for the LX platform, and said he would not have re-invested in an update if it were up to him (and really, putting an LX update ahead of a good C- or D-segment platform was a pretty shockingly poor business decision). On the other hand, the Magnum only ever had one year over 50k units… and that might not even be worth the cost of even a rebody. What say you?


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47 Comments on “Ask The Best And Brightest: Is A New Dodge Magnum A No-Brainer Or A Flop Waiting To Happen?...”

  • avatar

    Oh, please, please, please…

    Actually, a 300 wagon would be better: a little more bling and a little less yee-haw would probably have done better given who was buying Magnums.. I’ll see if I still have my dad’s Aspen badges.

    And if this is the neo-Magnum, could we call the old one the cro-Magnum?

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for the reminder… I’ve included a few images of the 300C Touring that sold in Europe for a while (as well as a few Magnum shots just to remind anyone who may have forgotten what it is).

    • 0 avatar

      One interesting point about the 300 Touring is that they were built in North America for a short while. It was odd to see them on trucks out of Chrysler’s plant up here.

      Also, why no Challenger on the graph?

  • avatar

    I don’t think the segment needs a halo vehicle. Function over form. Making it useable and efficient will open it to a bigger market than let’s say a CTS-V wagon.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    I always rather liked the look of the Magnum. It was the “Dodge” part the kept me from considering purchase.

  • avatar

    Even Volvo stopped selling new station wagons in the US. The segment is dead, it was nice while it lasted.

  • avatar

    I was seriously thinking about buying one but one look at the interior, and perhaps the ugliest steering wheel ever designed, kept me from biting. Given the improvements Chrysler has made on their interiors I would definitely consider a new version.

  • avatar

    The segment is NOT dead. The problem is that no manufacturer has figured out what it is yet. In (recent) history, wagons have been marketed and bought by people who could not afford the more popular SUV’s. Wagon versions, when offered, were/are stripper verisons of sedans with limited options. This is no longer the case. There is a STRONG undercurrent of resentment towards SUV/CUV vehicles and there is a market for something with the same level of interior space, better handling characteristics, better fuel economy, and a roof rack you can actually reach when taking out your kayaks and mountain bikes.

    As soon as manufacturers figure out that a wagon should be a performance biased driver’s car instead of a poor man’s SUV, they will sell like hotcakes.

    Simple Recipe for a great wagon:

    hot turbo 4 or small turbo 6
    AWD (to compete for would-be SUV shoppers)
    put a stick in it as an option (for performace credibility)
    Agressive styling (not mommy car styling)
    a good propietary roof rack system
    PRice it under 30k and make sure it does better than 30 mpg on the highway.

    Ideally, the wagon will ONLY be sold as a performace version. The prius sells as a status symbol because it looks like nothing else to the average viewer. Make the wagon version the same thing.

    Want a marketing campaign to go with it?
    release the car at Haloween and have one kid dressed as luke skywalker and another dressed as a wookie. Put them in front of a white wagon you want to sell and title the ad “It’ll do the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs”

    dads will flock to buy it.

    Jsut be smart this time and don’t name the car after a condom.

    • 0 avatar

      I would buy that bullet-list.

      I’m shopping now and what I really wish existed was a wagon-ized Kia Optima with the turbo engine (in the 26K range). Great warranty, 270+HP, 34MPG highway and looks like a spaceship if you get it in black or white (the hybrid looks AMAZINGLY nice in black).

      The Jetta Sportwagen TDI is right there, but the reliability questions (and service costs) are pretty nagging concerns.

    • 0 avatar

      Agree on the bullet list, but I would balance the styling with visibility if you want to grab CUV buyers. I never drove a Magnum, but I’ve been in a few 300C’s, and the visibility is abysmal. It’s like sitting in a pillbox.

    • 0 avatar

      Yup, bought one, in 2005. Legacy GT wagon, 5-speed. Agreed, it doesn’t reach 30 mpg anywhere except on long dull trips.

      These didn’t sell well, and Subaru killed the line. Outback XTs – Legacy GTs on tiptoe, with ugly body cladding – come only with auto boxes.

      However, they probably would sell well now, given the number of “I want to buy this car, call me” notes I find under the wipers.

    • 0 avatar


      This checklist is pretty much spot on for me. About a year ago, I was looking to replace my aging Legacy wagon, but couldn’t find anything that appealed to me.

      I looked at the new Outbacks a couple of times, and tried to like them – but couldn’t see the appeal. I neither need nor want an SUV, and buying a CUV would feel like capitulation.

      I would seriously consider a Magnum if it were offered. Although I would prefer a 6MT, the 8MT wouldn’t be a deal breaker for me.

    • 0 avatar

      Sundowner: i disagree on your idea of a performance wagon only. When I bought my Mazda 6 hatchback I chose it over the wagon because that only came with 6-cylinder. Wagons are bought by practical people that want something nicer anc cheaper than a Van or SUV. those people don’t want to buy premium gas, expensive tires etc. they basically want a Camry but with much more trunk.

      the crows you talk about 9here on TTAC mostly) already can buy audi wagons etc.

  • avatar

    With the pseudo connection to Mercedes E Class underpinnings, they could make the modern version of the once ubiquitous Mercedes wagons.

  • avatar

    If we had dropped “manual transmission” from our list of requirements when shopping for a family vehicle for my wife to drive, I would have insisted that we test drive a Magnum.

    putting an LX update ahead of a good C- or D-segment platform was a pretty shockingly poor business decision

    The LX cars were still selling, but the platform had been in production basically unchanged for 5 years. If it went much longer without updates, critics would say they were letting a profitable product line “die on the vine”, like the Ford Taurus.

  • avatar

    If it’s not going to (a) sell well in North America (and it won’t), (b) serve as a halo/ brand builder in North America (and it won’t) or (c) be something that can be exported in large quantities (and it won’t), then there’s no point.

    Americans want wagons about as desperately as they want diesels, which is to say that a few do but they mostly don’t. And I say that as someone who has kind of a soft spot for wagons (don’t ask me why, because I honestly don’t know.)

    I wonder what Marchionne really has planned. My guess is that Dodge and Chrysler may shrink, and that he’s going to try to make FIAT and Ram the primary brands in the US. We’ll see in 5-10 years whether I’m proven right about that.

    • 0 avatar

      I hate to say this, but people, to a large extent, want what they’re told to want. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy to say that American’s don’t want wagons if makers don’t advertize them. What do American’s want? They want cargo space, power, and they don’t want to pay a gas guzzler tax for the power They don’t actually care about the price of gas when they buy a car, if they did, we wouldn’t have a FS pick up truck market.

      All the wants can be had in a wagon. We live in a world where freaking Porche sells a wagon and it’s universally agreed that it’s fawesome.
      All we need is a fawesome wagon for the common man.

      • 0 avatar

        I hate to say this, but people, to a large extent, want what they’re told to want. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy to say that American’s don’t want wagons if makers don’t advertize them

        This is a common refrain among people who hold unpopular tastes.

        There used to be an Accord wagon. Not any more.

        There used to be a Camry wagon. Not any more.

        There used to be a Taurus wagon. Not any more.

        There used to be a Nissan Stanza wagon. Not any more.

        These are all mainstream, bread-and-butter midsize or larger wagons, produced by reasonably successful companies, which were all discontinued. Do you really believe that all of these companies are completely out of touch with American tastes?

      • 0 avatar

        There used to be an Accord wagon. Not any more.
        >Behold the Crosstour
        There used to be a Camry wagon. Not any more.
        >Behold the Venza
        There used to be a Taurus wagon. Not any more.
        >Behold the Edge
        There used to be a Nissan Stanza wagon. Not any more.
        >Behold the Murano

        The wagon lives on albeit in a larger, taller, more profitable (aha!) form. Times change; tastes change. Initially, the wagon was supplanted by the minivan, since supplanted by the SUV, since supplanted by the CUV, to be supplanted in the future by something we haven’t thought of yet.

      • 0 avatar

        The wagon lives on albeit in a larger, taller, more profitable (aha!) form. Times change; tastes change. Initially, the wagon was supplanted by the minivan, since supplanted by the SUV, since supplanted by the CUV, to be supplanted in the future by something we haven’t thought of yet.

        That’s right. These change over time, and some things just don’t come back. (When was the last time that you saw a rumble seat?)

        In the case of wagons, I suspect that the deluge of cheap small pickup trucks in the 70s and 80s helped to pave the way for consumer acceptance of the minivan and the SUV, which in turn led to the CUV. Drivers became accustomed to truck-like vehicles as being something more than just for work. They grew to like and even prefer them, and then were willing to embrace other styles that had at least some of the same characteristics, such as having a raised seating position.

        (Personally, I don’t get it — I much prefer the feeling of a real car. But these are obviously not designed with my tastes in mind, and there’s more money to be made from serving others’ preferences than from serving mine.)

  • avatar

    What will my ‘urban’ subprime customers buy in 2018 without the Magnum?

    • 0 avatar

      “What will my ‘urban’ subprime customers buy in 2018 without the Magnum?”

      Ask Mr. Lang…

      Yes, yes, that was somewhat harsh, but just joking, as I don’t ascribe to that mindset, but that portion of the market, unfortunately, exists, and they do need personal transportation, but something less than a Magnum, as many could not afford to feed it and many more won’t want to.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I don’t know if I’m representative of anybody, except that I’m old enough to remember when the wagon was the ubiquitous family-mobile. Quite honestly, the mini-van fills that role now . . . and better. So, if you’re going to sell a true wagon, it needs to be cool in some way. Saab is disappearing from the planet (I own one of their wagons) and Volvo has announced that they’re not bringing any more wagons into the U.S. Which leaves VW, Audi, BMW and Benz . . . and now, Acura coming in smaller and less expensive than everyone but VW.

    The Magnum was a niche vehicle from the beginning, and as a “halo car” I’m not sure whether Chrysler is still targeting that market. The revised 300 has shed many of its gangsta attributes and its hard to imagine a wagon based on that platform will meet “Sundowner’s” parameters which, BTW, are pretty good. Although I’m a shift-for-yourself guy, my generation (the Boomers) is the last which grew up learning to use a clutch, so entreaties to bring back the manual are likely to go unanswered. In my view, DSG-type transmissions are pretty clearly the wave of the future for either extreme performance or extreme fuel economy; and torque convertor automatics will be for “luxurious wafting.” Don’t know about CVTs; the ones I’ve driven feel like the car has a rubber band for a motor.

    I confess I like the first-generation 300, even with the lackluster 3.5 liter V-6, but I could never get over the hard plastic interior. From the photos and reviews, the second generation car is much nicer inside. The revised exterior doesn’t move me one way or the other.

    But I don’t see a wagon based on this body as part of the picture.

  • avatar

    A new station wagon? Educator Dan loves wagons, along with a lot of us, so it may get a look.

    My stigma against wagons was that when they were still in style, they were very low like cars, and practicality suffered. SUV/CUV’s changed all that. Those are taller and higher off the ground, and that increases the utility they are known for even though they take a considerable hit in the MPG department.

    The Honda Crosstour is close if only it wasn’t shaped the way it is, severely impacting cargo carrying utility. The Ford Flex is the modern wagon, ideally suited to cargo and people. My only “nay” to the Flex is, it’s a gas-hog. Somewhere in between a traditional wagon and its modern equivalent is needed. Probably the most practical wagons are the Audi. I always felt the old GM Celebrity and its brethren and the Ford Taurus/Sable twins were ideal, too.

    A new Magnum? Only if it doesn’t resemble something it doesn’t want to admit to!

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Here’s something strange. I can get my Sweetie to love on a Flex wagon (especially if the roof is nice contrasting color, love the Purple body/Silver roof combo), but she doesn’t care for the Magnum – even in stock form it’s too “gansta” for her. I’d love one with the new Chrysler V6.

      • 0 avatar

        Come down to the West Chester, Ohio area in my neck of the woods – this is Flex country. I see all types including the color scheme you mentioned. I love these things, but as I said the above, probably a bit too much for my wallet in the mpg dept. Truth be told, though, my wife’s CR-V only gets 21-22 mpg around town.

        For that matter, my Impala is steadily dropping in the mpg dept. too, probably due to age. I am anxious to see how it will do beginning in about two-three weeks from now!

  • avatar

    Well, pretty much everyone here knows I’m a Chrysler fan, and a Magnum owner, so it’s a no brainer for me. Please God, Yes! But, I’ll take mine in a Town and Country limited edition, with Brilliant black pearlcoat, saddle tan interior, extended sunroof, AWD, either a twin-turbo pentastar V-6, or hemi, with an 8 speed transmission, and a road and track package. Limit your sales to 5,000 – 10,000 units split between Chrysler/Lancia, and price it @ 50,000 bucks, you’d sell every one you could build. A nice halo vehicle for the brand(s) and a big profit maker, too. I’ll take one in lieu of a commission for the idea, Sergio. LOL

  • avatar

    The makers put out a wagon version of their sedans, advertise them little if at all, and them yank them after a couple years because they don’t sell well compared to the sedan they derived it from. As if wagons ever did. Ford sold a lot more Galaxies than they did Country Sedan/Squires, etc, but they cost more and most people didn’t have the need. A lot of people loved them. When SUVs started selling the 4WD was an attractive feature that no one ever put in a SW. The Magnum offered it, and were I in the market I would definitely have cross shopped an AWD Magnum with an SUV.

    Given the success Chrysler has had selling Chargers as police cars I could see depts buying a few Magnums with a police package – for sergeants, K9 units, what have you.

    Just please, please promise me that if they build a wagon with the Chrysler name on it they wont cover it with fake wood & call it a Town & Country!!

  • avatar

    It probably isn’t worth resurrecting the Magnum as a separate vehicle. As a lay out added to the existing Charger/300 line, I say why not? The sales are more likely to be incremental (even if they are minute).

    I agree with Marchionne on the idea of offering as many different layouts as possible on a high volume model. For example, I would like to see in addition to the Cruze sedan a wagon, hatchback, coupe, coupe-derived convertible, pickup truck, all under the Cruze name. Each one would contribute a little toward total sales and you can spread out the development costs over the various layouts.

  • avatar

    Hell yes! I have an ’06 Magnum SRT8. I love the car, but would love it more if had a manual transmission.

    But for all the Chrysler naysayers, it’s been the most trouble free car I’ve ever driven. Incredible engine. Great transmission. Nice suspension set up. It’s a massive car, but it can be tossed around like a much smaller car.

    But drop the 392 from the Challenger SRT8, along with the 6 speed manual, and that would be a ride.

    • 0 avatar

      A domestic, manual transmission, full size, high performance station wagon may fill the smallest possible automobile market ever imagined. Only on the internet…

  • avatar

    Judging from the graph, there were approx 170k sales of the Magnum, surely not bad from a bodystyle variation of an existing vehicle? Then again, a new C-D size car definitely trumps this time.

  • avatar

    Yes! This could save the USA, the world economy and the climate!
    Wagons! If the republicans agree to add some tax on the gas and the democrats agrees to some cost cuts. People between the east and the west cost will stop driving trucks and big SUVs and buy usable wagons instead.

  • avatar

    Bring back the AMC Pacer!

  • avatar

    To answer Ed’s question I think it is a no-brainer. Having the Magnum would add sales at a relatively small cost and would allow Chrysler/Dodge to sell it in Europe where wagons have much greater volumes. Some of the “issues” with the previous version have been rectified with the new Pentastar V6 and the upgraded interior. Also there is now less competition with the Subaru Legacy and VW Passat wagons having past on to car heaven. It would never sell huge quantities but even 20.000 sales would be useful and cars such as the Insight and Flex sell at such quantities.

  • avatar

    I think if they launched the Magnum under a less challenging name with the front end they finally put on it in 2008 it would have done better. The front fascia on the 05-07 model years was IMHO hideous. They almost completely fixed it in 2008, although the Chrysler 300’s front was always better looking.

    I test drove an SXT trim wagon in 2005 with the 3.5L V6 (R/Ts were all gone before they arrived) and thought it was plenty roomy, comfortable, handled quite well and adequately powerful even without the V8, but when I had to quickly change two lanes at once to make a turn I nearly crapped my pants as I had to gun it and go while blindly (literally) hoping there were no other vehicles in my path. Near complete inability to see if there was a car in the lanes to my right. Visibility any which way but dead forward sucked.

    Fix the front end (just use the Charger’s body panels, there was no need to change so much to be different than the Charger), fix the name, fix the visibility. It’ll do well.

  • avatar

    If I want a fuel efficient, fun to drive, useful wagon – the TDI Jetta is my pick.

    If I want a tire-smoking muscle car that looks the part as well, the Challenger is my pick.

    Is there a market for a mix of these two types of cars? I doubt it.

  • avatar

    Once rear tailgate windows became fixed and tailgates became hatches, there has been no practical reason for the traditional station wagon. Station wagons became long hatchbacks. At one time you could roll the tailgate window down and load long items into it. At one time, you could roll the windown down, drop the tailgate like a pick up truck, and load a station wagon. You can’t anymore.

    I saw the silliest thing at Best Buy. A driver was trying to put a big television into a Nissan Murano. The stupid design of this thing prevented it. The stupid hatch couldn’t close. The driver ended up using twine and trying to tie the hatch down over the load. This left the television hanging out the bottom of the vehicle. Stupid. That isn’t a station wagon. I frankly don’t know what the hell a Murano is, but that isn’t a station wagon.

    Once station wagons lost their ability to haul like a pick up truck, they lost their market. The hatch design killed them off.

    I love station wagons. I grew up in them. But the Magnum was a Dodge with a crappy interior, a silly sloping roofline and no visibility.

    I want a Rambler wagon. Or a Falcon wagon. Or a Fairlane. In today’s line up – a Fusion wagon.

    • 0 avatar

      My brother bought a Murano. He wanted a mini-van because of the utility aspect but his wife refused. They cross shopped other CUV’s but went with the Nissan because it was the best deal. Point is, the wife was making the buying decision.

      My 12 year old Accord has more cargo space than a Murano. That vehicle is all show and no utility. It’s not the modern “wagon.”

  • avatar

    They should build it. Some of Chrysler’s biggest sales successes have come from practical niche vehicles, like the original Caravan and the PT Cruiser.

    The last Magnum went up against SUVs and fizzled. But today, as millions of men contemplate trading those SUVs for a Toyota Venza (the automotive equivalent of chemical castration), the timing for a rear-wheel-drive hot rod wagon couldn’t be better.

  • avatar

    I know someone who drives a Magnum. 5 years ago he was younger and more into the “gangster” look and big engine. Today he howls about poor fuel economy and questionable build quality of the Dodge. The Magnum, along with the entire LX lineup are niche vehicles. Large in size, large engines, loud “American” styling, etc. They had a time and place, but $4.00 gasoline and recession isn’t one of them. Chrysler would be better off with a new version of the LH cars in these times.

    My honest opinion of what killed the “classic” wagon in the US is when it became standard to have fold down seatbacks in standard sedans. Suddenly you could haul larger stuff with that basic midsize car. Plenty of wagons were around long after the advent of the minivan…and even the boom of the SUV’s in the early 90’s. I think the wagon buyers are just in standard mid-size cars like I am today.

    With regard to those last mainstream wagons, last night I was out running and saw a late 90’s Merc Sable wagon in a driveway in absolute pristine condition. Almost thought of knocking on the door and seeing if it was for sale. My ’99 Accord is near perfect size for me, now all I would want to improve it is a wagon version. I don’t want some jacked up wannabe SUV. Nor do I want some European make that has less than stellar reliability, is expensive to buy, or expensive to repair. Hope the Accord can hold out long enough for my dream wagon to make it to our shores…..

  • avatar

    I’ve always had a soft spot for the Magnum, mostly because of the SRT version. I’d say go a step further: offer a four-door wagon and a two-door UTE version off the same RWD platform. I’m sick of vehicles that are clearly too high off the ground: SUV, CUV, trucks… its doesn’t matter everything is just too damn tall these days. Do people realize a lower vehicle handles better and gets better MPG?

    And if such a wagon/UTE comes out make mine a turbo 6 with paddle shifts. With decent enough tow rating and I’ll finally part with my V8 Quad Cab Dakota.

  • avatar

    I dunno – I’d probably bite on a new Dodge or Chrysler wagon version of their new cars. I just finished a round of shopping for a wagon of similar size and ended up with a very well-maintained 2004 E320 wagon. A Magnum would have been a no-brainer except for the interior. In the end, it was a toss-up between a Volvo V70, the Benz, and an A6 wagon. I love having a car with the additional utility of the wagon back-end, and don’t like driving SUVs.

    I don’t know how big the market is, but if it’s not a huge change from the sedan version then it may be worth the cost to make it. I don’t know what the numbers look like for Audi, MB, or BMW on sales for the wagon versions of their mid-sized sedans, but it can’t be that high. But for some of us, it’s exactly what we want.

    If I’m buying a wagon and being completely honest about how I’m going to use it, then I don’t give a crap about manual transmission, diesel, blah blah. I want car ride/handling/economy, the utility of the wagon back-end, and something comfortable for my family to take on a road trip. A stick and/or an oil burner are bonuses, but I still live in North America and am something of a realist.

    The Mercedes fills the bill very nicely for me, but I’ve got a warranty to cover the (serious) gremlins I’m likely to encounter over the next few years. When it’s time to replace it, I’m going to look for something similar in terms of size and shape. If there’s a Charger or 300 wagon out there, it’s likely to be at the top of my list. Otherwise, I’ll go looking for whatever is available. I’d love to buy an American car, but only if they’re making what I want.

    It’s too bad the interiors were so bad on the Chryslers. I would much rather have spent less and gotten a Magnum, but I spend 3 hours a day in the car and didn’t feel like punishing myself that bad.

  • avatar

    I didn’t understand why they canceled it in 2008…other than they uglied up the front clip on it. Which I noticed made it onto the 2011 300 now instead.

    The problem with the Magnum was it was a hatchback, not a wagon, no 3rd row seating kills it for actual wagon shoppers. I have a B-body Caprice wagon and love it, and 3rd row seating is mandatory.

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