In discussing the Magnum it is common to dwell considerably on the performance characteristics of car, since it is rare to find a station wagon with a sub-6 second time that doesn't have AMG in the name or cost close to 6 figures.
The R/T Magnum is powered by the 5.7 liter Hemi engine. While there are some grumblings about the use of the Hemi name on this engine, it does use hemispherical combustion chambers so that is good enough for me. For practical driving, the engine is very smooth and delivers a pleasant sound into the cockpit. Wives will never know (unless you let them drive it) that you've bought a muscle-car station wagon.
In these times of $60+ barrel oil, fuel economy is a priority in the minds of consumers. The hemi utilizes MDS, or 'Multi-Discplacement-System', a fancy way of saying that when you are cruising on the highway the engine shuts down 4 of the 8 cylinders to save fuel. This definately works as it turned in a very respectible 24 mpg (9.6l / 100km) on a 400km drive at 75 mph (120 km/h). This MDS is not noticible to the driver as when the gas pedal is pressed, you're instantly back up to a full 8 cylinders. Please note, if you chose to be a hooligan, your fuel economy will plummet to 13 mpg. With the giant grin you'll be wearing, you may not mind.
Living with the car is quite easy. Station wagons existed because they were practical cars to drive prior to the introduction of the minivan. They still are practical, and the Magnum allows the rear seats to fold flat, enabling quite a large cargo area for those trips to Home Depot. Lifting the cover of the rear cargo area reveals a storage area about 4 inches high. This is a great place for battery cables, first aid kit, and an emergency blanket (winter for me is a 5 month affair). Lifting that cover yields another large deep area holding a good sized spare and, oddly for those not familar with European cars, a large car battery. Pass this information onto the better half to avoid confusion when a boost is needed or given.
Inside the car everything is well laid out and easily accessible. Some have been critical of the positioning and functions of the cruise control lever, but I find it very convenient. Push in to activate, pull towards to set the speed, up to resume/accelerate or down to coast. I never get it confused with the turnsignal, as have some reviewers.
Guages are excellent, likely the best I've seen with clear indicators on a white background. My car has the navigation feature, and it passes information to a section under the speedometer needle, showing the next turn and distance. This is very good as I can check it quicker than looking down at the NAV screen. The navigation works well, with my only complaint is that it doesn't consider crossing national borders. A trip from Sarnia, ON to Windsor, ON had me going through the US... not an option when you don't have the ID needed on-hand.
The dual zone heating/cooling works very well and I love it, though it drives my wife crazy. Born and raised on the ability to constantly swing from full hot to full cold and full fan to none makes having to allow a computer control the temperature very frustrating for her.
Some have complained of a lack of places to store stuff, yet I find I have all I need. Door pockets, overhead sunglass holder, cup holders for front and back (and the front ones are in front of the gear shift, so you're not knocking the cup against the shifter and dousing people with coffee (sorry Honey!). The center console is big enough to hold a full-size box of kleenex, though if it were just me in the car I'd use the convenient mini-tissue holder in the lid. Places to keep a pen abound, and the slot next to the gear shift is perfect to jam a wallet when at a drive-through.
The sound system is very good, though the 6 disk player coming with the NAV is slow and noisy. One hears a lot of plastic gears moving around, so I suspect its lifetime may not match the car.
Speaking of durability the car seems very good. I actually bought a daily-rental with 36,000 miles (58,0000 km) on it. After the dealer detailed it, it looked flawless... people are amazed it has the mileage on it let alone a renter! This means the quality of the interior materials are good, and I would agree as everything is solidly attached with no signs of wear.
The car is clearly a next-generation vehicle. You can customize how the car behaves through a computer menu, from how long to allow accessories to work after you turn off the ignition, to how many taps it takes to open all the doors with the remote. This is a very nice feature and makes the car feel like your own very quickly.
With the leather seats the 'grape juice on the seats' spill by the kids in the back is a non-event. Clean up is great. You can adjust the front seats 10 ways to Sunday to find the perfect position. For my Lilliputian wife, the abilty to move the brake and gas pedal towards her is much appreciated.
One curious thing is that the rear hatch doesn't have a keylock release. Instead when you put your hand in the latch you press on a pressure switch which unlocks the hatch. This works great, until you decide to disconnect the battery to work on something, and close the hatch. Now from above you know the battery is in the back of the car, and with no power to release the hatch lock, you can't open the hatch. There is no interior latch release either. Result? You have to fold the rear seats, climb in on your knees, work the two covers up and try to reconnect the battery. If you're doing this because you need to replace the battery, you have a real task on your hands.
The charm here is driving this car. The 50/50 weight distribution and european suspension (the rear suspension is from the last E-series Mercedes) makes for excellent handling. The transmission comes from the last E-series too. Add the 340HP engine and it performs quite in-line with a BMW. Simply put, you won't be disappointed.
Overall this car represents great value. Not the 'it works and it's cheap' value, but the 'excellent attributes normally costing twice the price' value. If you don't want a mini-van, but tired of SUVs, this is a great family mover that can deliver an ear-to-ear grin when you get a chance to drive it by yourself.