Well the journey is finally over, it’s been over one month since I started my hunt for a new car and it finally came to an end this weekend. It’s been a long harsh road filled with a host of automotive ups and downs. If you recall I started my search during the “Cash for Clunkers” program, but alas, it yielded nothing but annoying dealer confrontations. Then I tried the “certified used” route but this too was met with more aggravation due to inept dealers. I finally settled on a low mileage, privately owned vehicle that fit my needs and wants and honestly feel that it was the best way to go.
First I identified my vehicle of choice – in this case I wanted a previously owned Dodge Magnum SRT-8. Then I began my search through all the obvious sales vessels, ebay, Craigslist and Autotrader. Then began the phone calls and questions, emails and photo’s. Now keep in mind that sometimes, private individuals can be no better than dealers, but for the most part private sellers seem to be a bit more forthcoming with information, plus you have more room to negotiate when price talk comes around. After checking out some 15 or so SRTs online and at private residences I finally found what I was looking for some 900 miles away in Atlanta, GA. A one owner, 24,000 mile car that is truly in showroom shape.
The deal was struck and I flew down to Atlanta last Saturday to pick up my new ride. While down south we figured why not use the time to put the new Magnum through its paces and see how it really performs as a daily driver. The Magnum, like the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 is based on an old Mercedes E-class platform and shares common components like the transmission, stability control and front & rear suspension. Immediately upon taking the wheel the Magnum you feel as though you are driving something solid. Road feel is good, but the steering is a bit on the light side for a performance based machine. Interior components are good, but not great and you can see where Chrysler saved a bit of money. The seats in the SRT Magnum however are FANTASTIC and as a big guy this is something I look for in a vehicle. Leg and head room are top notch as well.
The obvious reasons for getting any of the SRT models are the engine, brakes and suspension. Now, there are those of you who will argue that this is not a “real” HEMI, but quite honestly, who cares? At 425hp / 420lbs.tq. the 6.1L is a mill that churns out some pretty competent power, enough so that it moves the 4,200lb. Magnum to 60 mph in a scant 5.2 seconds and propels it to a top speed of over 165 mph, not bad for a big ole’ station wagon. The brakes are 4 pot Brembo’s that float on 14.2″ rotors up front and 13.8″ rotors in the rear – to put it mildly, this thing stops. I drove the Magnum about 1,600 miles last week and all the while thinking that I had made the right decision. Oh yea, I also got around 21 mpg cruising at 75 mph – not too bad considering what it is.
The ride and road handling manners are top notch. Pitch the big Magnum into a corner and it complies without resistance. Keep in mind though that this is a big machine, so if you get it loose you’ll need to work to get it back. Traction control is the ever present techo-nanny that keeps you from having too much fun, but if you are so inclined you can disable it enough so that you can do those big smokey burn outs to impress the neighbors. Granted the Magnum is no longer the latest and greatest, but it’s big, comfortable, goes like hell and still has a big fat warranty on it, which is a huge plus on any performance based machine. Now, is it a car that I will keep forever? Not sure yet and quite honestly that will depend on how it holds up under NYC driving. I would like to think so, but only time will tell. As for right now though, I think I’ll just sit back in those big comfy seats, put my foot down and enjoy one of the worlds fastest grocery getters.