A Magnum in Calgary

On a recent trip west, I was able to spend a week driving a Dodge Magnum AWD in and around Calgary. I’d been intrigued by the Magnum since it debuted, mostly because it was an attempt to combine the functionality of a station wagon (just try to get any auto executive to utter those two words) with the style and power of a performance sedan. It’s certainly a roomy and comfortable car and has a strong and aggressive look that makes you want to drive it. The hemi-powered car I drove also featured a top-of-the-line sound system and a navigation system that, although fairly easy to use, couldn’t keep up with a rapidly expanding city like Calgary. My one complaint (other than the colour, which was a washed-out beige/vanilla that was too bland to be distinctive and smacked of focus-group testing gone wrong) was that I couldn’t hear enough of the engine. Sure, when I pushed the throttle hard during a pass on the highway I’d hear a strong rumble from under the hood. But in normal driving, the Magnum sounded like any other big car. It could be the engineers at DaimlerChrysler did too good a job sealing the Magnum’s cabin from exterior noise. Or they deliberately tuned down the hemi’s exhaust to make it more genteel. Either way, I think they missed an opportunity to make the Magnum stand out from the crowd. Heavy duty car enthusiasts can tell a car by its sound from many blocks away. I’ve seen and heard so many Infiniti G35s lately (are they really that popular?) that I can now pick one out as it approaches from behind me because of it’s throaty exhaust note. Obviously, I wouldn’t want Chrysler to make the Magnum sound like another tuned and burping Honda Civic, but it needs to sing a better tune in order for it to sound as good as it looks.

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