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First look: Chrysler's Dodge Magnum revealed

Dieter does the deed: Chrysler CEO Dieter Zetsche whipped the covers off the Dodge Magnum SRT--8 wagon in Los Angeles.

The Dodge Magnum heads Chrysler's rear-wheel drive charge in Los Angeles

8 Jan 2003


THE first of the Chrysler Groups's new generation of rear-wheel drive large cars emerged at the LA auto show, with the reveal of the Dodge Magnum SRT-8 wagon.

Although labelled as a concept, the five-door five-seater is destined for sale in about 12 months in North America without any major design changes. And the good news is it should eventually make it to Australia.

The Magnum is significant for a variety of reasons. It sits atop Chrysler Group's new LX rear-wheel drive platform, introduces a new design language for the company which moves it away from its emphasis on cab forward design and is the first mass-produced Chrysler Group car to feature significant Mercedes-Benz technology, thanks to the DaimlerChrysler tie-up.

It is Dodge's first rear-wheel drive vehicle in more than three decades and the first in a line-up of rear-wheel drive models that will replace Chrysler's ageing line of big sedans. The LX platform can also take all-wheel drive, which will eventually be offered.

But for Australians the big news is that the LX family will definitely be built in right-hand drive and will definitely be coming to Australia, meaning the return of Chrysler and Dodge large cars to our roads for the first time since local manufacture ended in the early 1970s.

And don't just take our word on that. It's a plan confirmed by Chrsyler Group CEO Dieter Zetsche exclusively to GoAuto just moments after the rug came off the Magnum in LA.

"I think Australia is an ideal market for our new concept of LX platform and therefore I can say today yes, an absolute yes," he said when asked about Down Under sales.

And Magnum as a car for the Australian market: "I think so." The arrival of large rear-wheel drive sedans and wagons will be a big boost for Chrysler's flagging sales fortunes in Australia, which have been damaged by a lack of right-hand drive choices within the company's portfolio, a dirth which directly led to the local conversion and sale of 25 Dodge Vipers last year.

But a commitment to increase international sales and expand the Dodge brand globally have changed that. Chrysler Jeep Australia gains access to the Dodge brand from some time in 2004, which means the Magnum could be on-shore late that year or early in 2005.

The LA show car features a supercharged version of the new 5.7-litre Hemi V8 pumping out 320kW, but in production Dodge plans three engine options, at least initially. They are a 150kW 2.7-litre V6, a 190kW 3.5-litre V6 and the iron block 250kW 5.7-litre Hemi The new styling look features a long bonnet, sweeping roofline, large wheel arches and a large four-box grille evocative of Dodge's truck range.

In concert with Dodge's performance emphasis, the Magnum is being called a "sports tourer" by Chrysler Group and is intended to sit comfortably in the line-up with the cross-over Pacifica, which has three rows of seats and a more middle-of-the-road style.

The show car's interior features machined aluminium accents, 60/40 split rear seats and overall seating that is significantly higher than current Dodge passenger cars.

Other models featured at Los Angeles included:

Aston Martin DBAR1

THIS Zagato-bodied limited edition is very much pitched at the sunny southern California market, which is good because it does not have a roof. Based on the DB7 Volante, the DBAR1 only has a tonneau cover to keep the rain out when it is parked. Aston says it needs 66 customers to justify building it.

Ford Faction

THIS mini-SUV is about Focus sized and would be built on the next generation Focus platform if it ever came to fruition. Ford is convinced that small cars with character have a chance of success in big car besotted USA, particularly in more sophisticated markets like California, hence its Los Angeles launch.

While the concept is a three-door, there is also a five-door on the computer. Neat touches include an interior influenced by furniture designs and City Eye, a camera system for spotting things hidden behind you. The front end hints at an upcoming Explorer facelift.


THIS is Toyota's play at the youthmarket, reflecting the fact that the audience for Japan's largest carmaker is the ageing baby boomer generation. Two models were introduced at LA, the xA five-door based on the Japan-model Ist and the boxy xB.

Audi A8 L

THE long wheelbase version of its second generation, all-aluminium luxury flagship adds 130mm to the wheelbase and all that added room benefits the rear seat passenger.

Sold only as a 4.2-litre V8 quattro, limited number of the L are likely to become available in Australia this year.

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