San Francisco: Chrysler
has felt left out of the full-size and large SUV market. Despite
fielding the Dodge Durango, there was no luxurious large SUV in the
fold. Now there is. Taking the Durangoís form but giving it a Chrysler
style, the Aspen is designed to take the feeling of the wildly
successful 300 sedans and pump it up to SUV status.
One could argue that in
times of rising gas prices and melting icebergs, maybe itís time to back
away from large SUVs, but at this point, they are selling more than 2
million full-size SUVs a year in America, and thatís enough to give
Chrysler the urge to field its own entry.
The Aspen follows
todayís trend of a big, chrome-laden grille, and it does it with the
signature Chrysler face of today, including the corporate chrome wings
and gold seal. The overall design of the car itself is clean and
attractive, if not especially distinctive.
Inside, the instrument
panel features an elegant gauge cluster, with black letters on silver
and chrome rings. Silvery accents decorate the steering wheel and run up
the bold center console and along the doors. Attractive burl-style
woodgrain (not from real trees) creates the effect of luxury. An analog
clock sits at the top of the center console. Especially noteworthy is
the bright cabin illumination when you open the door. It emits an
unusual cool, fluorescent-like glow.
The Aspen wears a
scored hood, with lines echoing its small sibling, the Crossover, as
well as the brand new Sebring. Itís a bona fide Chrysler design cue now.
Under this hood lies one of two V8 engines - no V6s, thank you.
The standard engine is
the 4.7-liter Magnum V8, which puts out a reasonable 235 horsepower and
300 lb.-ft. of torque. The optional powerplant is the famous 5.7-liter
Hemi, which uses its extra liter of displacement to push horsepower up
an even hundred to 335, and torque up to 370. Both engines deliver power
through a five-speed automatic transmission.
To offset some of the
thirstiness of the big bruiser, the Hemi engine employs Chryslerís
Multi-Displacement System (MDS), which switches off half of the
cylinders when theyíre not needed, such as on smooth, level highways.
This saves fuel, and is pretty much undetectable to the driver. My Light
Khaki Metallic test unit had the smaller engine, but I didnít feel that
the car was underpowered. With EPA ratings of 14 City, 18 Highway, I
averaged 13.5 mpg. At least it uses regular gas.
The EPA Green Vehicle
Guide gives the Aspen, with four-wheel drive and the smaller V8, an Air
Pollution score of 7, which is pretty good. The Greenhouse Gas score,
however, is a 1.
Chrysler has borrowed
the Aspen name from the 1970ís, when the company attached it to a
midsize sedan that is mainly remembered today for its poor quality.
Thatís too bad, because the quality of this Aspen seems quite high.
Built in Newark, Delaware, this all-American rig claims to be competing
with luxury SUV entries such as the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln
Navigator, but it undercuts them in price.
You have to give up a
few things to achieve this, however. The Aspen doesnít have automatic
climate control or heated seats. The CD player is a single slot unit.
The optional Sirius satellite radio display shows only the station
number and name - no artist or song information. The payoff, though, is
at the bottom line of the sticker.
four-wheel-drive model base priced at $33,520, and with a few options,
including leather seats, a trailering package, and an upgraded audio
system, hit $36,545. Lincoln Navigators start at $46,575, and Cadillac
Escalades at $55,400. Perhaps comparing the Aspen to a Chevrolet Tahoe,
at $34,755, would be more appropriate.
The Limited is the only
model Aspen available now. You can order four-wheel drive or two. With
the 4.7-liter V8, the difference is $2,775. Of course, there are copious
options that you can use to drive the price up while customizing your
Aspen to suit you.
best-in-class cargo capacity, and has third row seats to make this an
eight-passenger family cruiser. If you find yourself needing a vehicle
this large, it seems a worthy competitor, and may convince you that you
really donít need that Escalade after all, especially since the Aspen
offers a set of optional 20-inch rims and plenty of Chrysler design and
Steve Schaefer © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Chrysler Home Page
content provided by Tony Leopardo © AutoWire.Net
Column Name: Itís a
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Topic: The 2007
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