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2007 Chrysler Aspen Limited Road Test
Aspen Aspires to the Luxury Class
By Bill Roebuck
The 2007 Chrysler Aspen Limited marks the first time an SUV has ever worn a Chrysler nameplate. Based on the Dodge Durango, the Aspen is quite a different beast -- by comparison, it's less trucky, more luxurious and comfortable, and more glamorous in its appearance. The Chrysler iteration of the platform is a premium, full-size sport utility vehicle that's quite well-priced compared to other high-end competitors.
Chrysler calls it's new model "the 300C of the SUV segment," after its popular full-size sedan. Some of the design elements on the Aspen have been inspired by the Crossfire sports car, another Chrysler marque, with strafes moulded into the hood just like those on the smaller car. (You'll also find them on Chrysler's 2007 Sebring sedan.)
Chrysler has chosen to distinguish it's new SUV from its Dodge stablemate by using plenty of chrome accents, including huge (20-in.) chrome wheels and a big chrome grille. It's used both inside and out, and makes for a very nice looking, classy truck.
We tested the well-equipped Aspen Limited, the only model available at the launch in the fall of 2007. It boasts a bevy of luxury features, including leather seating, dual-zone automatic temperature control, power sunroof, power rear liftgate, rear backup assist, plus heated first and second row seats. There's even a 115-volt outlet for powering personal electronic gadgets.
Standard equipment includes a theatre-style surround sound system with eight speakers, including a subwoofer. Optional are a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and a navigation system.
As well, the Aspen boasts all the latest safety features, including an advanced, multi-stage front air bag system, side curtain air bags, tire-pressure monitoring, ABS brakes with brake assist, adjustable pedals, Electronic Roll Mitigation and electronic stability control. There's not much more you could ask for from today's safety technology.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has given the 2007 Aspen a five-star frontal rating, and four stars for its rollover rating (for all-wheel drive models). Side impact results have not yet been released by the organization. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash test ratings were not available as of this writing.
The Aspen has seven-passenger capacity with three rows of seats. With the back-row bench seat folded down, there is 1,937 litres of cargo space -- the best in this competitive SUV class, the company says. The reclining second row seat splits 40/20/40 and folds almost completely flat. However, the design leaves gaps between the folded-down seats into which small items in the cargo area could fall.
Power -- and there's plenty of it -- comes from a standard 5.7-litre Hemi V-8 engine with 335 hp and 370 lb-ft of torque. To boost fuel economy, the engine is equipped with Chrysler's Multi-Displacement System, which alternates between eight-cylinder mode and four-cylinder mode, depending on the power needed at the time. I was never aware of the change from one mode to another in my test drive. The resulting EnerGuide fuel economy rating still isn't great, but not bad for a vehicle of this size and weight. It is 16.5 litres/100 km in the city (17 mpg) and 11.2 litres/100 km on the highway (25 mpg).
The five-speed automatic transmission is smooth shifting, and always seemed to slip into the right gear at the right time. It features all-speed traction control.
All-wheel drive is standard on the Aspen Limited, with the ability to switch to four-wheel-drive high and low ranges. In AWD mode, the torque is split 48/52 between the front and rear axles.
When equipped with the appropriate package, the Aspen can tow up to 3,969 kg. That capability is aided by a rear suspension that has a solid rear axle and coil springs. A Watt linkage system is fitted to the rear axle to centre it and reduce rear-end skate over rough surfaces.
The Tow/Haul transmission improves towing by holding a gear longer to reduce gear searching, and automatically selects a lower gear under downhill conditions. A helpful feature is trailer sway control, which automatically applies the appropriate braking to one side or another to help realign a trailer that's trying to go its own way on the highway.
Despite the Hemi engine and heavy-duty undercarriage, the Aspen is surprisingly car-like in its handling, and quiet too. This Hemi has been tuned to reduce noise by an average of four decibels, and extra insulation in the structure reduces noise entering the passenger cabin.
The Aspen comes with a five-year/100,000 km powertrain warranty and basic warranty coverage of three years/60,000 km. The base price of the Aspen is $49,995. The price as tested, including a $1,225 destination charge, was $55,835.
Considering all the premium and safety features that are standard, that makes the Aspen Limited a pretty fair value.
Bill Roebuck is the Editor and senior reviewer for CarTest! ©2007.