2007 Aspen New Car Test Drive
The 2007 Chrysler Aspen is a big, traditional sport utility. Representing a new nameplate, the Aspen is a full-size SUV based on the Dodge Durango. Aspen shares Durango's size and mechanicals; the main differences being styling, interior and tuning. Both use truck chassis and engineering. So the Aspen offers the advantages of a cavernous interior and the ability to tow moderate trailer loads. It's in the same class as the Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon, and Ford Expedition.
Aspen is an attractive package with a competitive line of engines, including a 235-horsepower, flex-fuel V8 that runs on either regular gasoline or E85 (a blend of 15 percent gasoline and 85 percent ethanol) and a 335-hp, 5.7-liter V8 with a system that conserves fuel by shutting off half the cylinders when the engine is running under a light load. Buyers can choose between rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive with either engine.
Styling is pure Chrysler, with a traditional-but-subdued, egg-crate grille; mildly curvaceous bodylines vaguely reminiscent of the smaller, but genetically related Durango; and an attractively sculpted tailgate. Tires and wheels properly fill wheel wells, with good-looking, 20-inch, chrome rims adding bling to the uplevel model.
Aspen accommodates six, seven or eight passengers, depending on seat configuration. Three rows of seats are standard, starting with front buckets, a second-row bench and a third-row bench. Buckets are optional for the second row.
The interior blends elegant-looking, satin-finish metallic accents with wood-grain trim on the dash and center console. Standard upholstery is Chrysler's trademarked fabric that resists stains and odors. The requisite leather trim that's standard on the up-level Aspen is optional on the base model. All the usual power and personalization features are available.
Once past the initial impression, signs of cost cutting, inattention to detail or both begin to emerge, however. Interior finishes look better and more expensive than they feel. Stylists, or the people who pay their bills, seem to have scrimped on such subtle things as thickness of padding on armrests and bin covers.
A few critical ergonomic decisions, too, show an imbalance between looks and function. For example, that the steering wheel, a luxurious-looking combination of woodgrain and leather, comes standard with a tilt adjustment is appreciated. And that power adjustable pedals are offered as an option is also a plus. Only problem is, with the standard, fixed pedals, it's difficult if not impossible for short-stature drivers to position the seat where they can reach the pedals and still maintain the 10-inch safety zone drivers that should maintain between their upper body and the steering wheel's airbag. Optional power-adjustable pedals are designed to address this.
The Aspen receives better and more consistent marks on the technology front. Both powertrains earn decent fuel economy ratings by the federal government, either matching the competition or at worst giving up no more than one or two miles per gallon, even in the new, revised system the EPA will use for the 2008 model year. And the Aspen's standard electronic stability control system incorporates a new and so far exclusive feature that controls the dreaded and eerily destabilizing trailer sway.
The Chrysler Aspen 4X2 ($30,745) and 4X4 ($33,520) come standard with the 4.7-liter V8. Standard features include Yes anti-stain and odor-resistant fabric upholstery; air conditioning, cruise control, AM/FM/CD stereo with four speakers and steering wheel-mounted audio controls; power windows, heated-and-fold-away outside mirrors and keyless-remote central locking; tilt steering wheel; eight-way power driver's seat (with manual lumbar); 40/20/40 second-row seats; third-row seat; Vehicle Information Center with compass heading, ambient temperature, trip computer readouts, tire pressure warning and driver personalization settings; programmable, universal garage/gate remote; 115-volt auxiliary power outlet; Interior Convenience Group with overhead console, illuminated visor mirrors, automatic headlamps, rear seat courtesy/reading lamps and front center console floodlamp; fog lamps; and P265/60R18 on-/off-road tires on aluminum wheels.
Options start with the 5.7-liter V8 ($995). When the 5.7-liter engine is ordered with the 4X4 ($1,190), the single-speed transfer case is standard (accounting for the price difference), the two-speed transfer case is optional ($195). The stereo can be upgraded with eight Alpine speakers accompanied by a 276-watt amplifier ($395) and an in-dash, six-disc CD/MP3 changer ($300). Other audio-electronic options consist of a DVD-based, GPS navigation system with a six-disc changer ($1,595); a rear-seat entertainment system with wireless headphones ($1,200); Sirius satellite radio ($195), including a one-year subscription; and Chrysler's UConnect Hands-Free Communication system, with Bluetooth capability and auto-dim rearview mirror ($360).
Other options include leather-trimmed front bucket and second-row, folding bench seats ($905); leather-trimmed, second-row bucket seats ($700); heated front seats ($250); heated second-row seats ($250); three-passenger, 60/40 split, third-row seat ($300); power adjustable pedals ($120); a Power Convenience Group comprising rear park assist and power liftgate ($655); power sunroof ($850); laminated front and rear door glass ($300); and front and rear floor mats ($30). On the hardware side are a trailer-tow group, with seven and four pin pre-wiring, transmission cooler, heavy duty engine cooling, power steering cooler, Class IV hitch, 160-amp alternator and 750 cold cranking amp battery ($455); engine block heater ($35); a low, 3.92 rear axle ratio ($40); accent-color running boards ($445); remote start ($185); and on the 4X4 a skid plate group, with tow hooks and plates for the fuel tank and transfer case ($170).
Limited 4X2 ($37,190) and 4X4 ($38,510) come standard with the 5.7-liter V8. The single-speed transfer case is standard on the 4x4, the two-speed case not offered. Other upgrades include dual-zone, automatic climate control; the leather-trimmed front bucket and second-row, reclining bench seats; the heated front seats; two memory settings for the outside mirrors, power adjustable pedals, eight-way power driver's seat, audio and climate control; a four-way power front passenger seat; the 60/40-split, third-row seat; the Alpine speakers with amp; the in-dash CD/MP3 changer; the one-year Sirius service; the Power Convenience Group; the accent-color running boards; the floor mats; the laminated door glass; and P265/50R20 BSW all-season tires on chrome-clad aluminum wheels with locking lug nuts. Beyond these upgrades, the same options are offered as on the base model, including the navigation system ($1,295).
Safety features include roof-mounted, full-coverage (all three rows of seats) side-curtain airbags that protect the head from injury in side impact and roll-over crashes, along with the mandatory dual, multi-stage frontal airbags. All seating positions are fitted with three-point belts and adjustable head restraints. Missing, however, are front seat-mounted side airbags that protect the upper body in side crashes, a feature increasingly co.