2009 Aspen Hybrid New Car Test Drive
The 2009 Chrysler Aspen is a big, traditional sport utility vehicle capable of towing substantial loads. The Aspen is in the same class as the Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon, and Ford Expedition, but it has more luxury amenities than most of those vehicles. For 2009, a new hybrid gas-electric model joins the lineup for improved fuel economy and reduced emissions.
Chrysler Aspen is based on the Dodge Durango and shares its size and mechanical components. Introduced for the 2007 model year, Aspen is distinguished from Durango by its styling, interior trim, and suspension tuning.
The Aspen offers the ability to tow trailers up to 8,900 pounds. Like the Durango, the Aspen uses a truck chassis and engineering.
Boasting a cavernous interior, the Aspen accommodates seven or eight passengers, depending on the seating 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 to reduce seating to seven.
Two V8 engines are available, plus the Hybrid. Buyers can choose between rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive (AWD or 4WD) with either standard engine. The Hybrid is offered only with all-wheel drive. The standard V8 powertrains earn decent fuel economy ratings, either matching the competition or at worst giving up no more than one or two miles per gallon. The 5.7-liter Hemi V8 gains 30 horsepower for 2009.
The Hybrid boosts city fuel economy by 40 percent and overall fuel economy by more than 25 percent compared with the standard Aspen, says Chrysler. Fuel economy is EPA-rated at 19 miles per gallon City and 20 mpg Highway compared to 13/18 mpg City/Highway for the regular Aspen V8 4WD. We found it very rewarding to silently motor around town and in slow traffic using only the electric motor. Developed with BMW, GM, and Mercedes-Benz, the Chrysler's two-mode hybrid system pairs its 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine with two electric motors, along with a lot of fancy gearing and electronics. The first mode is mostly for around-town driving and can use battery power alone up to 25 mph. The second mode is meant for highway speeds and always uses engine power. Stop at a stop sign and everything goes quiet. You start noticing small sounds like the climate control fan, even on low speed. Total output for the Hybrid is 385 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque, and we found it quite responsive in traffic.
The standard Aspen models rewards the driver with hearty mechanical sounds from the engine compartment, prompt throttle response, solid gear shifts, and thoroughly competent brakes. Ride and handling are average for the class. The Aspen is tall, heavy and narrow. The ride tends to the springy end of the scale, cushioning bad pavement but bobbing at times.
The Aspen is a nice-looking SUV with styling that features Chrysler's traditional but subdued egg-crate grille, mildly curvaceous bodylines reminiscent of the Dodge Durango, and an attractively sculpted tailgate. The wheel wells are filled with good-looking 18- or 20-inch chrome rims.
The interior blends elegant-looking, satin-finish metallic accents with woodgrain trim on the dash and center console. The standard upholstery is Chrysler's stain-resistant fabric. Leather trim is optional and all of the usual power and personalization features are available.
For 2009, the Aspen gets available Sirius Backseat TV for the rear DVD entertainment system. Chrysler's MyGIG hard-drive radio is now included under the UConnect brand and the hard-drive grows from 20 to 30 gigabytes.
The 2009 Chrysler Aspen is offered in Limited and Hybrid models. The Limited 2WD ($34,230) and Limited 4WD ($36,615) come standard with a 4.7-liter V8. Chrysler's 5.7-liter Hemi V8 is optional with 2WD ($795) or 4WD ($990). The all-wheel drive system has a two-speed transfer case with low-range gearing. The Hybrid model comes with the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 mated to an electrically continuously variable transmission (ECVT) with two electric motors.
Standard features on the Aspen Limited include cloth upholstery, stain-resistant; front and rear air conditioning; wood and leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel with audio controls; cruise control; front bucket seats; eight-way power driver's seat with manual lumbar adjustment; second-row 40/20/40 split folding seat; third-row 60/40 split folding seat; heated power-folding mirrors; power windows and locks; remote keyless entry; 276-watt eight-speaker Alpine AM/FM/CD stereo with auxiliary input jack; Sirius satellite radio; UConnect Tunes radio with 30-gigabyte hard drive; rear backup camera; electronic vehicle information center; universal garage door opener; automatic headlights; theft-deterrent system; power rear liftgate; fog lights; roof rails; and P265/60R18 on-/off-road tires on chromed alloy wheels.
The Hybrid is upgraded, in addition to its powertrain, with leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, premium audio, navigation system, running boards, eight-way driver seat with memory, and a host of other features.
Leather upholstery is available on all models with the Limited 28J Package ($3,800) or 28J 4WD ($3,995), which includes dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery first and second rows, heated front seats, eight-way power driver seat, four-way power passenger seat, power-adjustable pedals, memory system (driver seat, mirrors, pedals), Chrysler's UConnect GPS with navigation system and hard-drive radio, 368-watt premium audio system with subwoofer, auto-dimming rearview mirror, laminated door glass, running boards.
A Trailer Tow group ($395) adds a Class IV trailer hitch, 4- and 7-pin wiring harness, 3.92 axle ratio, heavy-duty engine and transmission cooling, and for AWD models ($655), skid plates low-range gearing, and tow hooks. Other options available separately include rear-seat DVD entertainment system ($1,400) adds Sirius Backseat TV. The Popular Equipment group ($600) adds power-adjustable pedals, remote engine start, and running boards.
Also available separately are leather upholstery ($780), heated front seats ($250), heated second-row bucket seats ($950), and a sunroof ($850).
Safety features include front multi-stage airbags and head-protecting curtain side airbags that cover all three seating rows and are programmed to activate in the event of a rollover. Missing are side airbags designed to protect the torso in side crashes, a feature increasingly common on cars and SUVs. The second-row seats have child safety seat anchors and tethers (LATCH), but the third row doesn't. Traction control, which limits tire spinning in slick conditions, is standard. The electronic stability program is augmented with a rollover-sensitive algorithm, which extends deployment duration, and Trailer Sway Control, which applies individual brakes to keep the vehicle on its intended path when towing. Electronic brake-force distribution, which optimizes front-to-rear brake application in emergencies, comes standard along with brake assist, which ensures full braking performance in a panic stop. A tire-pressure monitor signals when tires are low on air. Rear obstacle detection and a rear backup camera are also standard.