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Chrysler’s 1st Hybrid SUV, The 2009 Aspen

Posted on August 19, 2008
Filed Under Chrysler Aspen, Dodge Durango, Hybrid SUV | Leave a Comment

You can have your cake and eat it too with the roomy, luxurious Chrysler Aspen SUV gasoline-electric all-wheel-drive hybrid.

Well, most of the cake, anyway. Forget 30 mpg highway fuel economy in this truck-based SUV. But, hey, an estimated 19 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway on regular-grade fuel isn’t half bad — especially since the Aspen has a mighty 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. An Aspen non-hybrid all-wheel-drive model with the 5.7 Hemi delivers 13 city and 18 highway.

That Aspen hybrid system produces 385 horsepower and features the V-8’s seamless four-cylinder deactivation feature for better fuel economy while cruising. There are 380 pound-feet of torque for towing the boat to the lake.

A high point is the battery part of the Aspen hybrid system that lets you start it in dead silence and drive with the same ghostly quiet in congested city/suburban traffic at, say, 30 mph on battery power alone. The V-8 cuts in for added power when needed.

Many want a mid-size SUV such as the Aspen not because it’s a trendy fashion statement (those days are gone), but because they need lots of room and strong towing abilities. It seats up to eight with its fairly roomy third-row seat area.

Something like a Toyota Prius gas-electric hybrid sedan won’t cut it for such folks, despite increased gasoline prices.

The 2009 Aspen I tested is Chrysler’s first production hybrid SUV, along with the similar 2009 Dodge Durango, which is a less luxurious version of the Aspen. The Aspen costs $44,770, or about $3,600 more than the gas version.

“But Aspen hybrid buyers get an $1,800 tax credit. And it comes fully equipped with all-wheel drive and such things as power heated leather upholstered front seats and a power tailgate because Chrysler feels it shouldn’t stint on features with this innovative vehicle,” said Chrysler central region spokesperson Wendy Orthman.

Other Aspen items include automatic climate control with front/rear air conditioning, navigation system, cruise control, AM/FM/CD/MP3, power pedals, tilt wheel with radio controls, back-up camera, split/folding third seat — you name it.

In a way, the Aspen hybrid reminds me of the great old Chrysler luxury cars, which competed favorably with Cadillacs and Lincolns.

The few options include a sunroof, second-row DVD system, metallic paint and a trailer towing package.

Standard safety features include front- and curtain-side air bags, an electronic anti-skid system and anti-lock brakes.

The Aspen is very fast and generally drives like a big, fairly nimble car. The steering is nicely geared for quick moves, easy maneuvering in traffic and when getting into parking spots. Handling is good, and the well-controlled ride is comfortable, especially for a rugged truck-based vehicle. The brake pedal has a linear action for consistently smooth stops.

Door handles are large, as are door openings. But it calls for extra effort to get in and out of the Aspen’s quiet, upscale interior. Running boards help, especially for those with smaller shoe sizes.

The second-row seat flips forward to allow fairly easy entry to the third-seat area. That seat doesn’t allow much cargo area with its seatbacks in their normal position. But there’s plenty of cargo room with the second- and third-row seats flipped forward.

The large front seats are supportive, and controls are nicely placed — although sound system and climate controls should be larger. The nicely positioned front cupholders have a cover when not in use, but second-row cupholders are a stretch because they’re behind the front console at floor level.

The power tailgate is handy when your arms are full of groceries and such, but it moves up slowly and has no button for a power close. However, there are two deep indented areas to help manually yank it closed.

Yes, Chrysler is late to the SUV hybrid market, but the Aspen should make the wait worthwhile to those who need such a vehicle.


Source: Search Chicago
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