Not content to let Dodge have all the fun, Chrysler adopts its own version of the Dodge Durango full-size sport utility vehicle for 2007. While truck-based SUV introductions are rare in this time of volatile fuel prices, Chrysler is confident that demand is there.
The platform isn't the only component Dodge donated: The vehicle's nameplate, Aspen, was Dodge's replacement for the Dart in 1976. Chrysler presumably hopes this Aspen, its first SUV, will surpass the original car's five-year run.
Essentially a well-equipped Durango, the seven- or eight-seat Aspen sports Chrysler-signature side markings and grille elements. Under the hood is a choice of two V-8 engines, the latter being Chrysler's venerable 5.7-liter Hemi. Two different four-wheel-drive systems are available.
The Aspen is built alongside the Durango in Newark, Del. It will hit dealerships in fall 2006.
In silhouette the Aspen is almost identical to the Dodge Durango. Chrysler's version adds a chrome grille that the company says is inspired by that of its 300 sedan. Additional chrome follows on lower moldings, door handles, side mirrors and roof-rack rails. Options include 20-inch wheels and a powered liftgate.
The ladder-frame platform sits on the same suspension as the Durango — an independent, double-wishbone front design and a non-independent solid-axle rear — so the ride is unlikely to be dramatically different.
Though similar to the Durango's, the Aspen's dashboard gains plenty of woodlike trim. Upscale touches include an available navigation system and available heated seats in the first two rows. Standard cloth upholstery can be upgraded to two-tone leather or a leather and suede combination.
The Aspen seats seven occupants in three rows, although an available third-row bench seat bumps capacity to eight. Middle-row seats can be ordered with two captain's chairs or a three-seat bench, both of which recline up to 11 degrees. They also fold flat, the latter in a 40/20/40 split. The third row is split 60/40. Folding both rows provides the maximum 102.4 cubic feet of cargo volume — a bit less than the Ford Expedition and Chevy Tahoe, which both have around 110 cubic feet.
Under the Hood
Two V-8 engines are available: a 4.7-liter that generates 235 horsepower and 300 pounds-feet of torque, or a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 with 335 hp and 370 pounds-feet of torque. The latter engine features a cylinder-deactivation system that shuts off four cylinders under light load situations for increased fuel economy. Both engines use a five-speed-automatic transmission.
Rear-wheel drive is standard, and two four-wheel-drive systems are available. One matches to the 4.7-liter engine and features a single-speed transfer case incorporating a four-wheel-drive "high" mode — best for road and off-pavement use. The other works with the Hemi V-8 and has a two-speed case with both four-wheel-drive "high" and "low" modes for more challenging offroad situations.
When properly equipped, the Aspen can tow up to 8,950 pounds.
Standard safety equipment includes an electronic stability system with Chrysler's new rollover mitigation technology, which can apply brakes in short bursts to avert impending rollovers. Also standard are four-wheel-disc, antilock brakes, and side curtain-type airbags that cover all three rows of seats.
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