EXPERT REVIEW

KansasCity.com's view


A neighbor looked at the Chrysler Aspen sitting in my driveway and quipped, “I thought they weren’t making those any more.” She was referring to full-size SUVs.

It’s true that sales of full-size SUVs have slowed, but hybrid SUVs give buyers a full-size vehicle for towing or carrying eight people with an improvement in fuel efficiency.

Hybrid powertrains are finding their way into a number of vehicles, and while the resulting fuel mileage of the Aspen is still slightly less than 20 mpg in the city, the improvement is worthwhile.

The four-wheel-drive Aspen hybrid joins the Dodge Durango and GM’s two hybrid SUVs, the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon, as examples of how manufacturers are making gas-electric powertrains optional for these SUVs. The Aspen’s base price is $45,570, while the Durango starts at $45,340.

The Aspen’s “two-mode” system was developed in partnership with General Motors, Mercedes-Benz and BMW Group. The design is centered on an electronic continuously variable transmission automatic, a type of transmission that integrates the hybrid electric drive system into an automatic transmission with modes designed to optimize efficiency for city or highway driving.

The first mode is for low speeds and light loads. The Aspen pulled away from stops with very little sound. The gasoline engine kicks in as speed and power are needed.

The transmission’s electric motors also add torque for acceleration and recharge the batteries with regenerative braking. Energy is stored in a 300-volt battery pack.

The Aspen hybrid’s engine is a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 that is able to shut down some cylinders when they are not needed. Chrysler rates the power output from the electric motor and gasoline engine at 385 horsepower. Maximum towing capacity is 6,000 pounds.

The four-wheel-drive Aspen is rated at 19 miles per gallon in the city and 20 on the highway by the Environmental Protection Agency. In my week of mainly city driving, the test truck’s onboard computer showed an average of 18 mpg. A non-hybrid Aspen Hemi is rated at 13 mpg in the city and 19 on the highway.

The Aspen hybrid drives pretty normally. The engine often shuts off when the vehicle is stopped, and initial acceleration is by electric motor as long as you use the throttle carefully.

The Aspen is a luxurious SUV with a plush interior and a soft ride. The front seats offer excellent support. The instrument panel has elegant gauges, few seams and surface textures that are rich and inviting. The layout and design of the radio and climate controls is simple and clean.

Light-colored wood-grain trim, light leather and well-placed LEDs for night lighting make the cabin feel like that of a luxury car.

The test car was equipped with the Sirius satellite radio and back-seat video system.

The Aspen hybrid has three rows of seats that provide seating for up to eight passengers. Cargo space is small when the third seat is upright.

Standard safety features include anti-lock brakes, electronic stability program with trailer-sway control, side-curtain airbags, rear park assist, backup camera and a tire-pressure monitoring system.

Price

The base price of the test vehicle was $45,570. Options included the tow package and the Sirius backseat video system. The sticker price was $47,430.

Warranty

Three years or 36,000 miles with a limited lifetime powertrain warranty.

2009 Chrysler Aspen Hybrid

Engine: 5.7-liter, 385-hp V-8

Transmission: Automatic

Four-wheel drive

Wheelbase: 119.2 inches

Curb weight: 5,637 lbs.

Base price: $45,570

As driven: $47,430

Mpg: 19 city, 20 hwy.

To get in touch with Tom Strongman, send e-mail to tstrongman@kc.rr.com.

Latest news

21LEAF7
2022 Nissan Leaf Prices Fall, More Features Added
dodge-durango-hellcat-2021-03-exterior--gray--rear.jpg
2021 Dodge Durango SRT or SRT Hellcat: Is the Hellcat Worth It?
honda-civic-2022-01-angle--dynamic--exterior--front--silver.jpg
10 Biggest News Stories of the Month: 2022 Honda Civic Can’t Compete With Best Used Cars