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Chrysler's first sport-ute offers a complete package, but next to its workaday Durango twin, the 2007 Aspen can hardly be called innovative or swank. If you like the subtle styling changes, it might be worth a look, but those seeking a true premium SUV should look elsewhere.
Strong V8 engines, smooth and quiet ride, impressive tow ratings and a trailer sway-control feature.
Vague brake pedal feel, mediocre interior materials, tight second-row legroom, poor fuel economy.
Available Aspen SUV Models
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The 2007 Chrysler Aspen is a new large SUV. The brand's first SUV boasts eight-passenger seating, standard V8 power and a large collection of luxury- and safety-oriented features.
Play a game of word association with "Aspen," and you'll likely think of the tree that turns golden yellow in the fall or the well-heeled mountain town in Colorado. That few people will recall the Dodge Aspen, a rather forgettable car from the late '70s, is probably a good thing. For 2007, the name has been dusted off and polished up for use on a new SUV, the Chrysler Aspen.
The Aspen name is certainly more fitting for this vehicle than the old Dodge compact. This is Chrysler's first SUV, and it's been designed to appeal to consumers interested in premium features and an upscale appearance. The 2007 Chrysler Aspen has come about largely through the technique known as badge engineering. The Aspen is pretty much a Dodge Durango, which means it's a traditional body-on-frame SUV with seating for up to eight passengers. Differentiation comes about through slightly different sheet metal, a wood-trimmed interior and more standard equipment.
Since the Durango is entering the fourth year of its model cycle, DaimlerChrysler ordered a series of chassis and equipment changes that benefit both SUVs. New engine mounts and body mounts (which hold the body to the frame) were specified to improve ride comfort and minimize noise and vibration, while suspension modifications were made to accommodate the use of 20-inch wheels for the first time. In addition, steering effort was lightened and the body was further insulated from outside noise. Plus, a noise-reducing laminated windshield is standard on the Aspen and laminated side glass is available as an option. Only the V8s from the Durango lineup carry over into the Aspen, and both the 235-horsepower 4.7-liter V8 and the 335-hp 5.7-liter Hemi V8 have new, quieter induction systems to keep them from interrupting conversation in the cabin. New equipment includes a standard trailer sway-control feature (as part of the stability control system) and an optional quad seating option that places captain's chairs in the second row.
Though the 2007 Chrysler Aspen offers a complete package for large-SUV buyers, it scarcely feels any more upscale than its Durango twin. Competitors like the Toyota Sequoia and GMC Yukon have roomier, better-furnished interiors, while the slightly smaller Mercury Mountaineer offers better handling dynamics. The Aspen is still worth consideration if you're seeking a strong tow vehicle that can seat up to eight people, but if you're looking for a true premium SUV, you won't find it here.
A large body-on-frame SUV, the 2007 Chrysler Aspen is offered in a single Limited trim level with either two- or four-wheel drive. Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels; three rows of seating (for seven-passenger capacity); separate front and rear air-conditioning; a four-speaker CD stereo; full power accessories; and front and rear 115-volt outlets. For buyers desiring a more premium experience, the 28J Package adds 20-inch chrome wheels, laminated side glass, leather upholstery, heated front seats, automatic climate control and an eight-speaker Pioneer audio system with an in-dash CD changer and Sirius satellite radio. Many of these items are also available à la carte. On 4WD Aspens, the 28J Package also provides the low-range transfer case needed for serious off-roading. (A light-duty, single-speed system is standard.) Other options to consider include a three-passenger third-row bench (for eight-passenger capacity), second-row captain's chairs, rear seat heaters, a sunroof, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, a navigation system, Bluetooth connectivity, remote start and skid plates.
Standard on all Chrysler Aspens is a 4.7-liter V8 rated for 235 hp and 300 pound-feet of torque. Optional is a 5.7-liter V8, which provides 335 hp and 370 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission is standard with both engines, and in addition to choosing 2WD or 4WD, buyers can have 3.52 or 3.92 rear-axle gearing. The latter ratio is the one to get if you plan on towing. Properly equipped, an Aspen with the 4.7-liter can pull up to 7500 pounds, while Hemi-powered models can tow up to 8950 pounds -- an impressive number for an SUV of this size. With either engine, you can expect gas mileage in the mid teens for city driving and high teens on the highway.
All major safety equipment is standard on the 2007 Chrysler Aspen, including antilock disc brakes, three-row side curtain airbags and a stability control system with rollover avoidance logic and a trailer sway-control feature. Front-seat side airbags (that protect the torso) are not offered. Power-adjustable pedals are a stand-alone option, while rear parking sensors are only available as part of the 28J Package. In NHTSA frontal-impact crash tests, the Aspen earned a full five stars for driver and front-passenger protection.
The Aspen's cabin has the same strengths and weaknesses as the Durango's. Ergonomics and storage space are excellent, while seating accommodations are ample in the first row, average in the third row and surprisingly cramped in the second row. The new quad seating option opens things up a bit in the middle row, but since the reclining captain's chairs do not adjust fore and aft, there's no solving the legroom issue. The look and feel of the interior materials is a bit better than it is in the Dodge, but overall quality still lags behind the Sequoia and Yukon. Cargo capacity ranges from 19 cubic feet with the third row in use to an impressive 102.4 cubic feet with all rear seats folded down. Because of packaging issues created by the Aspen's solid-axle rear suspension, the load floor has a definite slope to it.
Power is fully adequate with the 4.7-liter V8, but given that the vigorous 5.7-liter Hemi V8 provides similar fuel economy, it's likely to be the more satisfying choice on a day-to-day basis, and it's certainly the better pick if you plan to tow. Equipped with the Hemi, the 2007 Chrysler Aspen feels potent off the line, strong into the midrange and quiet at a highway cruise. Unfortunately, the five-speed automatic's column shifter still doesn't provide manual access to anything above 2nd gear, resulting in unnecessary gear hunting on mountain grades and heavy brake use on descents. Ride quality is smooth and handling is respectable for a 5000-pound SUV, although this year's lightened steering feels a tad sloppy. Brake pedal feel is unimpressive, and stopping distances feel long.
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