What's New for 2008
The 2008 Chrysler Aspen full-size luxury SUV evolves with minor updates. Under the hood is a new 4.7-liter V8. This popular engine is now rated at 303 horsepower -- putting it on par with competitors' larger V8s. Inside, there's a new audio/navigation system with a rearview camera. And as with other Chrysler vehicles, the Aspen is now covered by a limited lifetime powertrain warranty. Later in the model year, a gasoline/electric hybrid model is expected to debut.
The Chrysler Aspen debuted last year as the brand's first-ever SUV. Chrysler designed it to appeal to consumers interested in premium features and an upscale appearance. In most respects, the Aspen delivers. It can seat up to eight in three rows of seating, comes standard with V8 power and has a solid collection of luxury- and convenience-themed features.
Mechanically, the Aspen is based on the Dodge Durango. Differentiation comes about via slightly different sheet metal, a wood-trimmed interior and a higher level of standard equipment. Chrysler says it also retuned the suspension and made a variety of design changes to improve ride quality and minimize noise and vibration. This year, the Aspen receives a new standard 4.7-liter V8 engine with more power and claimed greater efficiency. There's also a new hard-drive based MyGIG navigation system that can also be used to store and play digital music files.
Though the 2008 Chrysler Aspen represents a well-rounded package for large sport-utility buyers, we haven't found it to be much different from the old Durango, going on its fifth model year since the last redesign. As such, the Aspen is at a disadvantage against other premium or luxury SUVs. The reworked Toyota Sequoia and GMC Yukon, for example, have roomier, better-furnished cabins, while slightly smaller SUVs like the Mercury Mountaineer deliver better handling characteristics. And if you're just interested in a nicely equipped but lighter-duty people mover with carlike dynamics, a full-size crossover like the GMC Acadia would be another excellent alternative.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
A large SUV, the 2008 Chrysler Aspen seats seven or eight and is offered in a single Limited trim level with either two- or four-wheel drive. Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, foglamps, heated power-folding mirrors, three rows of seating (seven-passenger capacity), an eight-way power driver seat, separate front and rear air-conditioning, full power accessories and a CD/MP3 player with an auxiliary audio jack.
Customers who want a more upscale experience can opt for the 28J Quick Order Package that adds 20-inch chrome wheels, automatic climate control, leather-trimmed seating, heated front seats, driver seat memory, laminated door glass and a power liftgate with rear parking assist. A hard-drive-based premium audio system and an electronic shift-on-the-fly transfer case (4WD models only) are also part of this package. Many of these items are available separately; other available features include a three-passenger third-row bench seat (eight-passenger capacity), second-row captain's chairs, rear seat heaters, a sunroof, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, the hard-drive audio system with a navigation system and a rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity, remote starting and skid plates.
Powertrains and Performance
Standard on all Chrysler Aspens is a revised-for-2008 4.7-liter V8. It's rated at 303 hp and 330 pound-feet of torque. A 5.7-liter Hemi V8 providing 335 horses and 370 lb-ft of torque is optional. Backing both engines is a five-speed automatic transmission delivering power via 2WD or 4WD. Properly equipped, an Aspen with the 4.7-liter V8 can tow up to 5,950 pounds, while Hemi-powered models can lug up to 8,900 pounds -- impressive for a vehicle of this size. EPA testing for 2008 stands at 13 mpg city/18 mpg highway for a 4WD 5.7-liter V8-equipped model.
The 2008 Chrysler Aspen includes popular safety features like antilock disc brakes, three-row head curtain side airbags and stability control with rollover sensors and trailer sway control. Power-adjustable pedals and ParkSense rear parking sensors are optional. In National Highway Transportation Safety Administration frontal-impact crash tests, the Aspen earned a full five stars for driver and front-passenger protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
As a close relative of the Durango, the Aspen's cabin shares it strengths and weaknesses. Ergonomics and storage capacity are first-rate, as are the seating accommodations up front. Those riding in back aren't quite as fortunate, however, as the second row offers a tight fit and the third row isn't much better. The quad seating option with reclining captain's chairs in the middle row offers some relief, but the seats are fixed in place so legroom's still tight. The quality of materials is a bit improved over the Dodge, but still lags behind the class leaders. Maximum cargo capacity is impressive at over 102 cubic feet with all rear seats folded, though the load floor is sloped due to packaging constraints.
The 2008 Chrysler Aspen's new-generation 4.7-liter V8 is stronger and reportedly more fuel-efficient than before, and is likely to satisfy most owners who seek a balance between power and economy. Those who tow will probably still want to go with the stouter 5.7-liter Hemi V8. Unfortunately, the five-speed automatic doesn't provide manual selection above 2nd gear so there's a great deal of gear hunting on hills and excessive brake use on downgrades. The ride is smooth and handling is quite respectable for an SUV weighing 2.5 tons, though the steering can feel a bit loose and the brake pedal feels vague, with lengthy stopping distances.