Used 2007 Chrysler Aspen
Edmunds' Expert Review
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.
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.
Trim levels & features
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.
Performance & mpg
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.
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.
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.
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Aspen is 281 miles from Durango, Colorado. It's as posh as Durango is down-to-earth. Among the ski resort town's celebrity residents are Don Henley, Mariah Carey and the late Hunter S. Thompson, while Durango's foremost citizens are only famous within the mountain biking world.
It's an important distinction to DaimlerChrysler, which has just introduced its first ever Chrysler-brand SUV, the 2007 Chrysler Aspen. This large SUV is based on the current-generation Dodge Durango, and in every quantifiable way, these two sport-utes are identical. But Chrysler has given the '07 Aspen a more upscale look and feel with the hope that buyers will realize there's more between Durango and Aspen than a few truck stops.
The road to Aspen
Since the Durango is entering the fourth year of its model cycle, company planners knew they couldn't just slap on a set of Chrysler wings and call it an Aspen. So they ordered a series of chassis and equipment changes that benefit both SUVs.
New engine mounts and cab mounts (which hold the body to the frame) were specified to improve ride comfort and minimize noise and vibration, while damping rates and control arm bushings were altered to accommodate the use of 20-inch wheels for the first time. The Aspen's double-wishbone front/coil spring live-axle rear suspension is tuned identically to the Durango, and with 8.7 inches of ground clearance, the Chrysler is no less capable off-road. Brake size hasn't changed despite the heft of the new 20s, but steering effort is lower this year.
Although the steering is lighter, the Aspen feels pretty much the same as the last Durango we drove. Body roll is moderate for a 5000-pound SUV, and once you find a groove, you can get around corners more quickly than you might expect. Ride quality is as plush as ever. The Aspen's four-wheel disc brakes are the only major cause for complaint: Pedal feel is vague and stopping distances feel long, even for a truck.
A V8 or a V8
Only the V8s from the Durango lineup carry over into the '07 Chrysler Aspen, and both the 4.7-liter V8 (rated for 235 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque) and the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 (good for 335 hp and 370 lb-ft) have new induction systems to keep them from interrupting conversation in the cabin.
Last year's five-speed automatic transmission returns unchanged, and you still have the option of getting 3.55 or 3.92 rear-end gears, and either two- or four-wheel drive. On 4x4 models, the standard setup is a single-speed, full-time 4WD system with a manually lockable center differential -- adequate for driving in snow but not much else. For those who need real all-terrain capability, a low-range transfer case is optional. Fuel economy is average for this weight class -- mid-teens in the city, high-teens on the highway, regardless of drivetrain.
We drove a 4WD Aspen with the Hemi V8, and found it potent off the line, strong into the midrange and quiet at a highway cruise. Unfortunately, the five-speed'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.
Same cabin, a little extra style
With the same basic layout as the Durango, the Aspen's cabin has the same strengths and weaknesses. Ergonomics and storage space are excellent, while seating quarters are ample in the first row, average in the third row and surprisingly cramped in the second row. Seven-passenger seating is standard, but an optional three-kid, third-row bench swells capacity to eight. A new quad seating option opens things up a bit in the middle row (while dropping seating capacity to six or seven), but since the captain's chairs are fixed in place, there's no solving the legroom issue. At least the cabin stays quiet: In addition to the chassis tweaks, engineers squirted additional foam insulation into various trouble spots around the body and installed a laminated windshield.
Although materials quality falls short of competitors like the Toyota Sequoia and the '07 Chevrolet Tahoe/GMC Yukon twins, the texturing on the Aspen's plastics is smoother and more polished than the low-grade stuff we've encountered in the Durango. An analog clock at the top of the center stack, liberal use of faux bird's eye maple trim and LED lighting throughout the cabin further the impression that this is a more elite vehicle than the workaday Dodge.
Just a few more features
Extra feature content doesn't hurt, either, so Chrysler made key safety equipment like three-row side curtain airbags and stability control standard on the Aspen. In addition to rollover avoidance logic, the stability control system includes a trailer sway control feature that detects trailer movement and applies brake pressure and reduces engine power to help the driver regain control. This is the first system of its kind, and would likely come in handy if you take advantage of the Aspen's impressive 8950-pound tow rating.
In other respects, though, the '07 Chrysler Aspen isn't particularly well-outfitted for a $33,000 SUV. Eighteen-inch wheels are standard on the base vehicle, but you're still sitting on cloth seats, and listening to a four-speaker stereo. To make the Aspen feel like a proper premium SUV, you really have to drop $5 grand for the 28J Package, which adds the Hemi V8, chrome 20s, leather upholstery, heated front seats, an eight-speaker Pioneer audio system, satellite radio, automatic climate control, rear parking sensors and laminated side glass.
Predictably, the options list includes a navigation system, a rear entertainment system and Bluetooth, but if you want to hook up your iPod, you'll still need an FM transmitter.
With three rows of seating, two healthy V8s and plenty of towing capability, Chrysler's first sport-ute can hardly be called incomplete. But the Aspen can hardly be called innovative or swank, either. And now that premium SUV buyers have more choices than ever before, Aspen should be farther from Durango.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
Used 2007 Chrysler Aspen Overview
The Used 2007 Chrysler Aspen is offered in the following submodels: Aspen SUV. Available styles include Limited 4dr SUV (4.7L 8cyl 5A), and Limited 4dr SUV 4WD (4.7L 8cyl 5A).
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Should I lease or buy a 2007 Chrysler Aspen?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.