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2007 Chrysler Aspen Review : Road test, Specs, Photos

2007 Chrysler Aspen Road Test Review

by Bob Plunkett

Warped canyons of sand, defining a path barely wider than Aspen, Chrysler's full-size and cushy new sport-utility vehicle, lead around one blind corner after another as the big wagon applies traction to all of the wheels and winds up some humongous dunes.

2007 Chrysler Aspen Review : Road test, Specs, Photos

These so-called Mud Hills, unique sand piles in the Borrego Sink of California's low Anza-Borrego Desert, present quite the challenge for off-road motorists in a state park that is devoted to four-wheeling trail blazers.

Yet all of this slippery stuff does not impede the steady forward progress of Chrysler's powerful Aspen.

Drawing from the optional all-wheel-drive (AWD) traction system and applying the muscle of way more than 300 horses from a husky HEMI-powered V8 engine that can perform fuel-saving tricks, Chrysler's big wagon bumps, buckles and claws its way to the top of the dunes.

Experience in the Mud Hills and subsequent drive tests on pave-ment and off-road traveling across this raw desert sinkhole easily demonstrate the agility and strength of Chrysler's first full-size SUV, which comes to market for the Class of 2007 with two engine options, rear-wheel or all-wheel traction and lots of cabin gear.

But here's a point for confusion: Decked out with a luxurious passenger compartment and crisply tailored package styling, Aspen looks and feels more like a refined luxury car than a mud-loving and sand-dogging 4WD SUV.

It has a fine pedigree.

Structure and running gear are derived from the mighty Durango by Dodge. Riding on a chassis constructed with hydroformed boxed rails for platform rigidity, Aspen stretches 16.6 feet long from the tip of the prow to the trailing edge of a tailgate and it's well over six feet wide and six-plus-feet high at the rooftop, with a wheelbase length almost ten feet long.

Such dimensions forge a big structure with the cabin space of a full-size SUV and plenty of room to install three rows of seats for up to eight passengers.

Then Aspen's designers line the compartment with lots of sound-damping insulation and pile on the luxury gear. Seats are covered in either a premium stain-resistant cloth fabric or dual-tone leather hides, and there are decorative touches of elegance such as woodgrain trimming and leather-covered armrests. A fresh design of the dashboard adds a crisp and clean center cluster of controls for audio and climate systems plus an instrument panel with bold round analog gauges flashing white faces and silver metal rims.

2007 Chrysler Aspen Review : Interior : Road test, Specs, Photos

Driver's bucket molds to your back-side through contoured surfaces and there are multiple controls to make a perfect fit, while adjustable pedals on the floor are optional for any edition. The second bench folds and tumbles easily from either side to access rear quarters and seatbacks on the third row also fold flat, either individually or together, to enlarge the cargo compartment. Seatbacks on the second row recline for comfort and riders on this row will find controls to operate the climate system and optional DVD-based video gear.

Aspen also offers a top-end audio package with Infinity theatre-style surround sound system.

Three tiers of seats work as the standard configuration and there's still cargo space in the rear bay -- with best-in-class 68 cubic feet of stow room with the third-row seat folded down.

The dramatic exterior design for Aspen disguises the bigness of its passenger compartment by fashioning a bold but blunt prow preceding an upright structure and chiseled-block body. There's a dominating egg-crate grille in chrome and followed by a sculpted hood scored by lines strafing across the top.

Aspen's silhouette shows brief overhangs in front and back, bold wheel arches on flanks and a windshield tipped to the extreme to enhance aerodynamic efficiency.

There's only one trim designation -- Limited -- but choices for rear-wheel-drive (RWD) traction or AWD. Powertrains invite more choices -- a 4.7-liter Magnum V8 and the ultra-powerful 5.7-liter HEMI V8. The 4.7-liter V8 climbs to 235 hp at 4600 rpm plus torque pegging high to 300 lb-ft at 3600 rpm. It connects to a five-speed automatic transmission and fits either the RWD version or the AWD system rigged with a single-speed transfer case for AWD and four-wheel-drive (4WD) high-gear modes. This plant also adds a FlexFuel version burning either gasoline or E85 ethanol.

Aspen's power monster is a heady rendition of a fabled Chrysler HEMI engine design. The HEMI Magnum 5.7-liter V8 develops 335 hp at 5200 rpm and up to 370 lb-ft of torque at 4200 rpm through the automatic five-speed. The V8 also comes with a multi-displacement system (MDS) which can switch automatically to fuel-saving four-cylinder mode when all of that power isn't needed.

Fuel economy scores for the big engine range from 15 mpg in town to 20 mpg on the road with the RWD version, or 14/19 mpg (city/highway) with AWD equipment.

Pick the HEMI V8 with AWD traction and there's an upgrade to a two-speed transfer case for AWD mode and 4WD in both high and low modes. For AWD work, either transfer case runs with a 48-52 percent torque split between front and rear axles.

2007 Chrysler Aspen Review : Interior : Road test, Specs, Photos

Safety equipment for all versions of Aspen begins with a disc brake in place at every wheel and linked to a standard anti-lock brake system (ABS) plus a non-skid device dubbed electronic stability program (ESP) and curtain-style side air bags concealed above windows for all three rows of seats.

Further, Aspen lists options for the ParkSense rear back-up detection system, a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) and side-curtain air bags with roll sensing -- the electronic roll mitigation (ERM) equipment.

Standard features range from 18-inch aluminum wheels and power controls for windows and door locks to a leather-wrapped steering wheel and light-emitting-diode (LED) interior lighting system.

Chrysler sets the entry MSRP for Aspen at $30,745.

2007 Chrysler Aspen
Full-size 5-door SUV wagon
Model options:

Aspen Limited

Engine size:

SOHC 4.7-L V8


4.7: Auto/5/5-45RFE
5.7: Auto/5/5-45RFE


119.2 inches

Overall Length:

200.8 inches

Rear/Front Drive:

4.7: 2WD/rear, AWD/1-speed/NV144HD
5.7: 2WD/rear, 4WD/2-speed/NV244HD


Power 4-disc

Air bags:

2 (front) 6 (side curtain)

Fuel Economy:

4.7 2WD: 14/19 mpg
4.7 AWD: 14/18 mpg
5.7 2WD: 15/20 mpg
5.7 4WD: 14/19 mpg

Max Trailer Towing:

2WD: 8950 pounds
4WD: 8750 pounds


2WD: $ 30,745
4WD: $ 33,520