- Abundant standard features
- Upscale, luxurious look of instrument panel
- Excellent front seats
- Not much more maneuverable than bigger trucks
- Soft, bouncy ride
- High cargo floor
- Lousy fuel economy (except Hybrid)
The 2009 Chrysler Aspen has a nice interior but—Hybrid model aside—there are few other reasons to choose the 2009 Chrysler Aspen over roomier full-size SUVs.
The 2009 Chrysler Aspen is a full-size SUV with three rows of seating and rear- and all-wheel-drive variants. It’s closely related to the Dodge Durango. New for 2009 is two-mode hybrid model of the Chrysler Aspen that offers a welcome, if not spectacular, boost to fuel economy.
With a traditional body-on-frame design, the Aspen is a truck underneath; this doesn’t do wonderful things for ride quality, but it does make the Aspen a great choice for heavy towing needs. The Aspen is capable of towing 8,950 pounds when properly equipped. Four-wheel-drive variants include a tow/haul mode for the five-speed automatic transmission, while Chrysler's exclusive Trailer Sway Control helps to maintain vehicle stability while towing.
A 303-horsepower, 4.7-liter V-8 engine is standard on the Aspen, while a 345-horsepower, 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 is optional—and worthwhile for those willing to pay for the performance boost, as it doesn’t make the fuel economy any worse. The HEMI also includes Chrysler's Multi-Displacement System (MDS), which can shut off four cylinders during low-power situations, which makes its highway fuel economy ratings actually 1 mpg better than those for the 4.7-liter. Both engines achieve an unimpressive 13-mpg EPA city rating with 4WD—no better than full-size models.
There is an alternative for those who can’t swallow the idea of driving a guzzler. 2009 also marks the debut of the Chrysler Aspen Hybrid, which boosts fuel economy by 25 percent overall and up to 40 percent in city driving. The Aspen Hybrid puts out a combined 385 hp and 380 pound-feet of torque and pairs the 5.7-liter HEMI V-8. The engine drives a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that helps the Aspen Hybrid achieve an EPA-estimated 20 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway—not bad for a vehicle that can carry seven or still tow up to 6,000 pounds.
Power from all three powertrain combinations is more than adequate, but the Chrysler Aspen's considerable curb weight and truck-based underpinnings are evident in the way the Aspen brakes (with lots of nosedive) and handles. For a vehicle with no independent rear suspension, the Chrysler Aspen offers a rather soft ride, but it is also bouncy on all but the smoothest roads. Steering is generally good for a 5,000-pound SUV, but twisty roads will demand judicious use of the brake pedal.
Interior room and design inside the 2009 Chrysler Aspen are strong points, as the controls and displays are attractive and well designed. The wood grain trim brightens up the interior nicely, and the front seats are both comfortable and supportive. Moving toward the rear, the middle row is comfortably spacious, but reaching the full seating capacity of eight requires some considerable squeezing by the rear passengers. The Aspen's folding third row affords 68.4 cubic feet of total luggage space.
The 2009 Chrysler Aspen comes exclusively in Limited trim with standard features that include 18-inch wheels, leather trim, and air conditioning. The Aspen also includes a standard AM/FM/CD player with an auxiliary input jack for connecting MP3 players.
Optional features on the 2009 Chrysler Aspen include a power rear liftgate, 20-inch wheels for filling out the wheel wells, running boards, heated first- and second-row seats, Chrysler's uconnect GPS system and MyGIG music storage with 30-gigabyte hard drive, and dual-zone air conditioning. New for 2009 is the Sirius Streaming Video package that comes with the available rear-seat video entertainment system.
The 2009 Chrysler Aspen earned a top five-star rating from the federal government in frontal impact, but wasn't tested in side impact, nor by the IIHS. The feds flagged it with their lowest three-star rating in rollover because of its high center of mass. All-row side curtain airbags, front side airbags, and electronic stability control are standard on the Aspen.