2009 Chrysler Aspen

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The Car Connection
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
April 17, 2009

Buying tip

If you like the Aspen’s size and interior layout but don’t need all the glitzy materials, flashy wheels, and luxury features, consider the 2009 Dodge Durango, which is otherwise virtually identical.

features & specs

AWD 4-Door Limited
AWD 4-Door Limited Hybrid
RWD 4-Door Limited
14 city / 19 hwy
Coming Soon
14 city / 19 hwy

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.

In order to compile this comprehensive review of the 2009 Chrysler Aspen, TheCarConnection.com researched the best professional reviews on the Internet. Then, after driving the Chrysler Aspen for themselves, TheCarConnection.com's editors incorporated their own observations.

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.

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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.


2009 Chrysler Aspen


The 2009 Chrysler Aspen is a traditional truck-based SUV, and it looks the part; the 2009 Chrysler Aspen Hybrid ranks as one of the stealthiest green vehicles.

The Chrysler Aspen is Chrysler's first attempt at a mid- to full-size SUV, and while it is similar to its sister vehicle, the Dodge Durango, reviews read by TheCarConnection.com feel that it is suitably distinguished in terms of styling.

New for 2009 is an Aspen Chrysler Hybrid, but unlike some hybrid variants from other automakers, Cars.com says the Chrysler "Aspen Hybrid doesn't look noticeably different from a regular Aspen [Chrysler]."

The 2009 Chrysler Aspen comes in just one trim level, Limited—which also describes its exterior options. In fact, the only way to distinguish your 2009 Chrysler SUV from others that you'll see on the road is through the addition of 20-inch, 10-spoke wheels and running boards. Otherwise, all 2009 Chrysler Aspens feature somewhat subdued styling. Kelley Blue Book comments that the Aspen Chrysler's "face comes off as conservative—which isn't necessarily a bad thing." Edmunds reviewers say that this 2009 Chrysler offers "an upscale appearance," which Kelley Blue Book reports comes in the form of "a traditional SUV profile, with beefy, squared-shoulder styling." Identifying a 2009 Chrysler Aspen Hybrid from the exterior might prove to be a difficult task, as Cars.com finds that the Aspen Chrysler Hybrid's "styling falls more in line with the Toyota Highlander and Ford Escape hybrids, which look similar to their non-hybrid counterparts."

Most reviewers agree with the editors at TheCarConnection.com, who feel that the interior is where this 2009 Chrysler really shines. Cars.com loves the "sharp navigation display" and "plenty of wood-like trim" that brightens up the interior ambiance. ConsumerGuide reviewers rave about the interior layout, finding that the "big gauges are easy to locate at a glance" and the "controls are logically arranged and clearly marked." However, they add that "small dial markings may frustrate some drivers." Edmunds also chips in by claiming that the 2009 Chrysler Aspen's "ergonomics and storage capacity are first-rate." Car and Driver reports that the Aspen Chrysler's "visual flair comes from two-tone leather treatments on the steering wheel and seats."

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2009 Chrysler Aspen


The 2009 Chrysler Aspen doesn’t handle particularly well, and—with the exception of the Hybrid—it guzzles fuel.

The addition of a hybrid model to the 2009 Chrysler Aspen lineup addresses one of the Aspen's biggest drawbacks—poor fuel economy—but this 2009 Chrysler still needs more tuning from the Chrysler engineers, according to many reviewers.

The 2009 Chrysler Aspen offers two conventional engines and a hybrid powerplant. ConsumerGuide reports that the standard conventional engine "is a 303-hp 4.7-liter V8," while a "376-hp 5.7-liter version of Chrysler's Hemi V8" is available as an option. Aspen Chrysler Hybrids, meanwhile, "have a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 that pairs with a battery-powered electric motor for 385 hp" and "can run on either gas or electric power or both, depending on driving needs." Overall performance from either setup is impressive, and Edmunds says that conventional "Hemi-powered models can lug up to 8,900 lbs." The 2009 Chrysler Aspen Hybrid is no towing slouch either, as Cars.com finds that it "handily out-tows the hybrid SUVs from Toyota and Ford," thanks to its 6,000-pound towing capacity. However, Cars.com adds that "the hybrid drivetrain feels a few steps short of primetime." As for acceleration, ConsumerGuide comments that 2009 Chrysler Aspen Hybrids "can accelerate solely on electric power under gentle throttle up to about 25 mph," and "once the gas engine starts, acceleration is good but falls shy of being potent." The conventional HEMI engine "delivers plenty of power at all speeds, [but feels] no faster than a V6-powered Acura MDX," according to ConsumerGuide.

Transmission options for this 2009 Chrysler SUV lineup are limited, with Edmunds reporting that the conventional engines get "a five-speed automatic transmission delivering power via 2WD or 4WD," while ConsumerGuide says that "the hybrid gets a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT)" that delivers power to all four wheels. ConsumerGuide notes that Aspen Chrysler Hybrid's "transmission works well in keeping the engine in its power band." Things aren't so rosy for the five-speed automatic in the regular models, according to Edmunds, which says that the transmission "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."

Fuel economy isn't ideal on the 2009 Chrysler Aspen, although the new Aspen Chrysler Hybrid offers some relief at the pump. According to EPA estimates, 2WD Chrysler Aspens will get 14 mpg city and 19 mpg highway with the 4.7-liter engine, while the HEMI offers 14 mpg city and 20 mpg highway. When driving all four wheels, the 4.7-liter returns 13 mpg city and 18 mpg highway, while the HEMI clocks in at 13/19 mpg. One reason for the surprisingly better fuel economy from the more powerful HEMI is that "the bigger engine comes with Chrysler's Multi-Displacement System that deactivates half the cylinders under low to moderate throttle," according to ForbesAutos. The EPA estimates that the Chrysler Aspen Hybrid will get 20 mpg city and 22 mpg highway, and ConsumerGuide reports that, in their tests, "a Hybrid averaged an excellent 20.4 mpg."

The 2009 Chrysler Aspen surprises some in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com with its better-than-expected ride and handling. Edmunds reviewers claim that the Aspen Chrysler's "ride is smooth and handling is quite respectable for an SUV weighing 2.5 tons," while Kelley Blue Book attests that although it's "too big to be agile, the Aspen nonetheless handles with sure stability, and that includes during towing." However, with the 2009 Chrysler Aspen Hybrid, ConsumerGuide says that drivers will find "different suspension tuning than conventional Aspens, due to its extra weight," and the overall effect is that "its bump absorption is borderline sloppy." Reviewers tend to rave about the Aspen Chrysler's steering, which Cars.com remarks "has a bouncy feel, but it springs back to center well." The major complaint with the Chrysler Aspen's performance concerns the brakes, which Edmunds notes "can feel a bit loose and the brake pedal feels vague, with lengthy stopping distances."

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2009 Chrysler Aspen

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Chrysler Aspen will win points with consumers for its comfortable seating, but it's not enough to make up for the Aspen's poor overall quality.

Although Chrysler continues to market the Aspen Chrysler as an upscale SUV, TheCarConnection.com's research and firsthand experiences with the Chrysler Aspen have shown that it lags behind competitors in terms of overall quality.

The interior of the 2009 Chrysler Aspen is relatively spacious, and Cars.com says the Aspen Chrysler "seats seven occupants in three rows, although an available third-row bench seat bumps capacity to eight." Accommodations for passengers in the first and second rows of this 2009 Chrysler SUV are comfortable, with ConsumerGuide finding "ample legroom and headroom" up front, "even beneath the sunroof housing." They add that the Aspen Chrysler's "2nd row has decent headroom, legroom, and foot space, though taller passengers will be cramped for legroom." Edmunds reviewers agree, noting the second-row captain's chairs "are fixed in place so legroom's tight," but they do appreciate that "moving about the cabin doesn't demand the nimbleness of a gymnast." For the 2009 Chrysler Aspen Hybrid, Cars.com states that passenger volume is "down by just 0.4 cubic feet, or less than 1 percent; Chrysler says that's due to the battery pack, which sits underneath the rear load floor." Third-row passengers will be glad they didn't lose much space, since there really wasn't much to begin with—ConsumerGuide reports that the third row "can accommodate adults for short trips" only.

For 2009, Chrysler's sole SUV offering gives drivers impressive utility, thanks to its generous cargo capacity. Edmunds reviewers find that the "maximum cargo capacity is impressive at over 102 cubic feet with all rear seats folded," which Cars.com notes is "a bit less than the Ford Expedition and Chevy Tahoe, which both have around 110 cubic feet." ConsumerGuide reports that the 2009 Chrysler Aspen "Hybrids lose no cargo space to conventional versions," and both variants of the Aspen Chrysler feature "plenty of in-cabin storage, including a deep center console and large, useful console tray."

One area where this 2009 Chrysler falls short of expectations is in the quality department. Edmunds reports that interior quality "lags behind the class leaders," and ConsumerGuide seconds that by commenting that the Chrysler Aspen's interior material "trails those of premium rivals from Acura and Cadillac." Cars.com jumps on the bandwagon here as well, noting that the Chrysler Aspen's "dashboard materials and overall build quality are generally disappointing, and Chrysler's electronic frills—among them a sharp navigation display and onboard MP3 hard drive—can't bring it up to par."

When it comes to driving environment, reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the Aspen Chrysler's is acceptable, if not class-leading. ConsumerGuide  remarks that overall "road noise is decently muted, but certain surfaces can induce audible tire roar." As for the 2009 Chrysler Aspen Hybrid, Cars.com says that "the motor emits a noticeable whirr as the engine revs hard, but we have no complaints with the system's overall sound."

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2009 Chrysler Aspen


Although there’s not a lot of information to go on, the stout 2009 Chrysler Aspen promises safety and security.

Although the 2009 Chrysler Aspen comes with a solid array of standard safety features, they're not enough to completely compensate for its top-heavy nature. The lack of complete crash-test data further muddies the picture, although research conducted by TheCarConnection.com fails to turn up any major safety flaws.

Crash-test results are where most consumers turn first when researching a vehicle's safety attributes, but prospective buyers will be disappointed to find that the crash-test profile is incomplete for the Aspen Chrysler and 2009 Chrysler Aspen Hybrid. NHTSA has not conducted any side-impact tests on the 2009 Chrysler Aspen, but in frontal impact tests, this 2009 Chrysler earned a perfect five-star rating. In rollover resistance, NHTSA awarded this 2009 Chrysler four out of five stars for the 4WD version, though the 2WD variant scored a mediocre three stars. The IIHS has not yet tested this 2009 Chrysler SUV.

If the crash-test ratings don't inspire confidence, then consumers can look to the Aspen Chrysler's safety features for comfort. J.D. Power reports that "standard safety features on the 2009 Chrysler Aspen Hybrid include dual-stage front airbags; head-protecting curtain side air bags that cover all three seating rows and have rollover sensors; [and a] tire-pressure monitor." Cars.com adds that the standard equipment "includes an electronic stability system with rollover mitigation technology, which can apply brakes in short bursts to avert impending rollovers," along with "four-wheel-disc, antilock brakes." Reviewers at Edmunds list the optional safety equipment as "power-adjustable pedals and ParkSense rear parking sensors."

One downside to most SUVs is that they offer poor driver visibility, and the 2009 Chrysler lineup of Aspen SUVs is no exception. ConsumerGuide says that the "thick front roof pillars obstruct view around corners," while Kelley Blue Book reports that "rearward visibility to the sides is hindered by wide C- and D-pillars." On the positive side, ConsumerGuide observes that visibility is "aided by large outside mirrors."


2009 Chrysler Aspen


The 2009 Chrysler Aspen earns its stripes in the features department, where it can hold its own against just about any competitor.

The 2009 Chrysler Aspen comes in just a single trim, and it's loaded to the gills with high-end features.

The standard features list on the 2009 Chrysler Aspen is worthy of its price tag, and ConsumerGuide lists full power accessories, an "AM/FM radio w/in-dash 6-disc CD/MP3 changer, hard drive, digital-media player connection [and] satellite radio" among the standard features on the Aspen Chrysler Limited. Cars.com adds that the 2009 Chrysler Aspen's "standard features include leather upholstery and heated power front seats." For the Aspen Chrysler Hybrid, ConsumerGuide says that the standard features list grows to include "dual-zone automatic climate controls, navigation system w/traffic information" and "automatic day/night rearview and driver-side mirrors." J.D. Power also states that this 2009 Chrysler hybrid includes "Chrysler's hard-drive-based MyGIG Multi-Media Infotainment System with 8-inch touch screen and a navigation system with voice activation and real-time traffic." The included hard drive is capable of storing both music and picture files, as well as the navigation information.

Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the optional features list for this 2009 Chrysler holds a wealth of high-end and high-tech upgrades. Edmunds reports that "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." Kelley Blue Book, meanwhile, loves that the 2009 Chrysler Aspen "can be optioned with a variety of information and entertainment features, including a navigation system, SIRIUS Satellite Radio (standard on J package) and a rear-seat DVD system." MotherProof in particular loves the entertainment package, commenting that the 2009 Chrysler Aspen's "rear seat entertainment system is pretty robust," although the "remote control is cleverly hidden in the overhead console and can be removed, which makes it much easier for the kids to lose."

Other available features include second-row captain's chairs, a power sunroof, rear seat heaters, Bluetooth connectivity, remote starting, and skid plates.

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