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Avg. Price Paid:$13,649 - $14,817
Original MSRP: $32,905 - $35,780
MPG: 14 City / 19 Hwy
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2008 Chrysler Aspen Performance

This performance review was written when the 2008 Chrysler Aspen was new.

The 2008 Chrysler Aspen is a capable performer, but that's just not enough to earn it more than a good score and a low ranking in a highly competitive class. Still, some clever engineering helps the Aspen get excellent fuel economy, even from the larger, optional engine. "What impressed me most about driving the Aspen was it felt the least imposing of all the big rigs I have recently driven," says the Boston Globe.

The Chrysler Aspen also provides improved handling from its corporate cousin, the Dodge Durango, but many reviewers felt that, compared to others in its class, the Aspen lacks controlled and responsive handling. In terms of steering, MSN says, "the test Aspen, a Limited model with two-wheel drive and the up level HEMI V8, rode smoothly and pleasantly on all manner of roads, with no jarring and no jolting."

Acceleration and Power

The 2008 Chrysler Aspen has a standard 4.7-liter V8 engine and a five-speed automatic transmission, as well as a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 engine option. Consumer Guide says "The 4.7-liter V8 is strong off the line, but lacks passing/merging punch."

If buyers can swing the extra money, most reviewers say there's really no incentive not to buy the HEMI, as it offers more "go," more "tow," and "better fuel economy than the smaller engine," according to Kelley Blue Book. U.S. News reviewer Rick Newman reports, "I drove the Hemi, which is potent and smooth and does not feel like excessive muscle, since this is a heavy truck." With this enhanced engine, the Chrysler Aspen can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 7.2 to 8.8 seconds.

The MDS (Multi-Displacement System) technology in the HEMI V8 results in improved fuel economy, even while towing heavy loads. Automobile.com reports, "The beefy V8 can pull as strongly as needed nine times out of ten, but when cruising under light loads it can shut down four of the engines eight cylinders to reduce fuel consumption and therefore harmful emissions by up to 20 percent." The Environmental Protection Agency finds the smaller 4.7-liter engine achieves 14 miles per gallon in the city and 19 mpg on the highway when using regular octane fuel and two-wheel drive. The all-wheel drive model, featuring the bigger 5.7-liter V8, should achieve 13 mpg in the city and 18 on highways. The Aspen's FlexFuel rating is 9 mpg in the city, 12 on highways.

Regarding the five-speed automatic transmission, Kelley Blue Book says, "The optional 5.7-liter V8 and five-speed automatic transmission combination is smooth and powerful." Edmunds, however, complains that "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."

Braking and Handling

Reviews on the Aspen's handling are mixed. Cars.com thinks "The steering feels well-boosted -- I easily wound the wheel with one hand -- and, as has become the norm for this class, there's very little feedback." Edmunds reports, "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." Kelley Blue Book agrees: "Too big to be agile, the Aspen nonetheless handles with sure stability."

Other reviewers felt that the Aspen's handling wasn't as good as others in its class. New Car Test Drive says "ride and handling attributes are more mediocre than marvelous." Carz Unlimited specifically says the "[Mercury] Mountaineer offers better handling dynamics."

Because the Aspen is tuned for a luxurious ride, The Arizona Republic reports "handling suffers as a result, with a numb feeling and significant body sway around town, and a floating sensation on the highway. Passengers may feel coddled, but the driver will feel likes he's piloting a cruise liner." The Orlando Sentinel seconds that take, describing the handling as "floaty and imprecise, even for a 5,300-pound SUV." Autoweb bridged the two camps, describing the Aspen's handling as "a fat, friendly drunk at a wedding: a little sloppy, but with good intentions all the way around."

Reviewers found the Aspen's braking more than adequate. Cars.com reports "The Aspen's four-wheel-disc brakes have standard ABS. They felt mushy, but did their job when called upon. Hard stops are accompanied by some chassis dive, and afterward it can take the engine a moment or two to start crawling forward again." Edmunds is less kind about the brakes, saying "Pedal feel is vague and stopping distances feel long, even for a truck."

Off-Roading

Though a four-wheel-drive optional is available, the Aspen is not meant for rugged off-road driving. Car and Driver observes that "in fact, the thought of this thing covered in mud is sort of hilarious. Nah, next to the Durango, the Aspen is an aristocrat, a pampered princess that will never let its driver feel underdressed."

Review Last Updated: 3/10/09

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