All new for 2007, the Aspen is Chrysler’s first SUV. It’s based on the Dodge Durango and was designed mostly for the U.S. market, where dealers seldom sell all brands, and where Chrysler stores asked for an SUV. Subsequently, American buyers can have their Aspens with a variety of engines and trim lines; in Canada, where most dealers sell all brands and it would compete in the same showroom with Dodge, only the range-topping Aspen Limited with three-row seating is offered, which slots above the Durango Limited.

The Aspen uses a 5.7-litre Hemi V8 with Multi-Displacement System (MDS), which seamlessly shuts off half the cylinders under light load for improved fuel economy, mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. It uses a two-speed transfer case; the all-wheel drive system delivers 48/52 torque distribution, and can be locked into high or low mode.

Standard features include 20-inch chrome wheels, six-CD/MP3 Infinity sound system, anti-lock brakes with brake assist, electronic stability program with roll mitigation, ParkSense rear backup system, side and curtain airbags, leather interior, eight-way power driver’s seat, heated first- and second-row seats, running boards, dual-zone automatic climate control, adjustable pedals and sunroof.

Also standard is trailer sway control, which monitors truck and trailer, and activates brake and engine control until the trailer comes back into line. It’s a sophisticated system borrowed from Mercedes.

Available options include navigation radio, satellite radio, remote start, trailer tow package, hands-free phone system and rear-seat DVD entertainment system.

While it’s tempting just to think of the Aspen as a gussied-up Durango, this is a smooth-riding vehicle that’s not as oversized as many luxury SUVs, and with a personality all its own. It’s also extremely quiet; road imperfections are soaked up, and even the Hemi’s burble is muffled. The third row, while still limited, is roomier and more comfortable than most, and easy to access; the second row offers lots of space as well. The abundance of chrome and burled wood may be too traditional for some, but it’s very well put together.

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