NEW FOR 2009:

– New two-mode Aspen HEV hybrid model
– Aspen adds standard UConnect hands-free connectivity, ParkSense rear parking assist and standard eight-passenger seating with optional second-row bucket seats
– New 5.7-litre Hemi Eagle VVT MDS engine
– New optional Popular Equipment Group adds MyGIG entertainment system, ParkView backup camera and remote start
– Moulded-in Chrysler wings and seam on steering wheel
– Exterior colours: Deep Crimson Crystal and City Teal added; Cognac Crystal and Marine Blue deleted

For 2009, the news for the Chrysler Aspen is all about fuel economy. The regular Aspen still uses a 5.7-litre Hemi V8 engine, but for 2009, it’s a revised version that produces more power with better fuel economy. There’s also a new Aspen HEV two-mode hybrid, which uses the new 5.7-litre Hemi with two electric motors for an increase of almost 25 per cent fuel efficiency in combined driving, and almost 40 per cent in city use.

Other changes include new standard and optional features, and eight-passenger seating in the Aspen. This brings it in line with the Aspen HEV, which can’t use second-row bucket seats because of the placement of the battery; those who prefer seven-passenger seating can order it as an option on the Aspen.

Both Aspen models use the 5.7-litre Hemi, mated to a five-speed automatic in the Aspen, and to a two-mode low/high-speed electronically variable transmission in the Aspen HEV. Both Hemi engines use the company’s Multi-Displacement System (MDS), which shuts off half the cylinders when full engine power is not required, such as at highway cruising, for improved fuel economy. The Aspen uses a full-time all-wheel drive system with low range, while the Aspen HEV has a single-speed on-demand transfer case.

The two-mode hybrid is capable of operating in electric power only, engine power only, or a combination of the two, which makes the Aspen HEV capable of running on its battery only in low-speed driving, such as in the city. The "second mode" is used primarily at highway speeds, with electric assist and full eight-cylinder engine power when required, such as when passing or pulling a trailer. The system is seamless and the HEV recharges its own battery; it cannot be plugged in.

Features on the Aspen include 20-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, garage door opener, electronic vehicle information centre, keyless entry, floor mats, fog lamps, laminated front and rear door glass, automatic headlamps, Madrona Burl woodgrain interior finish, front and rear LED reading lights, power liftgate, auto-dimming rearview and driver’s side mirrors, heated mirrors, ParkSense rear assist system, power-adjustable pedals, 115-volt power outlet, Alpine premium CD/MP3 stereo with auxiliary input, Sirius satellite radio, roof rack side rails, body-colour running boards, leather-faced heated seats with microfibre inserts, eight-way driver and four-way passenger power adjustment, driver’s side memory, 40/20/40 second-row fold-and-tumble bench seat, third-row fold-flat 60/40 split-bench seat, security alarm, cruise control, leather-wrapped tilt wheel with audio controls, power sunroof, tire pressure monitoring display, UConnect hands-free connectivity, power windows with front one-touch up/down, and front and rear variable intermittent wipers.

The Aspen HEV uses 18-inch chrome-cast aluminum wheels, and adds rear backup camera, CD/DVD/MP3 stereo, navigation system, and fuel tank skid plate. Unlike on the Aspen, the power sunroof is an option, and that model’s standard block heater, and optional remote start and heated second-row seats are not available.

Based on the Dodge Durango, the Aspen comes in a single high-end trim line that slots it a notch above the Durango Limited. It’s a smooth-riding truck that coddles its passengers while soaking up road imperfections; the third row, while still limited, is roomier, more comfortable and easier to access than most three-row SUVs.

The new 5.7-litre Hemi and the Aspen HEV also address the question of fuel economy in such a large vehicle, providing better numbers with more power for those who prefer a conventional vehicle, and an option for those willing to go high-tech with their family haulers.

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