Monday, August 18, 2008

Big is the New Luxury

Like many Americans, my wife and I have made a tradition of spending the 4th of July holiday on a grassy knoll watching fireworks. Since my wife is now seven months pregnant, we chose to spend this year away from the large crowds that accompany fireworks displays. Instead, we opted to spend the three day weekend in Bethany Beach, Delaware with family. When I found the Chrysler Aspen Limited on my schedule for the holiday, it seemed like the perfect occasion for a road trip. This year is the second time I’ve had the Aspen, and the second year of its production. So naturally, it makes for a comfortable choice on long trips. This year, the Aspen has received a few upgrades, including a 4.7-liter E-85 compatible V8. In an effort to provide more fuel efficient choices, Chrysler also will be introducing a hybrid version for 2009.
While fuel efficient motoring is easier on the wallet, nothing is better for passing on two-lane state highways like a big, bad, Hemi. This 5.7-liter V8 makes 335 horsepower and 370 lbs.-ft torque. Let me tell you, it feels more powerful than that. Whether slicing through beach bound traffic or hauling a jet-ski, this V8 has plenty of power on tap for normal duty.
Since nobody buys full-size SUVs for their cornering ability, let’s be honest. Ride quality is really what separates the men from the boys. This is especially the case with the more upscale models. The Aspen has a lot going for it. But, the first area where one can tell the difference between a $70,000 dollar Cadillac Escalade and the $43,000 Aspen is ride quality. Its ride quality is good, just not as smooth as some of the more expensive choices.
Chrysler refers to the Aspen as the 300C of full-size SUVs. If what they mean is that it is almost as good as its more expensive counterparts, they are correct. Furthermore, looking at the Aspen, it’s immediately recognizable as a Chrysler, and not a Dodge. A distinctive hood and 20” inch chrome wheels certainly go a long way towards that end. Inside, the cabin is very comfortable. Driver and front passenger are treated to leather seating surfaces with warmers, navigation, Bluetooth, and much more. The second and third rows are a bit of a different story. While the second row gets heated buckets, there isn’t much leg room due to the third row, which is actually pretty roomy.
The Chrysler Aspen is actually one of my favorites. It’s bigger than a midsize SUV, but a little more manageable than most full size choices. Additionally, it is extremely well equipped for its price.

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