A Hemi hybrid? Who would have thought? Yet, there it is for the model year 2009 - a Chrysler Aspen Hybrid that features a hemi.
The Aspen, itself, came out in the 2007 model year making Chrysler the last American auto brand to put an SUV in their lineup. Aspen hasn't really had time to change much, so the looks are more or less the same as they have been from the start. Its first cousin is the ever-popular Dodge Durango, but Aspen is considered an upgrade.
Aspen claims to seat eight in its three rows, but six is a more comfortable figure. It comes in rear-wheel and four-wheel drive. However, one of the complaints is that the body of the vehicle is too low for good off road use.
Aspen Hybrid wasn't tested separately, but the Aspen, in general, got a five-star rating from NHTSA in frontal crash tests. The rear-wheel drive got a three-star rollover rating while the four-wheel drive got five stars. Safety features include antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability control, tire pressure monitor and airbags all around.
As an upscale vehicle you expect Chrysler to deliver on the niceties, and it does. Automatic headlights, running board, power liftgate, power heated outside mirror - all standard on the outside. Inside standard features are just as nice: leather steering wheel with controls mounted on it, adjustable foot pedals, high quality sound system, DVD player, navigation system, power heated multi-adjustable front seats and leather seating. Optionally you can have a sunroof and a towing package.
The funny thing is, most of the knocks and most of the praise for the Aspen Hybrid come from the same thing, the engine. Towing capacity (6,000 pounds) and load capacity (1,410 pounds) are both low for this class. That's partially because the Aspen is smaller than most large SUVs. On the other hand, fuel economy is good, improved by 25% overall and a whopping 40% in town. The actual numbers are nineteen miles per gallon city and twenty miles per gallon highway.
So how about that engine? It is a 345 horsepower 5.7 liter Hemi V8 supported by two electric motors. The three power plants can each work alone or in any combination with the others, and it's all done without input from the driver. The engine can even stop running completely and start again on its own when needed, and some of the cylinders can shut down when cruising to further save on fuel. As usual on these vehicles, the transmission is continuously variable.
The hybrid version that Chrysler uses (also used by some other automakers) is considered the most advanced on the market. The history of the Chrysler Aspen Hybrid is extremely short, but with ahead of the class pricing starting at $44,770 its future may be extremely long.