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2009 Chrysler Aspen Hybrid Preview

2009 Chrysler Aspen Hybrid Preview

By Jeff Youngs,

Critical Knowledge:
  • New addition to Aspen lineup

  • Eight-passenger seating

  • Hemi V-8 engine with two electric motors

  • More than 25-percent increase in fuel economy

  • Available only with all-wheel drive (AWD)

  • 6000-pound towing capacity

  • Sales to start mid-2008


Introduction
Chrysler released its first truck-type, body-on-frame sport utility vehicle (SUV) in mid-2006 as a 2007 model. Basically an upscale version of the Dodge Durango, the Aspen is sized between midsize SUVs, such as the Lexus GX 470 and Saab 9-7X, and full-size SUVs, like the GMC Yukon Denali and Lincoln Navigator. Its interior space, engine options, and towing capacity, however, make it a competitor for the larger SUVs.

Chrysler has teamed up with BMW, General Motors, and Mercedes-Benz to develop a 2-mode hybrid system, and for 2009 it's adding that system to the Aspen. The Aspen Hybrid will only be offered with AWD. Chrysler says the hybrid system will boost city fuel economy by 40 percent and overall fuel economy by more than 25 percent. The hybrid version is scheduled to go on sale in the middle of 2008 as a 2009 model.

Model Lineup
The non-hybrid 2009 Chrysler Aspen is offered in one trim level, Limited, with either rear-wheel drive or AWD. The 2009 Chrysler Aspen Hybrid will have Limited equipment and AWD, plus a few features of its own. Limited standard features include front and rear air conditioning; tilt steering wheel with audio controls; cruise control; heated power mirrors; power windows; power doors; remote keyless entry; Alpine AM/FM/CD stereo with auxiliary input jack and Sirius satellite radio with one-year subscription; front bucket seats; 8-way power driver's seat with memory; 4-way power passenger seat; heated front-row seats; second-row 60/40 split bench seat; 3-passenger split-folding third-row bench seat; overhead console; universal garage door opener; electronic vehicle information center; front and rear LED lighting; rear power accessory outlet; automatic headlights; theft-deterrent system; fog lights; roof rack; and P265/60R18 tires on chrome-clad aluminum wheels. The Hybrid model will add leather upholstery; a rear back-up camera; and Chrysler's hard-drive-based MyGIG Multi-Media Infotainment System with 8-inch touch screen and a navigation system with voice activation and real-time traffic. The MyGIG system's 20-gigabyte hard drive can hold music files, picture files and navigation map information.

Hardware
The Aspen's two-mode hybrid system is shared with the new round of big hybrid SUVs from General Motors. It features a Hemi 5.7-liter V-8 engine teamed with a new electrically continuously variable transmission (ECVT). The ECVT has two electric motors and four fixed gears. One of the motors aids power at low speeds and the other at highway speeds. The Hemi V-8 engine also has Chrysler's Multi-Displacement System, which shuts down four cylinders under light load conditions to conserve fuel. Total output is 385 hp at 5300 rpm and 380 lb.-ft. of torque at 4200 rpm. Regenerative braking will charge the batteries.

Go easy on the throttle, and the Aspen can run on electric power alone at up to 30 mph. With heavier throttle, the gasoline engine starts. Like other systems, the gasoline engine turns off at stoplights and restarts when needed. Chrysler estimates fuel economy at 18 mpg city/19 mpg highway compared to 13 mpg city/18 mpg highway with the standard version of the Hemi.

The 2009 Chrysler Aspen Hybrid will be rated to tow up to 6000 pounds compared to the 8700 pounds for a properly equipped standard AWD model.

The Aspen uses a ladder-type hydroformed frame with an independent torsion-bar front suspension. The rear suspension features coil springs and a solid rear axle with a Watt's linkage system that Chrysler says centers the axle and reduces rear-end skate over rough surfaces.

On the inside, the 2009 Chrysler Aspen Hybrid will have a power gauge that will show when the electric motors are aiding power or being charged. The power gauge will also have a green "economy" zone that drivers can use to aim for optimal fuel economy.

Safety
Standard safety features on the 2009 Chrysler Aspen Hybrid include dual-stage front air bags; head-protecting curtain side air bags that cover all three seating rows and have rollover sensors; tire-pressure monitor; anti-lock brakes; traction control; electronic stability control with rollover mitigation; Chrysler's Trailer Sway Control; rear park assist; and a rear back-up camera. The Chrysler Aspen has received a 5-star front impact rating for the driver and front passenger in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) testing. All-wheel drive models have also received a 4-star rollover resistance rating from NHTSA.

Technology
The 2009 Chrysler Aspen Hybrid will have a 300-volt battery pack located under the second-row seats. The battery pack powers the electric motors. A rectifier under the hood converts the pack's AC power to DC to power such accessories as interior lighting, the climate control system, and the radio.

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