The just-introduced 2009 Chrysler Aspen Hybrid Limited 4WD suffers from being stuck in a herd due for extinction. This eight-passenger, full-time four-wheel drive (4WD) hybrid SUV is basically a chromed-up, rebadged Dodge Durango Limited Hybrid 4WD, with a few extra features. It also costs some $3,000 more than the conventionally powered Aspen Limited trim, and the question is: Will fuel savings make up the difference? The Durango Hybrid Limited and the Aspen Hybrid Limited share the same two-mode hybrid technology, which, though impressive in such large vehicles, isn’t as economical as it might be.
The ’09 Aspen Hybrid Limited 4WD comes with a 345-hp, 5.7-liter, OHV Hemi V8, combined with a two-mode, 87-hp electric drive motor, which churns out an impressive 380 lb-ft of torque. Its V8 Hemi also has Chrysler’s Multi Displacement System, which shuts down four of the Hemi’s eight cylinders at highway speeds. An electronic continuously variable transmission (ECVT) directs power to all four wheels, but not without a noticeable lag when shifting from electric to gas-powered mode. The electric drive motor is capable of accelerating up to 25 mph by itself, while a second electric motor takes care of starting and powering accessories. Both electric motors are powered by a nickel metal hydride battery pack that gets partially recharged by the regenerative braking system.
While Chrysler claims an average of 25% fuel savings over the conventional Hemi-powered Aspen, the ’09 Aspen Limited, the EPA estimates a tepid 19/20 mpg. Acceleration, however, is quite potent, and the Aspen Hybrid Limited can tow some 6,000 pounds when properly equipped, which isn’t too shabby for a hybrid.
A specially tuned suspension is designed to deal with the extra weight the hybrid technology brings to an already heavy SUV; however, ride and handling for the ’09 Aspen Hybrid Limited still suffer, with fluttery steering and braking and alarming corner lean, even at sedate speeds.
Like the conventionally powered Aspen Limited, an impressive list of standard comfort, convenience, and appearance features for the 2009 Chrysler Aspen Hybrid Limited 4WD includes 18-inch chrome alloy wheels, skid plates, step running boards, a roof rack, leather upholstery and trim, cruise control, power-adjustable, multi-level heated front seats, remote power door locks, power windows, heated power mirrors, a universal remote, dual-zone climate control, a rear backup camera system, memorized seat and mirror settings, a 368-watt audio system with a single-CD/MP3 player and nine Alpine speakers, Bluetooth technology, a USB connection, a hard-drive-based voice navigation system, and a hands-free phone. Options for the ’09 Aspen Hybrid Limited include a power sunroof, 20-inch chrome-clad wheels, a rear seat video entertainment system, and a trailer tow package.
Besides the standard rear camera system, standard safety features for the ’09 Aspen Hybrid Limited include four-wheel disc ABS, stability control, supplemental side airbags, three-row head airbags, dusk-sensing headlights, rear parking sensors, front fog/driving lights, and a remote anti-theft alarm system.
Owners of the ’09 Aspen Hybrid Limited complain of cramped rear seating and its heavy driving feel, as well as its better-but-still-disappointing mileage. The Aspen Hybrid Limited’s plethora of standard features, its hauling and towing power, AWD, decent acceleration, and navigation system have most owners lauding this big hybrid. Additionally, owners like their 2009 Chrysler Aspen Hybrid Limited for its quiet and comfortable cabin and list of safety features.