Riding on a wave of design successes, Chrysler is expanding into the lucrative luxury-SUV segment to compete head to head with the Lincoln Navigator and the (newly revamped) Cadillac Escalade. Chrysler's first SUV will be based off the Dodge Durango platform, following the long-established strategy of investing as little as possible to get into a completely new market (if you can get away with it). To its credit, the Aspen will have several Chrysler-specific styling cues and a decidedly more upscale look and feel than its Dodge counterpart.
Outside, the wide horizontal grille, unique headlights, winged badge, sculpted hood (a la Chrysler Crossfire), and liberal use of chrome should be enough to make Aspen intenders feel stylish. Naturally, available 20-inch chromed wheels and specially jeweled taillamps are designed to distinguish this large midsize (small full-size?) SUV. Inside, as one might expect of a competitor to Lincoln and Cadillac, the Aspen will offer soft-touch leather, upscale white-face gauges, and many woodgrain trim pieces. Of course, as is the Chrysler custom, the center stack will hold an analog clock. In addition, options like full-screen nav, DVD entertainment, and heated second-row seats will be available. Standard safety features include ESP, three-row side-curtain airbags, backup and tire-pressure sensors, and roll mitigation.
Under the hood, Aspens will offer a choice of 4.7-liter (235 horsepower) or 5.7-liter Hemi (335 horsepower) V-8s, the latter equipped with the fuel-saving Multi-Displacement System. Each engine gets a different four-wheel-drive system; 4.7-liter models will come standard with single-speed, full-time all-wheel drive. The 5.7-liter V-8 will have a two-speed transfer case (high and low range), allowing the driver to make choices between full-time all-wheel drive, high-range lock, and low-range lock.
Look for Aspens to show up in dealerships by fall 2006 with a starting price nearing $38,000. And, given the popularity of fully loaded special packages, expect a tuxed-out ride to push $48,000.