How much: $34,880 base; $43,920 as tested

What's hot: Powerful 5.7L Hemi V-8, well-designed interior, good audio system

What's not: You guessed it, poor gas mileage

On the road: The 2008 Chrysler Aspen (not to be confused with the Dodge Aspen sedan of the late 1970s) is to the Dodge Durango what the GMC Yukon is to the Chevrolet Tahoe -- virtually the same vehicle, but with a touch of class. The Aspen is offered in just one trim level with either 2WD or full-time 4WD.

Chrysler accomplishes the class part well. The Durango's four-section Dodge grille is replaced with the chrome multibar Chrysler trapezoid. Extra chrome trim dresses up the front and rear fascias and the Aspen's flanks. The optional 20-in. chromed aluminum wheels match well with the chrome accents on the side of the vehicle.

Inside, Chrysler adds its signature analog clock and some Chrysler badges. Only one upholstery combination is available for the Aspen: light gray leather with suede inserts in the first and second row seats accented by a light-colored Madrona burled woodgrain trim. It's a good combination that works with the Marine Blue Pearl paint and lends the cabin a warm, welcoming feel.

The driver's seat adjusts eight ways, making it easy for almost anyone to find a comfortable position. The heated second-row captain's chairs (a $950 option that includes the second center console) are better than a bench, and there's ample leg, head, and shoulder room. Entry to the third row is quick and easy, thanks to the relatively light second-row seats. Third-row space is fair for a body-on-frame SUV. Headroom is a more serious issue. Taller individuals will be hitting the back of their heads on the headliner when sitting back there. Make no mistake, this third row, like most in the Aspen's class, is a place for seven-year-olds, not adults.

One highlight of almost all Chrysler vehicles is the MyGig media system, which in the Aspen is teamed up with a powerful 368-watt eight-speaker subwoofer-equipped audio system that provides crisp highs and powerful lows with no interior shakes or rattles.

On the road, the big 335-hp V-8 provides a nice growling soundtrack that reminds you there's a Hemi under the hood when the accelerator is planted into the floor. The Hemi gets the big 'ute going at a good clip once the five-speed auto gets around to downshifting. There's no trick manual mode here, just ye olde column shifter with Drive, Second, and First as forward-gear options. The brakes do the job well and without complaint. Steering is typical large SUV fare: light and vague with a small dead spot in the center. The ride is comfortable, but the vehicle's truck roots are still felt through the live-axle rear suspension. Road and wind noise are minimal except while going over freeway junctions, which create a railroad-like bump noise.

The biggest downside to the Aspen is its thirst. The big V-8 drinks gas like a frat boy drinks cheap beer. The EPA ratings of 13 mpg city, 18 highway will take effort to reach even under the best of conditions. The Hemi's MDS tech can shut the Hemi down into four cylinder mode in an effort to help boost economy, but it's probably not going to help all that much. Chrysler also offers a 4.7-liter V-8 with 303 horsepower for the Aspen. With today's gas prices, $100-plus fill-ups will be a painful reality.

Like this? Try these: Chevrolet Tahoe, Ford Expedition, Toyota Sequoia

Bottom Line: The Aspen is a capable SUV, but the thirsty V-8 makes it a tough sell. The upcoming Hybrid will be far easier on gas and only slightly more expensive.


2008 CHRYSLER ASPEN LIMITED 4WD
Base Price $34,880
Vehicle Layout Front engine, 4WD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 5.7l/335-hp/370-lb-ft OHV 16-valve V-8
Transmission 5-speed automatic
Curb Weight 5131 (mfr)
Wheelbase 119.2 in
Length x Width x Height 200.8 x 76.0 x 74.3 in
Head room, f/m/r 40.8/39.3/39.2 in
Leg room, f/m/r 41.4/37.4/34.5 in
Shoulder room, f/m/r 59.4/59.6/58.9 in
Cargo vol behind f/m/r 102.4/67.3/19.0 cu ft
EPA City/Hwy Econ 13/18 mpg
CO2 Emissions 1.31 lb/mile
On Sale In U.S. Currently