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Chrysler Aspen Arrives in a Blizzard

Though the all-new SUV was introduced at the 2006 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the blizzard was not provided by Mother Nature but brought in by the clowns. In a flurry of paper snow inspired by his Snowshow production , the internationally acclaimed clown show headed by Slava Polunin assisted Frank Klegan as he brought out the Chrysler Aspen. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondents were part of the crowd that was covered nearly head to toe by the blast of paper snow, and it was fun!


This event confirmed that the rumors are true. Chrysler’s first full-size SUV, the Aspen, goes on sale in fall 2006, and Chrysler promises it is the 300 of SUVs. The Aspen is derived from the Dodge Durango, though offers a significantly changed look with much more chrome and style than the Dodge personality allows. Aspen will likely compete with Premium Luxury SUVs, a segment that includes large SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, Infiniti QX56, two Land Rovers, and the Lexus LX, expect Chrysler may be able to undercut their base price and offer a value proposition along the lines of the 300 and other recent introductions.
Our take on the styling of the Chrysler Aspen is that Durango got hit with a boring stick. An SUV aspiring to luxury tastes can still be distinctive (Escalade, Navigator, QX56, etc) and do not have to be dulled down to appeal to more upscale pocketbooks. At least an SUV is a more appropriate vehicle type to use the Aspen name with than the Dodge Aspen of old. Remember the Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare? Wonder how many are still on the road?

Eight SUV Options at Chrysler-Jeep Dealers
This fall, customers will be able to go to a Chrysler-Jeep dealership and choose from eight SUVs, seven of them updated or new entries introduced between the 2005 and 2007 model years. Among them are the Jeep Patriot, Compass, Grand Cherokee, Commander, Wrangler two-door, Wrangler four-door, and Chrysler Aspen; Liberty is not due for a refresh until 2008MY. Chrysler will find out how well their Aspen will sell alongside Jeep Commander and Grand Cherokee, or if the three will cannibalize sales from one another. Hedging against that outcome, the Aspen offers a significantly different personality and is larger with more interior room than the two Jeep entries. All three products do pull from the same powertrain family. Aspen will offer the 335HP 5.7L Hemi with MDS and the 235HP 4.7L V8 engines, both also available in the Jeep products.


Aspen Adds Chrome and Chrysler Cues
Differentiation between the Chrysler and Dodge Durango follow a similar pattern as other shared products like the 300 and the Magnum, which means substantial exterior differentiation. In front, Chrysler added a grille similar to the 300 on the nose of the Aspen, changed the headlights and front fascia, and revised the hood to accommodate the new grille and add strakes similar to the Crossfire. The Aspen takes more chrome to its bodysides than Durango, including door handles and mirrors, and offers more shapely wheelarches. In the rear, there are completely different taillamps and a new rear fascia. The change in taillights also required a change in rear quarter panels, as the Chrysler uses straight-line lamps instead of the Durango’s rounded look.

The interior is essentially the same in design as the Durango, but there are nicer leathers and wood accents. The center stack elements include an optional DVD navigation system. The Chrysler is due to include more features on its standard equipment list, but not necessarily any equipment specific to the brand. Aspen buyers will be able to choose from three seating configurations to haul as many as eight people, as well as between two- or all-wheel-drive models.

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