Sensory treats in an SUV
He looked so sad and hopeful, all together at the same time. From moment to moment, the clown, standing cold and alone on Chrysler’s massive 2006 North American International Auto Show stage, would twist the emotions of the audience from laughter to pity and then to sadness. We were enraptured. Mesmerized, and hypnotized, living the clown’s pantomime, drinking in the richness of the performance. Then the clown turned, flung his arms wide, and dove into a blinding storm of millions of tiny paper snow flurries. Clown and audience were engulfed, and for a brief moment we knew what it would be like, to be caught in a blinding blizzard – albeit without the cold, the wet or the pain. There are many ways to introduce a vehicle to the world. Chrysler’s way of introducing its new 2007 Aspen SUV went beyond the boundaries of the business world and touched the realm of theater. That’s especially nice because the 2007 Chrysler Aspen is the “first” (ignoring the Pacifica) SUV from Chrysler, with a name borrowed from an entirely forgettable sedan of yesteryear. That’s sure different now, and the Aspen promises to deliver many of the amenities that upper middle-class families desire, such as Chrysler 300-esqe styling, with more interior space than other large luxury or near-luxury SUVs. Available in the fall of 2006, Chrysler claims that the 2007 Aspen will also be more fuel-efficient, thanks to a powertrain menu that features its Multi-Displacement System in both the standard issue 235-horsepower 4.7-liter V8 and the 5.7-liter Hemi, which delivers 335 horsepower. A five-speed automatic transmission drives power to the wheels. Also offered on the Aspen are two all-wheel-drive electronic-shift transfer cases. A single-speed transfer case is standard with 4WD models that feature the 4.7-liter V8 engine, and a two-speed transfer case is standard with 4WD models that feature the 5.7-liter Hemi V8. Both transfer cases feature a 48/52 torque split between front and rear axles when AWD mode is selected. Inside, the 2007 Chrysler Aspen is well-equipped, featuring a full-screen navigation radio, heated first- and second-row seats, and a rear DVD entertainment system. In addition, a new one-touch lane-change feature allows the driver to quickly activate a three-blink turn signal when changing lanes. Advanced safety and security features include Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Electronic Roll Mitigation (ERM), a ParkSense system to keep the bumpers like new, a Tire Pressure Monitoring (TPM) system, and side-curtain airbags for all three rows. Two interior color schemes are offered: Two-tone Slate Gray or Dark Khaki with Light Greystone. Light woodgrain trim is featured throughout the cabin — on the center stack, steering wheel and door armrests — complemented by chromed door handles and trim. The Aspen is available with a second-row 40/20/40-split bench seat or second-row heated bucket seats, each providing 11-degree reclining seat backs. Second-row bucket seats include a center console with dual cup holders, a covered storage area and adjustable air outlets.
--Photos by Ron Perry