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2008 Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango

2008 Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango
The 2009 Chrysler Aspen Hemi (and its twin, the 2009 Dodge Durango -- put it down to badge engineering) is a full-size SUV with a second-generation hybrid system. (CHRYSLER)

OVERVIEW

The Hemi name is synonymous with American auto muscle, but there's a twist in this tale. The 2009 Chrysler Aspen Hemi (and its twin, the 2009 Dodge Durango -- put it down to badge engineering) is a full-size SUV with a second-generation hybrid system that uses an electric motor and a sophisticated continuously variable transmission (CVT). And just for good measure, the V8 gasoline-powered engine can run on four cylinders when only a little power is required.

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The system is a joint project with Mercedes-Benz, BMW and (surprise) GM. Chrysler claims an improvement in fuel consumption of more than 25% overall and 40% in the city. It can use regular 87-octane gas and deploys nickel metal hydride batteries, providing a total of 385 horsepower.

With seating of up to eight, the Aspen/Durango uses a full-time four-wheel drive system. Its body sits on a ladder-frame construction, just like an old-school SUV. Both versions sport handy features like Electronic Roll Mitigation, Trailer Sway Control and a reversing camera/monitor.

UNDER THE HOOD

45.7-liter V8 345 hp @ 5,300 rpm 380 lb-ft @ 4,200 rpm 300V electric motor 87 hp 235 lb-ft of torque 18/19 mpg city/highway (est.)

WHEN?

To be announced

HOW MUCH?

To be announced

OUR TAKE

It's a step in the right direction, but 19 mpg is still pretty poor and even a hybrid system can't wash away the stigma of a big, gas-guzzling SUV. Nevertheless, the technology is intriguing and should prove more parsimonious in smaller vehicles.

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