Chrysler's first venture into the hybrid world comes via their big, heavy, and usually thirsty Dodge Durango and Chrysler Aspen SUVs. On sale in mid-2008, the 2009 Durango and Aspen Hemi Hybrid are said to offer a 25 percent improvement in overall fuel economy with a 40 percent improvement in city driving.
What Chrysler says about the Aspen and the Durango:
- The 5.7-liter V-8 features cylinder deactivation and, with the addition of the hybrid system, delivers a total estimated system horsepower of 385.
-The hybrid unit is the result of a joint venture between Chrysler, GM, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. The system is defined as "two-mode" as it has two distinct types of operation: The first mode is used at low speed with light loads. In this situation, the vehicle can operate in electric-only mode, on conventional internal combustion engine power only, or any combination of the two. The second mode is used primarily at highway speeds. It utilizes the full power of the internal combustion motor when needed and utilizes the electric motor for additional assist.
- All these mechanical parts sit within the space of a conventional automatic transmission and the 300-volt battery pack providing the electric power fits inside the vehicles without compromising luggage or passenger space.
- Both the Durango and the Aspen Hybrid can tow 6000 pounds.
- Estimated fuel economy of 18 city/19 highway (compared to 13/18 for a conventional four-wheel-drive 5.7-liter model)
What we say:
We like the simplicity of the two-mode system and that both of these vehicles can tow 6000 pounds. We are skeptical about the fuel mileage claims based upon our past experience with hybrids -- and let's face it, 19 mpg still isn't that impressive with today's fuel prices. Finally, the Aspen and the Durango are based on an old design and have never been known for outstanding driving dynamics.