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Preview 2007 Chrysler Line

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2007 Chrysler Aspen

Chrysler 2007 - Style and Substance
By Carey Russ

In both the automotive and light truck fields, Chrysler Group has carved a successful niche for itself based on bold and distinctive style. That style was not the result of hiring a big-ego star designer from outside, but was developed by then-Chrysler Corporation people passionate about cars. And because of that, style is now firmly ingrained into the company's culture, for all of its brands. The designers who led the revolution a decade and more ago that brought such mid-1990s machinery as the first Ram pickup, the Viper, and the Prowler may be long gone, but their influence lived on in subsequent generations of Chrysler Group designers and vehicles, particularly those under the Chrysler nameplate, best exemplified by the Chrysler 300 sedan and the Crossfire coupe and roadster.

Now Chrysler, the brand, is moving toward a distinctive, cohesive look for all of its vehicles. That look merges components of both the bold face of the 300 and the elegant design details of the Crossfire, and is being introduced on a trio of 2007 models, the Pacifica, the Sebring sedan, and the Aspen SUV. Prototype models of the three were recently shown to the local automotive press in a static display. Driving impressions will have to wait, alas.

While the Pacifica and Sebring nameplates are hardly new, the category-defying Pacifica is changed enough to be considered a second generation, and the 2007 Sebring sedan is the first use of an all-new platform. Those with long memories may remember the Aspen nameplate on a Dodge sedan back in the distant past, but the 2007 use of the Aspen name is for Chrysler's first luxury SUV.

All the ribbed, peaked hood first introduced on the Crossfire. While grille and headlight details vary slightly, the trio's headlights all have a round motif superimposed on a more angular shape, and multiple headlight elements. The chromed and winged Chrysler logo is prominently displayed as the the top border of the grille, which is a rounded trapezoid with an affinity to the Crossfire's on the Pacifica and Sebring, and higher and more 300-like on the Aspen.

Which is appropriate, as Chrysler's representatives described the Aspen as ``the 300 of SUVs.'' Based on the same platform as the Dodge Durango, the Aspen is smaller outside than a full-size SUV, but nearly as roomy inside. And inside, resemblance to the 300 is unmistakable, with an available leather and wood style that's right out of the 300.

But there's more than superficial style to the Aspen. It has the specs to be a real truck, and can be had in three three-row seating configurations. All have twin buckets in front. A three-place bench is standard fare for the second row, with a two-seat third-row bench. A three-place third row bench may be ordered with the three-seat second row, for eight-passenger capability, or twin captain's chairs in the second row and the three-place bench in the rear. The second- and third-row benches can fold for cargo duty.

Power is from a the standard 235-horsepower 4.7-liter Magnum V8 or the 5.7-liter, 335-hp version of the Hemi V8. The transmission is a five-speed automatic, and both two- and four-wheel drive models will be offered.

Besides fresh styling, the Pacifica lineup has expanded significantly, with more power, a six-speed transmission, increased safety features, an available stain- and odor-resistant seat fabric.

All-wheel drive is offered in all trim levels, and all models except the base front-drive version will have a new 4.0-liter, 255-horsepower V6 matched to a six-speed automatic with AutoStick manual mode. Base models have a two-row, 2+3 seating configuration, while the Touring and Limited versions are 2+2+2. Comfort and safety equipment levels are high, with full-length side-curtain air bags, the ESP stability-control system, and a new back-up camera among the many standard or optional features depending on model.

Little besides the Sebring name carries over for the 2007 sedan. Offering Chrysler style in the often visually boring midsize sedan class, the new chassis platform features fully-independent suspension and three engine choices - the 2.4-liter, 172-horsepower ``World Engine'', a 2.7-liter, 190-hp V6, both matched to a four-speed automatic, and a 3.5-liter, 235-hp V6 that drives the front wheels through a six-speed automatic.

Safety and comfort equipment levels are high in standard trim for each of the three models - base, Touring, and Limited - but there are some trick features for those enamored of modern entertainment technology. The Harmon/Kardon ``MyGig'' entertainment system, uses a 20-gigabyte hard drive to store music, downloadable in MP3 or WMA format, or JPEG photos via a USB port. A Sebring may be Bluetooth®-enabled, for cell-phone connectivity - a common feature in luxury cars, but not in popularly-priced midsize sedans. And then there the heated and cooled front cupholder -which can heat a beverage to 140 degrees F or cool on to 35 degrees.