Hybrid versions of the 2009 Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango have finally started moving off the automaker's Newark, Delaware, assembly line and will be arriving at dealerships by early September. Both of these four-wheel-drive vehicles feature a dual-mode hybrid system that matches a 5.7-liter/385-horsepower HEMI V8 fitted with Chrysler's Multi-Displacement System (MDS) cylinder-deactivation package and a slick electronically variable automatic transmission that incorporates two electric motors individually optimized for low-speed and high-speed operation. These motors are powered by a 300-volt nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) storage battery that recharges on the fly via regenerative braking. The two-mode package, developed in concert with Daimler, General Motors and the BMW Group, allows the Aspen and Durango to run on conventional gasoline power, as pure electrics or by using any combination of the two.
Each of these new hybrids boasts 19/20 mpg city/highway fuel economy ratings from the EPA. Those numbers are roughly 25 and 40 percent better, respectively, than their gasoline-only counterparts. Both also come with a full range of luxury touches, from leather to primo audio/navigation systems, and can tow up to a 6,000-lb trailer. Chrysler is using a very aggressive pricing strategy to launch these super-efficient SUVs, with the Chrysler Aspen HEMI Hybrid starting at $45,570 and the Dodge Durango HEMI Hybrid opening at $45,340. According to the automaker, both vehicles are also expected to qualify to up to an $1,800 federal tax credit.