I was asking my fellow Jalopnik writers for some Meh car suggestions, when I heard a rapping on the plexiglass of my work-pod. David’s pod was next to mine, and I saw him press a scrap of paper against the plexi, soggy from the nutrient-broth sprays, that read “ASPEN.” I was confused, because I was thinking Dodge Aspen, which is pretty terrible but hardly Meh. I turned in my head restraint to gave him a confused look, which he must have understood, because he made the universal three-thumb hand gesture for CHRYSLER. Now it all made sense.
Yes, the Chrysler Aspen. A vehicle I had completely forgotten existed because, really, it barely existed at all. The Chrysler Aspen was only built for two years, between 2007 and 2009, at which point an almost universal lack of interest convinced Chrysler to stop even trying with this thing, already.
Just to reiterate, this is absolutely not a Dodge Aspen, which was the badge-engineered sibling to the Plymouth Volaré. These were “compact” (for that era, remember) cars that used Slant-6 engines or V8s and handled like absolute shit but were sort of fun, in their own stupid way.
Plus, they had some special versions that had T-tops and hilarious literal window dressing and stripe kits that made a package that you couldn’t help but have fun with:
So, not great cars, but not meh, either.
The Chrysler Aspen is a very different story.
The Aspen was a full-sized SUV based on the Dodge (later Ram) Dakota truck platform. It was Chrysler’s first real truck-based SUV, and was essentially a badge-engineered, more premium version of the Dodge Durango.
This was exactly the car America wanted at the time, if you consider “America” to have a population of zero people (plus or minus zero people) and “wanted” to be a synonym for “ignored.” The Aspen came in one trim level, called “Limited,” presumably after the level of interest anyone ever had in this SUV.
The Aspen was designed to compete with the GMC Yukon, Chevy Tahoe, maybe the Cadillac Escalade or a Lincoln Navigator, maybe a Ford Expedition, and while it generally had all the premium crap the other guys did and was about as big, both body-wise and engine-wise, there really wasn’t any compelling reason to get an Aspen over anything else, even if you remembered that an Aspen was A Thing You Could Get.
The aspen came with either a massive 4.7-liter Magnum V8 making a slightly embarrassing 235 horsepower, or a really, really massive 5.7-liter Hemi making 335 horsepower. Aspens came with a five-speed auto and all-wheel drive because they were premium, remember?
Styling-wise, the Aspen had some Chrylser-idiosyncratic touches, like the corrugated hood, which I sort of like, and a fairly large and ornate grille. It was mildly distinctive from the front, mostly thanks to the corrugated hood, but absolutely anonymous from every other angle.
When it came to advertising the Aspen, Chrylser’s ad agencies seemed to rely on the basics: it had a Hemi, 20 inch chrome wheels, you could cram eight people in there, and it was capable of driving through clouds of steam while set to music:
They talk about “the urban landscape,” a tacit admission that of course nobody will ever off-road one of these, ever, and ignoring how miserable that thing would be to park in any setting that would actually be considered “urban.”
One interesting aspect of Aspen marketing is that, in at least one commercial, there was an attempt to target African-American car buyers, something that still isn’t that common for car marketing:
Later, they tried going after the coveted Dipshits Who Waste People’s Time At Drive-Throughs market:
I can’t remember the last time I saw a Chrysler Aspen because I can’t remember the first, or any time I’ve seen a Chrysler Aspen. I don’t think I’m alone here. In fact, if you ripped open a portal in spacetime and entered a universe where the only difference is that the Chrysler Aspen never existed, I’m not even sure you’d ever know you travelled between universes.
In case you worried, though, I have an idea: are you reading this article? If so, you’re in our universe. If not, well, then you’re in that parallel universe without Chrysler Aspens.
I wonder what Meh car I wrote about this week in that universe?