SEE ALSO: Chevrolet Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 19,090 Price As Tested $ 20,870 Engine Type OHV 12-valve 3.1 Liter V6 w/SPFI* Engine Size 191 cid/3135 cc Horsepower 170 @ 5200 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 190 @ 4000 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 107.0"/69.4"/190.4" Transmission Four-speed automatic Curb Weight 3105 pounds Fuel Capacity 15.0 gallons Tires (F/R) P215/60R15 touring tires Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/front-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Five-passenger/four-door Domestic Content 85 percent Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) N/A PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 20/30/24 0-60 MPH 8.5 seconds 1/4 Mile (E.T.) 16.5 seconds @ 83.0 mph Top speed 105 mph * Sequential multi-port fuel injection
(Yesterday's corporate hot-rod names often show up on plebeian family cars decades later. Bob Hagin thinks it's a word-game but son Matt says most buyers don't have much automotive historical acumen.)
BOB - Thirty-five years ago, the Chevrolet Malibu was a mid-sized sedan that could be had as an SS "Musclecar" with a 396 cubic-inch V8 that had enough power to quickly melt a set of bias-belt rear tires. But like a lot of other venerated General Motors names, the Malibu label has been put on a four-door sedan that's as suited to drag racing as an infant is to trap shooting.
MATT - You're right, Dad, but that hasn't kept hundreds of thousands of Chevy buyers in the past few years from signing up for the latter-day Malibu and reporting that they're happy with their purchases. Where the stone-age Malibus were front-engined with rear-wheel drive, the modern interpretation features the now-conventional front-drive configuration with its V6 engine mounted transversely. To be accurate, those old Malibus were actually Malibu models of the Chevy Chevelle and they could be had with a straight-six or a V8. The majority of them were V8-powered but they were pretty mild versions and only a small number of the two-door sedans were factory hot-rods. Most were station wagons or four-door family sedans like the contemporary one we're trying out this week. And as it was then, the "average" Malibu buyer is looking for a comfortable conveyance that will hold the whole family and have as many modern amenities as possible at a reasonable price.
BOB - A 3.1-liter V6 is the only engine available in the Malibu for 2000, since the four-banger that was available last year has been set to rest. And although the overhead valve, pushrod unit is pretty antiquated, the power has been bumped up by 20 horses and now stands at a respectable 170. The torque is up a bit too, and even though it won't win any trophies at the local drag strip, I have to admit that it won't give its driver white knuckles when he or she is coming up on a highway on-ramp.
MATT - You really ought to say "she or he" Dad, since more than half of the buyers of Malibus in recent years have been female. And the Malibu is not as "plain" as you're making it out to be. Both the basic Sedan version and the fancy LS like the one we tried have bucket seats up front. Ours came with leather upholstery, too. It also has an electric sliding sunroof, which is a bit pricey at $650 and it's other downside is that the front seat "grab bars" that are standard on Malibus are deleted when the sunroof is installed.
BOB - That's definitely a drawback for "senior citizens" like myself who need all the help we can get when exiting modern cars such as the Malibu. But there's other fancy stuff on the car. The rear seat-back folds down for more cargo space and the trunk has a low lift-over height, which makes it easer to load luggage and groceries. The electrical system has a battery rundown protection system which shuts things off if the car is parked for an extended length of time. The driver's seat is powered, and the "standard" wheels on the LS are aluminum, although they carry the same P215/60R 15-inch tires that are mounted on the steel wheels found on the basic version.
MATT - The Malibu is a little short in the brake department because the rear units are drums which, of course, don't work as well as discs. And its definitely a family vehicle. With a towing capacity of only 1000 pounds owners can forget about camper or boat trailer towing. It's not a quasi-sports sedan, either, since there's no "Sport Package" offered. The Chevy press package says the Malibu is for "soccer moms" and people who want "..a .good, quiet car to get from Point A to Point B," and don't need to break any speed records while they're doing it. Parenthetically, this new Malibu design is one that GM plans to market in other countries. It's a true "world car."
BOB - Since it was named after the famous surfer beach in Southern California, I wonder if the "world" versions of the Malibu come with spare sun glasses and a bottle of suntan lotion in the glove box.