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Chevrolet Malibu LTZ Review


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THE AUTO PAGE
by
JOHN HEILIG

SPECIFICATIONS


Model: Chevrolet Malibu LTZ
Engine: 3.6-liter DOHC V6
Horsepower/Torque: 252 hp @ 6300 rpm/251 lb.-ft. @ 3200 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic with manual mode
Wheelbase: 112.3 in.
Length x Width x Height: 191.8 x 70.3 x 57.1 in.
Tires: P225/50R18
Cargo volume: 15.1 cu. ft.
Economy: 17 mpg city/26 mpg highway/18.1mpg test
Fuel capacity: 16.3 gal.
Price: $27,540 (includes $650 destination charge and $545 in options)

The Bottom Line The redesigned Malibu looks great, rides great and is comfortable with power. Candidate for Car of the Year.

When the Chevrolet Malibu appeared in my driveway, my first thought was,where did the Volvo come from?

The Malibu's styling is so European that most people I talked with thought it was a European car. But no folks, it'a red-blooded American car, and Chevrolet has every right to be proud of the way its iconic mid-size sedan appears. It's no wonder that many journalists have chosen it as Car of the Year.

It was also popular with the tire-kickers we encountered with the car, from my mailman to shoppers at Home Depot to coffee drinkers at Starbucks. The two guys in the VW Jetta at Starbucks thought the Malibu was the latest Jetta, but they weren't disappointed to find it was a Chevy.

We found the Malibu to be a nice package all around. It's dimensionally smaller than the Impala, but it still seats four in comfort. In addition, the 3.6-liter V6 engine, driving the front wheels through a 6-speed automatic/manual transmission, offers more than enough power. This engine in the Cadillac CTS delivers 263 horsepower; in the Malibu it's "only" 252 hp, but you'll barely notice the difference. The engine was quiet during normal operation and only slightly noisy under hard acceleration.

The transmission has a manual mode, with paddle shifters located on the steering wheel. To upshift, you hit the arrow located above the crossing bar on the steering wheel; to downshift, the arrow is located behind the cross. We found the handling to be very good on rough roads. It also performed well on winding roads, with minimal body lean.

Exterior styling is very European, while the interior is American, with an interesting cocoa/cashmere color theme. At first, the two-tone interior seemed garish, but it didn't take long to become accustomed to it and my wife and I actually missed it when we drive a more conservative vehicle the following week.

The front seats were comfortable and offered some side support. In the rear, there's decent legroom with the front seats in a normal position. The tall center hump restricts rear seating to two.

I liked the instrument panel with its ambient green lighting. The excellent audio system offered AM/FM/XM/CD. In addition, the HVAC system was excellent as it heated the Malibu quickly in some pretty cold weather.

GM vehicles designed under Ed Welburn offer interesting storage areas inside the cockpit. For example, there are cupholders in the doors and two in the center console. There's a storage cubby on top of the dash, and a pull-out drawer on the dash to the driver's left. There' a good deep center console as well.

The trunk was a good size at 15.1 cubic feet. Cargo capacity can be increased by folding the rear seat backs, but with the good trunk and only two passengers in the car, you can carry some objects in the rear without folding the seats.

Chevrolet has always used the Malibu as a more sporting mid-size sedan. The tradition continues with the redesigned Malibu, that will turn heads as it rolls down the road.

© 2008 The Auto Page Syndicate