2008 Chevrolet Malibu: Mid-size offers smooth lines, quiet ride and good acceleration
BY Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
The Chevrolet Malibu, named for the trendy, Southern California beach community of the stars and beautiful people, began life as a mid-range Chevelle in 1964. By 1978, Malibu, which had become an FWD car, replaced Chevelle in the Chevy line-up, and in the years since, has had many incarnations as a vinyl-topped two-tone sedan, station wagon, coupe and muscle car.
Now in its sixth generation, the front-drive Malibu, built on a platform it shares (though tweaked for Malibu) with the Saturn Aura, Pontiac G6, Saab 9-3, Opel Vectra and Euro-market Cadillac BLS, is a redesigned mid-size sedan that has rounded, liquid lines, good fit and finish and better acceleration that one would expect from a family mid-size.
The new Malibu is three inches longer than its previous generation (though it has a six-inch longer wheelbase), and it is also an award-winner, as it was named the North American Car of the Year at the 2008 North American Auto Show in Detroit.
The new wheelbase is 112.3 inches with an overall length of 191.8 inches. The ’08 Malibu is 70.3 inches wide and 57.1 inches high, and my test ride, covered with Amber Bronze Metallic paint, mated to a Cocoa/Cashmere interior, garnered approving looks and nods, though it was twice mistaken for the larger Impala.
Assembled in Kansas City, Kansas, the ’08 Malibu’s clean lines, aggressive stance and rear profile subliminally tie it in as a Corvette relative. Extra strength and extra steel in the central tunnel area and the bodysides, composite inner fenders, thicker glass than in previous models and sprayed-on sound insulation throughout the body cavities make for a better-than average quietness in the cabin, while providing excellent crash performance.
The base Malibu is driven by a 169-hp 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, but my test Malibu LT was powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission that rumbles out 252 hp and 251 lbs.-ft. of torque. This $2060 option that also includes 18-inch aluminum wheels, dual chrome exhaust tips and hydraulic power steering assist, provides all the passing power you need on the highway and all the responsiveness you want in a family sedan. Quick off the line for a civilized mid-size, my 3537-lb. test ride moved from zero to 60mp in under 8 seconds, during a sub-16-second quarter-mile run.
The set-up is EPA rated at 17mpg in the city and 26mpg on the highway, but my seven days of testing during varied weather conditions that included snow, sleet, rain and dry sunshine in the tri-state countrysides and boroughs of Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia, brought an average of 24.6mpg.
Quiet, quick and responsive, the vehicle showed a bit of oversteer and was not as road-hugging and low-center-of gravity-designed as I would have liked, but there was an exciting race-track feel of torque steer when the pedal is mashed, and braking action showed confidence and stopping power. The new panic brake assistance feature provides full braking power when a panic-braking event is detected. This can reduce the braking distance, providing more control in helping to avoid a crash.
The four-wheel independent suspension was tuned to the engine and driving characteristics of this trim model. Stabilitrak stability control, rear-suspension direct-acting stabilizer bar and monotube shock absorbers provide a smooth passenger experience according to those in the other seats as I took off down the highway.
Inside, the Malibu is roomy and upscale, decked out with an intuitive design. Pampering its inhabitants, the trendy interior compliments the exterior’s clean lines with an ergonomic design, two-tone trim, comfortable leather seating, wood-grain accents and Chevrolet-Blue backlit gauges. Heated front seats, air conditioning, reading lamps, power doorlocks and windows, AM/FM stereo, CD player, XM Satellite radio, 6-way power driver seat with manual lumbar adjustment, rear window defogger, leather-wrapped steering wheel, adjustable pedals and tilt/telescoping steering wheel are all standard. Comfort is assured with 39.4 inches of front headroom (37.2 behind), 42.2 inches of legroom (37.6 in row two) and 55.9 inches of shoulder room (53.9 in the rear).
Safety is attended to via safety cage construction built into the body structure, with reinforced rocker sections, front body hinge pillar and roof pillars that were designed to improve impact protection. Standard head-curtain side air bags (front and rear outboard seats), front seat-mounted thorax protection air bags and dual-stage frontal air bags with GM Passenger Sensing System offer protection after impact. Front safety belt pretensioners , LATCH child safety seat anchors, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, tire pressure monitoring system, remote vehicle starting and OnStar Generation-7 round out a very comprehensive safety program.
The base Malibu starts at $21,985, and the upgraded engine option ($2060), rear power package with rear window sunshade and 110V AC port ($250), floor mat-trunk mat-cargo-net package ($185) and destination charges ($650) bring the sticker price to $25,130.
Named for a California beach, the 2008 Chevrolet Malibu is equally at home anywhere you can drive, with a carload of people or by yourself, enjoying a quiet, comfortable, powerful-yet-refined ride.
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