- More soundproof than Abbey Road Studios
- Tire-scorching 252 HP V-6
- Hectares of interior space
- Attractive interior and exterior
- Steering wheel controls aren’t the most ergonomic
- Artificially heavy steering feel
- Thick A-pillars and steep windshield make for poor front visibility
Ruling: If the Malibu a sign of things to come, GM will put the good ol’ US of A back in the auto industry driver’s seat.
If you’ve ever been a marketing stooge, you know all too well that the old “build it and they will come” quip from Field of Dreams is exactly that – nothing but a field of dreamy naivete. It doesn’t matter how big you are or how good your trinket is, if nobody knows, they positively won’t come. And when GM set out to resurrect its reputation as a world class auto manufacturer by creating the new Malibu, they made sure everyone knew about it by allegedly investing nearly $150 million in advertising. At that kind of price, consumers had better know about the new Malibu, or Campbell-Ewald will have some serious ‘splaining to do.
Unless you’ve been living like Teddy Kaczynski, you’ve probably seen at least one ad for the new Malibu. You know, those slaphappy commercials which tout “it’s the car you can’t ignore”, demonstrated by two crooks who explode out the front door of a bank they just heisted, see the Malibu before them, and stop in silence for a moment to ponder its striking exterior profile. And although the premise is a bit highfalutin, especially considering the shoddy reputation of Chevy sedans, for once Madison Avenue advertising lives up to its hype – the new Malibu is indeed a car you can’t ignore.
You can’t ignore it for many reasons: sharp, aggressive exterior lines, an eye-catching chevron-shaped grille, blinding 18-inch aluminum rims, luxurious, roomy interior and a gutsy drivetrain are just a few. And we weren’t the only ones who noticed the Malibu. During our week with it, countless random people on the street approached us and asked “hey, how do you like that thing?” Amazingly, it rendered more attention than our Eurotrashed, Sweedespeed-stickered Volvo C30. The Malibu was indeed a pleasant surprise to drive.
The new Malibu is based on GM’s global front-wheel drive chassis architecture dubbed Epsilon. It’s the same platform that the Pontiac G6, Saab 9-3 and Saturn Aura are built on, with one distinction, the Malibu is far superior. Consider the awards its already won: 2008 North American Car of the Year, 2008 Car and Driver 10 Best and an Automobile Magazine All-Star.
The very first characteristic of the Malibu we noticed was that driving-wise, this car is on another planet compared to it’s predecessors. Actually, not another planet, another galaxy. Taught handling and suspension with minimal body roll, a brawny 3.6 liter engine that happily roasts rubber the day is long, and a presence of cars twice its price, the only drawback we could find was that the steering felt artificially heavy at lower speeds.
A second characteristic that was immediately evident once on the highway was the Malibu’s exceptional sound deadening qualities. Even at 80 miles-an-hour with toupee-advisory cross winds, the Malibu was serene; quiet enough to do voice-overs for the next Chevy Malibu TV spot. We were surprised to hear no rattles, squeaks, wind roar, or mechanical whines of any sort. And when we found out the Malibu had acoustic, laminated glass, we came to a realization – Chevy isn’t screwing around this time.
The base engine in the Malibu is a 2.4L 4-cylinder which puts out a respectable 169 HP, however, our LTZ test model came with a terrific powerplant – a DOHC 24-valve V-6 that churns out a balanced 252 HP and 251 lb. ft. Mated with a responsive six-speed automatic “Tapshift” tranny, the Malibu can sprint to 60 from nil in 6.5 seconds and through the quarter-mile in 15. Fuel economy is passable; 17 city and 26 highway with our tester averaging 23 MPG. The motor, which breathes with dual chrome-tipped exhaust, sings a harmonious, yet not too overbearing mechanical melody unlike any other $25,000 Chevy sedan in memory.
The Malibu’s appearance oozes with such quality, that those experiencing it for the first time immediately question whether someone slapped Chevy logos on it as a joke, or if it’s actually a GM product. Body panel gaps as tight as one, count it, one single millimeter, quality plastics on the interior which surprisingly don’t reek of Cheepnis, Inc. and of course the utter cabin silence while cruising further demonstrates the Malibu is well put together.
It shines safety-wise as well, with available ABS and Stabilitrak traction control system, which helps it earn a 5-star NHTSA rating for frontal and side impact protection.
As was mentioned, people might be surprised when the see the exterior of the Malibu, but those folk should close their eyes and sit in the driver’s seat before taking a gander at the interior, because they just might faint from shock. Once reminded that this is indeed a GM product with a base price of just under $20,000, you marvel at the comfy, grippy suede and leather upholstry, the grabadcious leather-wrapped steering wheel and the pleasant Aqua Velva-color backlighted instrument cluster.
Then you start playing with all the controls like a Driver Information Center that offers data like individual tire pressure, remaining oil life and outside temperature – features normally reserved for non-domestic cars above $30,000. The 210-watt, 8-speaker, 6-disc premium sound system has an attractive appearance and looks nothing like the heinous, de-facto OEM Delco junk radios on Chevy sedans of yesteryear.
The long Malibu rear door is reminiscent of a BMW 740Li or Lexus LS 400 L, and once in the back seat, passengers are rewarded with expansive amounts of legroom – partially thanks to the clever low profile sculpting of the front seatbacks.
The only criticisms we had for the Malibu were inside the car; and they were minimal. Thick A-pillars and a low-slung front windshield made for poor visibility, and we had to use a Chinese torture device to stretch our thumbs long enough so we could reach the steering wheel controls. And although some might criticize that there’s no navigation option, we didn’t even miss it. Who needs an LCD screen with some annoying computerized voice bossing you around when you can press a button and have a real-life person – Clyde from OnStar – give you turn-by-turn directions as if he was sitting shotgun.
The pictures say it all. We especially loved the Red Jewel tintcoat, dual chrome-tipped exhaust and blinding 18-inch aluminum rims on our test model. But take a closer look and you’ll see little details so often overlooked on American-made cars – like the little Chevy insignias on the side marker and taillights.
Base price – $19,999.99, AKA under $20,000. As tested, our well-equipped Malibu came in at $26,000. You’ll be hard-pressed to find more power, luxury, room and style for your money.
The Malibu is for those people who’ve always wanted to be patriotic and buy American, but were too afraid. Well fear no more. Finally, there’s a car made in the U.S. of A. that can compete on all levels with it’s Japanese counterparts; and it does it for thousands of dollars less. It is amazing but true, Madison Avenue advertising lives up to it’s hype. The Malibu is indeed a car you can’t ignore – especially if your business card has a Honda or Toyota logo stamped on it.
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>> See all of the 2008 Chevy Malibu LTZ photos in our photo gallery
>> Chevy Malibu Specs
>> www.chevrolet.com – official website for Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs