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2008 Malibu + Interior

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Rule three of automotive journalism: When a domestic carmaker introduces a new midsize, midprice sedan, reviewers are to write, "They're now as good as Camry and Accord." So here goes. The 2008 Chevy Malibu, which Chevrolet will introduce at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show, looks like it's now as good as the Camry and Accord.

Our obligation to the profession complete, it's only fair that we ask you to check back a few months from now to see what we think of the new 'Bu after we actually drive the thing. But, we must say, the completely restyled, more powerful Malibu sedan really does look pretty good.

Aura underneath

On sale in the fall, the 2008 Malibu sedan still uses GM's front-wheel-drive Epsilon platform, which also underpins the Pontiac G6, Saturn Aura and, in a somewhat modified form, the Saab 9-3. But the new model uses the long-wheelbase (112.3-inch) version that was formerly used for the Malibu Maxx quasi-station-wagon/five-door-hatch thing. The Aura and G6 share this long version. So the Malibu (along with the Aura and G6) now has a longer wheelbase than all major competitors. It's between 3 and 5 inches longer than the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, etc.

Curiously, according to GM's figures, this stretch doesn't provide significantly more rear-seat legroom. Of the Japanese entries, only the sporty Altima has significantly less room in the rear. We wonder if GM's new measuring tape is incorrectly marked because, according to the specifications, the longer 2008 Malibu has less rear-seat legroom than the shorter 2007 version. We'll have to climb into the back of the new car at the Detroit auto show and try it for ourselves.

More power

What is not in doubt is the improvement in the powertrain. Chevrolet ditched the 224-horsepower pushrod 3.5-liter V6 in favor of a 252-hp double-overhead-cam 3.6-liter V6. The new engine is also available on the upmarket version of the Saturn Aura. The company likewise threw out the four-speed automatic and bolted a six-speed auto, with optional steering-wheel-mounted shifting, in its place. It's a combination that's impressed us in the Aura XR. And while the similarly sized Toyota and Nissan motors make more horsepower, 252 is more than adequate output for a family car.

The Malibu's new base motor, a 2.4-liter Ecotec double-overhead four-cylinder, makes 20 more hp than the outgoing 2.2-liter Ecotec. Rated at 164 hp, the new motor has as much juice as most direct competitors. A six-speed automatic transmission is also available with the Ecotec, although it comes only on Malibus with the upmarket LTZ treatment. The versions in the more budget-minded LS and LT trim lines get a four-speed automatic.

The swan

But the outgoing Malibu was never considered too small compared to competitors. And the old 3.5-liter, while lacking dual-overhead cams and variable-valve timing, made decent power. The real sticking point with the old Malibu was always its intentionally staid, rental-fleet looks and ugly, budget-basement interior.

Clean and smooth, the new design is worlds better-looking than the old car. The 2008 Malibu has a more purposeful stance and looks significantly wider than the outgoing model, though it is only a fraction of an inch broader. The new front end, with its two vertically stacked grille openings and dual round headlights per side, is, as the designers like to say, the new face of Chevrolet cars — so get used to it. We think it looks more upscale than the outgoing car and the bulging hood gives the nose a passing resemblance to the new Camry.

The rear end, while a definite improvement over the old car, reminds us of the Acura TL and the finally dead Mitsubishi Diamante. But that might just be us.

Inner beauty

It's no coincidence that the first sneak-peek image that Chevrolet released of the 2008 Malibu was an interior rendering. The company spent an unusual amount of time and energy on the interior.

The new dual-pod dash is an attractive, if not particularly original, design. And the new two-tone color combinations (with names such as Cocoa and Cashmere) should provide a little relief from the rental-car monotonous gray. Chevrolet also promises higher-quality material inside, including a cast-skin material to cover the instrument panel.

Standard active and passive safety features will include side curtain airbags for front and rear passengers, seat-mounted thorax-protection airbags for front passengers, ABS and traction control. Upmarket LT and LTZ models come with StabiliTrak electronic stability control.

Should be a good fight

It all looks like a good package and pricing, though not yet announced, is expected to rise only slightly. The 2008 Malibu might just be catching up to Camry and Accord, but the gap does seem to be closing rapidly. Of course, the new Accord will arrive on the market at about the same time as this Malibu, so check back with us in a year.

From Edmunds Inside Line

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I really like the interior, especially the black one with the silver trim. The back end is a let down though. I was expecting individual round tail lights sort of like the Cobalt coupe based on the spy photos, instead it looks like someone backed a Lucerne into a wall and flattened it.

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I really like the interior, especially the black one with the silver trim. The back end is a let down though. I was expecting individual round tail lights sort of like the Cobalt coupe based on the spy photos, instead it looks like someone backed a Lucerne into a wall and flattened it.

I actually like the rear end of it. I really don't care for the round tail light effect. I particularly hated it in the prior generation Impala. I remember when I saw the first one of those on the road and wondered to myself what the heck Chevy was doing with it. I know there is a desire to harken back to the design of the '60s generation Chevies with the "3 round tail lights per side" design but I just don't think it works in today's designs. I think they realized this.

Go Chevy.

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so there will be no 3.5 OHV VVT mid trim v6 option? Thats interesting. Looks like Chevy is going the accord or Camry route with the majority of sales coming from 2.4 vvt 4 banger sales that can be ordered on even the highest trim unlike the past, with the 3.6 as a premium option. I wonder what pricing will be like and what the lowest trim and cheapest way to get the 3.6 will be as it appears to be the only v6 option.

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Looks great but I don't like how the V-6 isn't standard on even 2 of the 3 models. Just trying to put yourself down to the import's level instead of going and actually offering more power for the money, like the 2000-03 Malibus which had a standard V-6 on both the base and LS models at the time. Nicely styled, the taillamps work, but I'd prefer the dual round taillamps of the Cobalt coupe, good engine selection, and too bad rear legroom is reduced-I hope its not by much, and I hope there's more trunk space. Can't wait to see more though!

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