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Edmunds previews Malibu

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Chevy Takes Another Swing at Relevance

By Daniel Pund, Senior Editor, Detroit Email

Date posted: 10-07-2007

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The entire weight of General Motors does not rest on the shoulders of the 2008 Chevrolet Malibu. In fact, only several thousand megatons of pressure weigh upon Chevy's latest sedan.

When General Motors North America Vice President Gary White says, "We have got to get back in the game here," he delivers the line with stress on "got." And just in case you might underestimate the gravity of the situation, White leaves a half-beat of silence before and after the word.

The game he's referring to is the midsize sedan market — the big, meaty center of car sales. It's a tacit acknowledgment that the General has been floundering.

That Chevrolet, once king of America's mainstream car brands, has floundered in this most mainstream of markets is especially distressing. It's simply stumbled from weakness to weakness in the form of Malibus, Corsicas, Luminas, Celebrities and finally more Malibus. All the while, Toyota and Honda were eating Chevy's lunch. It's enough to make Mom cringe and drop the apple pie.

Naturally, White wouldn't have been talking this way if he didn't think the company had a car to get the company back into play.

Not Built of Lego Blocks

Did you know that when the last-generation Chevy Malibu was introduced, several GM staffers tried to convince us that the car was intentionally unexciting because midsize buyers wanted a boring-looking car? We can scarcely believe we heard it, even now.

Fortunately, this time around Chevy has tried to make the Malibu, you know, pleasant-looking, and it has worked. You won't mistake it for an Aston Martin, but the Malibu's smooth, subdued shape carries none of the previous model's silly slashes and little of its rental-car stance. It looks like a car you might want to buy. And it has none of the self-conscious oddness of recent designs from Toyota and Honda.

And will wonders never cease, this Chevrolet sedan has a decent interior. The dual-cowl design is a great improvement over the previous interior, which was drawn with a straightedge and no French Curves allowed. No longer a gloomy assemblage of medium-gray plastic sheets, the new interior is attractive and welcoming and is available in two-tone combinations with sassy names such as Cocoa, Cashmere and Brick. And they actually look pretty good.

In this class, only the Honda Accord's interior really stands clearly above that of the Malibu. The Toyota Camry's interior (which looks as if Toyota has wrung every extra penny of cost out of it) is certainly no better in terms of material quality or consistency of design.

Under Wares

There's more to the new Mailbu than just the sheet metal and the low-sheen plastic. Even the proportions look significantly better thanks to a wheelbase that's a whopping 6 inches longer than the outgoing Malibu (now the longest in the class). From nose to tail, the Malibu measures 3 inches longer than before, and this visually pushes the wheels to the corners of the car and gives it a stable look. These dimensions should also provide GM with the means to make tangible improvements in ride quality and handling compared to previous efforts.

The new Malibu shares its chassis systems with the critically well-received Saturn Aura, which is an evolution of other GM midsizers. This means the expected MacPherson strut front suspension and multilink independent rear. It bodes well for the Malibu; just don't expect a revelatory driving experience. Chevrolet says it used a new ride and handling philosophy for the Malibu, which apparently means the car is meant to slot between the soft Camry and the sporty Nissan Altima. That's roughly where a little-known car called the Honda Accord resides.

Stuck in the Middle With You, and You, and You

Of course the midsize class is not big on revelations anyway. The major competitors form a sort of extreme bell curve, wherein the vast majority of successful entries crowd the middle and share a shocking number of similarities. In size, they differ only by an inch or two in any dimension. In interior roominess, they hover somewhere around 100 cubic feet of passenger space.

The differences in these specifications often appear larger on paper than they seem in practice, since all competitors seat four comfortably and five in a pinch.

All the major players also offer 2.4- or 2.5-liter 16-valve four-cylinder engines for these cars. The Malibu's 2.4-liter (which is standard for all three trim levels), makes 169 horsepower and 160 pound-feet of torque, putting it squarely in the middle of the output range of all its competitors.

Naturally, the serious entries in this class also offer a V6 of about 3.5 liters. Chevy's is a 3.6-liter 24-valve motor that makes a credible 252 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque. That's less than the big three Japanese sedans, but more than the Dodge Avenger, Ford Fusion and Hyundai Sonata can muster.

Despite a standard six-speed automatic, the V6 Malibu returns EPA fuel-economy figures of 17 city and 26 highway — a couple of mpg worse than its competitors. Possibly this is due in part to the V6 Malibu's heft. At 3,649 pounds, it's the fat kid of the group. Even so, the 2.4-liter returns fuel economy of 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway, which is very competitive in this class.

The Malibu will also be offered with the same mild-hybrid powertrain as the Saturn Aura Green Line and should return 24 mpg in the city and 32 on the highway.

Happy Crashing!

A driver who runs into things will be happy to know that the Malibu will cover virtually the entire interior with airbags. Front and rear head curtain impact bags and front seat-mounted side-impact bags are standard along with dual-stage front bags.

Standard ABS and traction control along with electronic stability control (standard on Malibu LT and LTZ models) are there to prevent impromptu testing of any of these airbags.

There isn't a competitor that offers a better allotment of standard safety features.

Furnishings and Financials

We don't have full details on standard and optional equipment for the Malibu yet, but the base-level $19,995 LS comes with 16-inch wheels, the above-mentioned safety gear and XM Satellite Radio. The LT version adds 17-inch wheels, dual chrome exhaust tips and driver shift control. The full-zoot LTZ adds 18-inch wheels, foglamps and LED taillamps, and starts at $26,995. The Malibu Hybrid carries a $22,790 base price. Even though the new car starts a couple thousand dollars higher than the outgoing model, the 2008 Malibu is competitively priced.

General Motors appears to have covered all the bases here. There isn't a glaring omission on the Malibu (unless you consider lack of a satellite navigation system to be glaring). Neither is there anything radical about its engineering or equipment. But it is clearly in the game, as it were.

Now GM just has to figure out a way to win. We'd recommend staying in the game.

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No mention of the 6-speed availability with the 4-cylinder.

Edited by Dodgefan
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not to shabby, kinda puts the vehicle in persepctive... i think its the most attractive...

what it fails to mention about the gps... if the car has onstar you can get the verbal navigation, and its a lot safer to drive with someone telling you, turn here, go straight... then looking on a stupid screen in the middle of your car... its like trying to use a map, and drive at the same time... kinda dangerous

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The head lights look like they belong on a smaller vehicle, and the grille looks like it belongs on a crossover. For what it is, the elements all fit well, they just make the car look awkward. The tail lights are... unique.

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The head lights look like they belong on a smaller vehicle, and the grille looks like it belongs on a crossover. For what it is, the elements all fit well, they just make the car look awkward. The tail lights are... unique.

Please do explain why the head lights look like they belong on a smaller vehicle? The grille is like the Outlook's, though smaller. Similar to how the Accord's grille looks like a smaller Ridgeline grille.

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In this class, only the Honda Accord's interior really stands clearly above that of the Malibu. The Toyota Camry's interior (which looks as if Toyota has wrung every extra penny of cost out of it) is certainly no better in terms of material quality or consistency of design.

Fantastic quote! Good for GM to have a website like Edmunds make this observation and put it in the review.

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Please do explain why the head lights look like they belong on a smaller vehicle? The grille is like the Outlook's, though smaller. Similar to how the Accord's grille looks like a smaller Ridgeline grille.

Maybe it's their resemblance to the Cobalt's and Astra's headlights that make them look like they should belong on a compact. They're bulbous; I prefer the slim look on the Camry, Accord, TL, etc. I don't really like the Altima's headlights either (and hate them on the Altima Coupe, very unfitting).

The grille is just plain large, which is why it looks like it belongs on something like a crossover or SUV. That and it looks very similar to the Tahoe's grille.

The Accord's grille looks nothing like the Ridgeline's grille. Different mesh pattern, different shape, chrome around the outside of the Accord grille.

Posted Image

Now as far as whether the Accord's grille is good, I don't really think so. It doesn't fit the design of the Accord either.

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Posted Image

LOL @ the mud that's been photochopped onto the grill of the Ridgeline!

It almost looks as if they put a plexi-glass panel up in front of the truck and then splattered the mud.

I didn't know mud could stick to the empty area of a grill!

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Sounds like this reviewer just simply doesn't want to give credit where it's due...

It's very begrudging.

It's looking more and more like the new Malibu will be like the G6 was... It debuted to AWESOME praise only to be killed (For no good reason) in reviews.

Probably a lot of that has to do with the internet '$h! talking' by delusional fans and import humpers alike.

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Sounds like this reviewer just simply doesn't want to give credit where it's due...

It's very begrudging.

It's looking more and more like the new Malibu will be like the G6 was... It debuted to AWESOME praise only to be killed (For no good reason) in reviews.

Probably a lot of that has to do with the internet '$h! talking' by delusional fans and import humpers alike.

The G6 is a bland car...nothing special about it, and the interior sucked.

The Malibu isn't that great design-wise either...it looks ok, if not boring, and it just plain sucks from the rear.

The interior...well, the design is ok...the layout is good, but the center console blows...I know it is beating a dead horse, but it is true...the materials used are nothing special either. All the cut-lines are horribly cheap looking and the door panels blow in terms of design.

I'm not saying I'd choose any other car like a camry or an accord over this...personally I don't care for any of these cars (though the new Mazda 6 looks very promising...definitely best in class judging by the photos...nice looking car in and out), but to say that the car gets negative comments for "no good reason" is bull$h!.

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The Accord's grille looks nothing like the Ridgeline's grille. Different mesh pattern, different shape, chrome around the outside of the Accord grille.

They are both quite square, though the design within the squares are different. The upcoming Pilot most definitely has a very similar grille to the Accord. I'm not saying this is bad, because it shows family resemblance in the same way that the Malibu grill looking like a Tahoe's shows family resemblance.

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because you've all drove the malibu.

none of the midsizers jump out as head and shoulders above everything else.

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The Accord's grille looks nothing like the Ridgeline's grille. Different mesh pattern, different shape, chrome around the outside of the Accord grille.

They are both quite square, though the design within the squares are different. The upcoming Pilot most definitely has a very similar grille to the Accord. I'm not saying this is bad, because it shows family resemblance in the same way that the Malibu grill looking like a Tahoe's shows family resemblance. I just don't think that having a similar grill makes it look like it's off of an SUV. If the Malibu came out first would that mean the Tahoe's grille was car-like?

Anyways, that really doesn't matter...

I do think the Malibu will do well, if for no other reason than because the Accord isn't going to appeal to everyone, the Camry really isn't too good, and there isn't a whole lot out there that offers the style of the Malibu. It will certainly steal some potential Fusion buyers. I don't see GM having any problem selling 200k/year (their target). That's less than half of what the Camry sells. This model should vastly improve the Malibu's image in the market, the EPII will be the one that can actually put it at the top of the class.

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because you've all drove the malibu.

none of the midsizers jump out as head and shoulders above everything else.

Basically.

They all follow the same basic formula...but each has a different package. Most are dull...but reliable.

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I'm not saying I'd choose any other car like a camry or an accord over this...personally I don't care for any of these cars (though the new Mazda 6 looks very promising...definitely best in class judging by the photos...nice looking car in and out), but to say that the car gets negative comments for "no good reason" is bull$h!.

IMO, the Malibu is class leading as an overall package. Of course no one here, least of all a BMW driver, would buy one because it isn't built for us. It's built for clueless Camry buyers and it stomps the Camry and is 100% competitive with the Accord. To me, that's one hell of a victory considering GM has struck out completely for 10-12 years now in this segment.

Yes, the G6 is bland and the interior is atrocious. But my point is the similarities in praise verse criticism, which has nothing to do with the product itself. (Sadly)

Edited by FUTURE_OF_GM
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The G6 was nothing special and this Malibu really isn't anything special, nothing about it makes it the obvious choice over an Accord, Camry, Fusion or Sebring. Its not ugly, but its not a beautiful car, in fact it looks a little like a shrunken Impala from the front. And the interior appears to be the same tons-'o-cutlines (leading to tons-'o-squeaks in the future) that GM has had for years, only with snazzy design and colors.

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It debuted to AWESOME praise only to be killed (For no good reason) in reviews.

All the initial priase for the Malibu did was set everyone up for dissapoinment. It just isn't the showstopper it was made out to be, and the interior is spoiled by the same cheapo door panels and center stack in the Aura.

The Malibu is a competitve package, but it really doesn't make many advances in terms of design. Judging by cars like the '08 CTS, GM can do better than this.

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>>"All the initial priase for the Malibu did was set everyone up for dissapoinment. It just isn't the showstopper it was made out to be, and the interior is spoiled by the same cheapo door panels and center stack in the Aura."<<

Ironic: this is the exact same impression I encounter when inspecting various BMWs up close. All the hype and sensationalism- the cars never match up anywhere close to that in terms of design or finish. I have been repeatedly 'set up for disappointment'- who do I complain to?

>>"The Malibu is a competitve package, but it really doesn't make many advances in terms of design."<<

Neither has the camry (and at least in an exterior sense; the accord) ever made many advances in terms of design- but that hasn't held them back either.

>>"Judging by cars like the '08 CTS, GM can do better than this."<<

Judging by the CS, BMW can do a LOT better than the current 745.

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The Malibu is a competitve package, but it really doesn't make many advances in terms of design. Judging by cars like the '08 CTS, GM can do better than this.

Judging by the Lexus IS250/350, Toyota can do better than the Camry.

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I really don't see what the big deal is...

The Malibu is a VERY nice and VERY competitive car. The interior looks excellent and the exterior is gorgeous.

I certainly hope the public is a less jaded than 'enthusiasts' I guess?

Edited by FUTURE_OF_GM
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I think the review was fair and seemed unbiased for the most part.

I find it interesting that they praise the Malibu's exterior design and recognize the oddness of both the Camry and Accord (although they were a little PC about it and only mentioned the company's names instead of the actual models). I totally agree with the review. The Malibu's exterior design is definitely attractive and is hands down the car's most outstanding selling point. The big deal is that Chevrolet has finally produced a modern midsize sedan that has an attractive exterior design (unlike the rental fleet queen looks of the previous generation Malibu). I do wish that they would have made the taillight design four simple round units instead of the awkward shaped blob that appears on the production car, but the bad taillight shape isn't enough to make me turn my back on the car (especially since the rest of the exterior looks so good).

They didn't totally degrade the interior although GM did bring the car to market with obvious interior oversights.

After reading this review, I would still take a look at this car if I was in the market for a midsize sedan. I think the review was restrained and balanced enough to allow the reader to take a look at it and make up his own mind.

As far as the 4 cylinder/6 speed auto combo, it will not be available until next spring.

I still can't wait to see this car in person at the dealership. My enthusiasm has waned a little because of the execution of the interior, but I am waiting until I can personally inspect one before I pass my final judgement.

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I have only one dissatisfaction, for an otherwise good car. GM should have put the detuned 3.6DI in it and cranked about 280hp.

I hope GM puts DI in the Bu ASAP. The 2.4DI and 3.6DI will rock out.

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