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2016 Malibu 2.0T Drive


Frisky Dingo

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Well, we got our first 2.0T in, and after waiting for what seemed an eternity- it was actually two days- it got PDI'd and put on the lot. So, being the car junkie I am, I took it for a quick spin earlier. I kept the drive fairly short, as I was mainly concerned with the impact the 2.0T made on the driving experience. As you may remember, my initial thoughts on the 1.5T were extremely positive. I'm happy to say, a stint with the 'big block' hasn't changed that.

 

 

I'm just going to come right out and say it- in 2.0T guise, it may be the most competent, best built and driving vehicle I have ever been in relative to it's price tag. I believe I read an article a few months back that the average new car price paid in 2015 was just shy of $35,000. Well folks, the car I drove was a 2LT with light options that came in at $29,495. And calling it average would be akin to calling Scarlett Johansson average looking. Or saying Denzel is an average actor. Or Freddie Mercury had an average voice. Or Anderson Silva was an average fighter. You may get where I'm going with this.

 

The car is just utterly, shockingly good. It is the first car of it's kind I have ever driven and found myself wondering, "Why would anyone pay the money for a luxury or premium car when this thing is so, so good, and so, so much cheaper?" Really, it just begs the question. The car is so smooth, so well-mannered, so efficient, (can be) so well-equipped, and just so easy and enjoyable to drive, it's hard to justify spending any more to get a 'better' car.

 

As for specifics, everything I praised the 1.5 car for is present and accounted for here. And on top of it, you get a deliciously creamy and wide powerband paired with a superb transmission. The car will just walk away from surrounding traffic with ease. You surf an endless wave of torque delivered by gears whose shifts are almost imperceptible. It's comically easy to reach the speed limit and beyond. My only complaint would be when coming to a stop, or close to one, there are sometimes slightly harsh downshifts. It only seems to happen when you are stopping somewhat quickly- the light just turned red as you came up on it- and in the last few shifts into the lower gears. It's really a nitpick item that only the most keen would pick up on. And it could very easily be attributed to being new. So I'll overlook that. The car got an indicated 35-36 mpg @ 70mph, compared to a rating of 33 HWY. Coming back, I got an indicated 30-31 @ 75mph with a headwind. Over a 15 mile drive that consisted of highway, backroad, and in-town, I averaged 24.8. Impressive stuff.

 

If you, or even anyone you know, is in the market for a new vehicle even remotely similar to this- whether it be a sedan or CUV- you owe it to yourself/them to go look at or recommend one of these. GM made a truly sublime car here. I hope this thing gets the recognition and sales it deserves. 

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Wow, that is big, big praise. Not to second guess you in any way, but you really wouldn't get that impression from the big dollar journalists. Motor Trend relegated the new Malibu to the bottom tier of Car of the Year entries (did not make finalist) and Car & Driver seemed to slip in as many unnecessary sideways comments as they could. Do you have any commentary on that? You've driven tons of cars so you're not exactly surprised by the typical "nice" car.

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Wow, that is big, big praise. Not to second guess you in any way, but you really wouldn't get that impression from the big dollar journalists. Motor Trend relegated the new Malibu to the bottom tier of Car of the Year entries (did not make finalist) and Car & Driver seemed to slip in as many unnecessary sideways comments as they could. Do you have any commentary on that? You've driven tons of cars so you're not exactly surprised by the typical "nice" car.

 

Here's my take on that-

 

I just checked out the COTY Test again to jog my memory, and the cars that made it as finalists were in many ways, easy choices. The Camaro is an icon and has practically rewritten the Pony car book. The new 7 is the latest and greatest entry into a class that only contains the latest and greatest. The Civic is another icon, one that has seemingly been moved to near Acura levels. The AMG is an almost-supercar, and we all know how smitten MT is with it. The Miata is the renewal of a segment it virtually owns exclusively and is long running stick to measure 'pure' driving cars with. The Mirai is something really out of the ordinary. The TT is another icon, especially from a design standpoint.

 

I kinda think the Malibu just got lost in the shuffle. In all honesty, it DOESN'T really do anything drastically different from the norm. It's not knocking down unheard of mileage, it's not touting some game changing powertrain or construction. It probably just didn't peg the meter in the 'Advancement of Design' and 'Value' criteria. Also, I imagine it's easy to overlook such good qualities when you also have six-figure AMG's, sports cars, and halo luxury sedans in the mix. I have no doubt that stepping from the 7 Series to the Malibu makes it hard to decipher how good the ride is, how quiet it is, etc, even though the Malibu does particularly well at those things. For all I know, it could have just narrowly missed the Finalists List.

 

I think, and certainly hope, that the car will fare much better in direct comparos with other cars in the segment. I've driven them all just about at this point, save for a few outliers- V6/Hybrid Accord, new Korean 2.0T and Eco offerings, and 200S. No other car I've driven in the class matches the overall competency and cohesion of the Malibu. There are others that are sportier. There are others that offer more features for the money. But there is no other that even comes close to making feel as though I haven't compromised by buying a mainstream midsize sedan the way the Malibu does. I just can't come up with any REAL criticism for the car. That pretty much says it all, in my mind. If I, of all people, can get out of a car, and based on how it performs it's intended mission statement, and be unable to find any real fault, that's a bulls eye shot, imo. 

 

I just think too many auto sources put too much stock in things that don't do as much to define a car- like it's handling or acceleration- as how well the car fulfills it's intended purpose. It's such reasons why I think the M3 is still the leader of it's pack despite the ATS being sharper. And why I'd rather a GT3 over a Z06, despite the Porsche being slower around a track. The Malibu nails it. I really don't know why anyone would buy an Impala.

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Great post. I would merely add that the folks at car & driver are dick heads that live on hyperbole.

 

 

 

LOL.. that's literally what I was thinking. 

 

As to the Malibu, I have not had an opportunity to drive one yet, but just today I saw 3 different ones within a 30 minute period. Hopefully more people are getting to get the experience Dingo had. 

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What's funny is that the midsize or affectionately called "full-size" rentals I frequently see on the lot are take your pick: Camries, Sonatas, Optima... and wait for it....building up the hype...wait for it...count your beans....wait for it...pluck those irritable boogers you get because of winter... wait for it...

 

The odd Malibu Limited.

 

Which means you've been Shaq'tin a Fooled!

 

There ain't gonna be new-gen Malibu rental, not for a good while! Face it, you've been played!

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I was very impressed with the first couple Malibu's I was in. 

 

They are very comfortable and lots of room and good visibility. What got me was one I was in had leather and was very well apponted and still was under $30K at $29k. Not easy to do in this class without getting a rental like base look model. No cheap fake wheel caps and no ultra small tires here. Same with the leather interior as often you have to go top level to get much of a nice interior. The dash is busy but in a interesting way. Controls are easy to use and there are a lot of options to play with. 

 

The interior felt as big in the back as my 08 and the car felt more open as the 08 has that bunker feel. 

 

The styling while not a Ferrari is as good or better than most. It for sure looks like a Chevy but it looks like a more expensive Chevy. 

I agree with so much good product at once this car did get lost in the hype. But in the end I expect this car will build in sales over the next few years. I has all the tools that this segment needs to compete. The fact is even if you are as good or better than the Honda or Toyota it takes time to build sales. Just look at Ford on the Fusion. It has taken time to build a strong base. When people are happy it is hard to change minds. 

I expect GM to be aggressive on price here and beat most in the segment but not give much up on value or quality. 

 

I expect the Bu to make the top 3 in segment sales with in 3 years. 

 

The local dealer here has had a few in but they all sell with in a day or so. Someone must know about them. 

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I'll have to try one if it eventually makes it to Alamo/National.  I've had several '13-15 Malibu rentals, one Fusion, two Camrys, a Sonata and a bright red Avenger in the last 3 years as far as midsize rentals...

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I sat inside a 2.0T Premium at the Montreal Auto Show.

I was impressed by 3 things.

 

1. The amount of space the car has. Up front. In the back. The trunk. Its a 'family perfect' car.

                                                             FINALLY!

 

2.  Keep in mind this was the Premium trim, as that was the badge it wore. 2.0T Premium.

The fit and finish and the materials in the car. Impressive. Better than my 2013 1.6 liter ecoboost SE Fusion.

 

3. The driver's door opens very very wide making it very very easy to get in and out of the car.  I liked that for some reason.

 

 

The car looks nice in person, it has a nice look about it. But you could tell its Johnny Come Lately in the looks department. You could tell that GM is a follower rather than the leader in this insytance. This look has been done before...3-4 years ago. Sure it looks fresher than my 2013 Fusion. My Fusion has also been on the market for 3 years now...

 

The back end is the nicest angle.

The side profile is nothing new as we've seen this before with Hyundai, Ford and the countless of other cars in this class...even Toyota beats the Chevy by 1 year with this type of look.

 

The front end is bizarre. Its pleasant. But bizarre. It reminds me of the Pontiac Aztec. But the Aztec was ugly. The Malibu is pleasant.

I think its a front end that Id tire of very fast..I dont think the front end will age gracefully.

Edited by oldshurst442
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I sat inside a 2.0T one also on Saturday at Barrett-Jackson.  I thought it looked better in person than in photos, and definitely better in dark colors..was dark blue. The front is definitely strange, the problem I see w/ the front and sides are too many lines and details, the design is too busy, IMO.   The interior is pleasant and definitely feels spacious.

 

I also got to sit in the Chrysler 200, the first of the 2nd gen models I've sat in.  Liked the interior, esp. the off white seats and door panel trim.  I like the slim grille and headlights...bright blue paint. 

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Yeah. Dark Blue for me too. Beautiful shade of blue. Made the Malibu look very upscale.

 

I also sat in a Chrysler 200. It was a 200C.

Strangely enough, I dont remember what the exterior colour was, nor the interior colour. I do remember it was two toned with white being one of the colours. I liked the fit and finish and the way the two tone hues blended together, but Id rather my Fusion and the Malibu over the 200. I did not feel comfortable in the 200.

 

The Fusion is my wife's car and she chose it for herself. I guided her towards it, I STRONGLY suggested we get it for her, but ultimately she decided that she wanted for herself. With that being said...if we were in the car market NOW for a car, I think Id STRONGLY suggest the Malibu over the Fusion...

 

But for me the order of preference is as follows:

 

1. 2016/2017  Fusion Sport

2. 2016/2017 Malibu 2.0T Premium

3. 2013 Fusion 1.6 liter Ecoboost

4. 2016/2017 Malibu 1.5 liter

5. 2016/2017 Fusion  2.0 or 1.5 liter ecoboost

Edited by oldshurst442
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Wow, that is big, big praise. Not to second guess you in any way, but you really wouldn't get that impression from the big dollar journalists. Motor Trend relegated the new Malibu to the bottom tier of Car of the Year entries (did not make finalist) and Car & Driver seemed to slip in as many unnecessary sideways comments as they could. Do you have any commentary on that? You've driven tons of cars so you're not exactly surprised by the typical "nice" car.

If i recall, in the COTY issue, they liked the 2.0 and hybrid and were less enthusiastic about the 1.5

 

I've been trying to locate a 2.0 on a lot anywhere around here the last few weeks to go for a spin and there aren't many of them available.  I suppose by now the 2.0's are finally starting to arrive more.

 

It's quite interesting what Ford is doing with incentives on the Fusion right now.  0% + 2000 cash back (stipulations) and there is also another $750 available.  Plus there has to be another buried incentive somewhere.  So Fusions can be had 6-7 grand off sticker right now, some pretty ridiculous pricing in some cases.  Rather odd I figured considering how hot the Fusion was off the lot since the new body and then it dawned on me that I think  the new Malibu is taking some market attention away from the Fusion.  The new Malibus are actually going close to list right now so there is a pretty insane spread in actual money for what you can get the Fusion for versus the new Malibu.  

 

But i think that is a testament to the new Malibu.   If it's getting a good launch then it should have legs for awhile.

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Touching on the looks of the Malibu, there are two oddities I notice-

 

One, and I think I mentioned this in my 1.5 review, the bottom of the front bumper and the bottom of the rocker panels don't align. Kinda bugs me.

 

The other thing is that when viewed from the side, the deck lid can appear a bit too abbreviated.

 

 

Darker colors definitely do it more justice, however. We've got one of the metallic gray ones now, and it looks great.

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