by J.T. Hills
SGN Contributing Writer
- Sophisticated redesign
- Powerful, yet economic V-6
- Available hybrid version
- An optional 6-speed manual would be fun
- Chevy has an amazing navigation system, unfortunately not available on the Malibu
The Chevy Malibu was first introduced in 1964 as the nameplate for the top-level Chevelle, and returned for the 1997 model year as an all-new front-wheel-drive sedan. For 2008, the Malibu, Chevrolet’s mid-sized sedan, receives a complete, bold redesign. The Malibu continues to be a five-seat, front-wheel-drive sedan, but is now three inches longer with a six-inch longer wheelbase, comes with an optional two-toned leather interior, and loses its rental-car look for a more distinctive upscale design. After a week with the 2009 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ, I’ve compiled a brass-tacks list of highly technical scientific data based upon observations, experimentation, tabulations, inspections and so forth. Here we go:
In years past, I’d be too embarrassed to drive a Malibu through Malibu
It seems that – at least in my lifetime – Chevrolet has always made great trucks, SUVs, and sports cars, and totally misunderstood sedans. You want a great-looking, affordable midsized sedan; you drive to the Honda or Toyota lot. You drive a domestic; you pick up and drop off at the airport. The 2009 Chevrolet Malibu is a huge departure for General Motors, and really a huge departure for an American car manufacturer. It’s a midsized sedan that’s an American nameplate that you actually could want in your garage. It has a bold design, a fun engine, and a spacious cabin.
The test car, the Malibu LTZ, came with a 3.6-liter 252-hp V-6 with 251 lb-ft of torque at 3,200 rpms mated to a standard six-speed automatic transmission, and does 0-60 in about six and a half seconds. Get this: It’s an American car that actually needs traction control, because when you hit the gas, there’s torque steer. It’s a bit annoying in the Acura TL, I’m so proud I could almost cry in the Malibu. Out on the interstate, it has great road feel, the steering is precise, the ride pleasantly tuned – not too mushy, not too rough – and the six-speed automatic transmission shifts virtually unnoticeably. One minor miss, though, is that it needs a bit of a wide birth in parking lots. I wish the turning radius was a bit tighter. The only thing Chevy needs now is a sport edition with a six-speed manual transmission. The Malibu even has an efficient and powerful engine, rated at 17 mpg city and 26 mpg highway, so the horsepower, torque, and E.P.A rating are all extremely competitive to the V-6 versions of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. The four-cylinder version even gets better gas mileage, and if you want to get really green, there’s a hybrid version of the Malibu.
The bold design and long, sleek exterior of the Malibu flows into the cabin, where the fit and finish is on par with the Japanese nameplates. To add extra flair, the test vehicle came with an attractive two-toned leather interior. The ergonomics of the dash is well thought-out, as all of the controls are within easy reach. Currently, navigation with an in-dash monitor isn’t available. You have to use Onstar, which does give turn-by-turn directions, to have navigation and hands-free calling. Onstar is a subscriber-based service, which has its pluses and minuses.
Leg and headroom in the Malibu is ample in the front and back, and it can carry four adults comfortably. It’s a bit tight for five, although, so is every other midsized sedan on the market. There’s a spacious trunk, although the opening is a bit small for large boxes. It’s a form over function choice. I don’t carry a lot of large boxes, so I’ll go for form. You carry a lot of large boxes, so buy a minivan.
OK, for a before-tax price of $28,340, what do you get?
The 2009 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ comes with a lengthy list of standard features for a base price of $26,340. The upgrades are affordable, and comparatively still less expensive than a similarly equipped Accord or Camry. A quick look at the favorites includes:
- 3.6-liter V-6 DOHC Engine
- Six-speed automatic transmission
- Tapshift manual shift control
- Four-wheel independent suspension
- 18” aluminum wheels and touring tires
- Dual chrome exhaust tips
- Dual stage front air bags
- Side curtain airbags
- ABS breaks
- Stabilitrak traction control system
- Integrated key fob
- Fog lamps
Comfort and Convenience
- AM/FM/XM premium audio system with six-disc CD
- Eight-way power driver’s seat, and six-way power front passenger seat
- Leather heated front sport seats
- Driver information center
- Remote keyless entry with remote start
- Adjustable pedals
- Inside rearview auto-dimming mirror
- Universal home remote
- Rear power package: rear center power, 110v AC, rear window shade ($250)
- Sunroof, power tilt and shade ($800)
- Red jewel tint coat ($295)
- Destination Charge ($650)