The brand that literally defined the mid-size passenger-car when it was first introduced in 1964 could be ready to do the same all over again, or at least grab its fair share of the spotlight in a highly competitive category of mid-sized sedans.
This new Malibu is sleek, purposeful and devoid of the bland, design-by-committee sheet metal that helped previous Malibu models blend into parking lots just a little too easily.
The new car is so much better in every way, beginning with a highly detailed dual grille, rounded-off hood and deftly formed fenders, roofline and rear deck.
More of the same goodness awaits on the inside. The Malibu's sculptors have created a cabin that is equally inspiring, including a prominent control panel flanked by recessed gauges for the driver and a similarly recessed dash panel ahead of the passenger seat. The effect is cozy and welcoming and conveys a unique upscale feel.
Compared to the '07 Malibu, this car, which now uses the same platform as the Saturn Aura and Pontiac G6, has been lengthened by 3 inches and adds an impressive 6 inches between the front and rear wheels (3 inches more than the Toyota Camry). That element alone translates into additional - and always welcome - rear-seat passenger room as well as an improved ride.
It's practically a given that an all-new Malibu would provide some fresh motivation, and there are no disappointments under the hood. The base engine is a 164-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder, one of GM's family of Ecotec-branded motors. For buyers seeking considerably more zip, an upgrade to a 252-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 is on the order book.
Interestingly, the 2.4 as installed in base LS and mid-range LT models comes with a four-speed automatic transmission, while the same motor in the top-end LTZ is fitted with a six-speed automatic. With the 3.6, which is also available in all trim designations, a six-speed automatic is standard.
Chevrolet claims that the base four-cylinder will achieve a highway rating of 31 mpg, while the 3.6 will reach a still-respectable 26 mpg. Keep in mind that these values are based on the more real-world 2008 government test standards that trim around 10-12 percent off the previous values.
Although the new Malibu's standard and optional equipment list hasn't been announced just yet, you can expect LS units to come with the usual air/tilt/power (windows locks, etc.) grouping, along with a satellite-ready radio, OnStar (GM's live-voice help desk), 16-inch wheels, six air bags and four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock. The LS will add stability and traction control along with 17-inch wheels, fancier interior trim plus other assorted goodies.
The top-ranked LTZ will arrive with 18-inch chromed wheels, distinctive two-tone leather interior and an instrument layout that's exclusive to that model.
An oversized panoramic sunroof, premium audio system and 110-volt AC power outlet will head the list of available options.
The '08 Malibu is a clarion call to the competition that Chevy is back in the mid-size sedan game and its star backfielder is suited up and ready to play.
Copyright 2007 Wheelbase Communications