By now you have probably heard about the 2008 Chevrolet Malibu. This all-new family sedan is out to prove that the bow tie brand hasn’t forgotten how to build highly desirable mainstream cars and that this Malibu is a serious competitor for market leaders Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Well, you know all the hype. Now, let’s see how the Malibu’s facts shake out.
The Chevrolet Malibu’s transformation for 2008 is nothing short of remarkable. With all-new looks, a super solid chassis, coupled with robust performance, and even a hybrid model, this four-door sedan could become a real force in a midsize segment that’s ruled primarily by monarchs Toyota and Honda.
The new Malibu shares its updated Epsilon front-wheel drive architectures with the Saturn Aura. The generous 112.3-inch wheelbase is stretched six inches over last year. Its sophisticated and forceful appearance will turn heads yet shouldn’t upset those comfortable with segment leaders Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Fit and finish are excellent, with somewhat richer aesthetics than rivals.
The Malibu’s new silhouette flows gracefully from front to back. Rims range from base 16-inch steel wheels to uplevel ultra-bright aluminum 18-inchers.
Inside, the rental car look of the past is no more. This spacious and dramatic cabin features a sweeping, two-tone, twin-cockpit theme.
Deep-set gauges and smart-looking controls add to our LT model’s true premium appearance, and extras such as an information readout, auxiliary jack, and top-of-the dash storage show the designers’ high level of attention to detail.
Comfort comes from well-cushioned seats, tilt/telescopic steering wheel with controls, plus available adjustable pedals.
Premium standards include OnStar, noise reducing “quiet glass,” and a full compliment of six airbags.
The rear seat offers room for three adults, but overall feels a little more claustrophobic than Camry and Accord. There is a standard 60/40 split and fold feature to expand the Malibu’s class typical 15.1 cubic feet of trunk space. The smallish trunk opening is the only shortcoming here.
Under the hood, the Malibu redefines itself with three engines. The standard 2.4-liter double overhead cam four-cylinder with variable valve timing will be the most popular. It’s rated at 169 horsepower and 160 pound-feet of torque. Our LT tester boasted a 3.6 liter twin-cam V6 with VVT, which throws out 252 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque.
Malibu’s gas-electric mild-hybrid model also uses the 2.4-liter along with a hang-on starter-generator motor.
The standard transmission is a 4-speed automatic - Camry and Accord have 5-speeds - but a 6-speed auto is optional and standard with the Malibu V6.
On the track, our V6 Malibu hustled from 0 to 60 in 7.1 seconds, with a fine family car quarter-mile of 15.6 seconds at 95 miles-per-hour.
While the four-cylinder is slower, it too delivers more than ample performance.
Out on the street, all Malibu engines proved impressively quiet, with each transmission delivering smooth, nearly invisible shifts - traits Accord and Camry are famous for.
The Malibu’s all-independent suspension provides agile handling for slicing through cones and traffic, and without compromising ride comfort for the daily commute.
The Electronic Stability Control is perfectly calibrated, straightening things out with surgical precision.
While we found Malibu’s overall cornering prowess superior to Camry, it still felt heavier than the benchmark Accord. Malibu’s steering, however, is delightfully quick and well weighted.
Braking was also up to the task, with four-wheel discs with ABS. Our car averaged an excellent 116 feet from 60 to 0. Halts were fade-free, laser-straight, and very controlled.
Government Fuel Economy ratings for the Malibu 4-cylinder are 22 City/30 Highway. The Hybrid, 24 City/32 Highway. Our thirstier V6 scores at 17 City/26 Highway, with a real world loop of 20.9 miles-per-gallon on regular grade gas.
Malibu’s Energy Impact Scores ranges from a low of 12.7 for the hybrid, to 17.1 barrels of oil per year for the V6.
Price wise, the base Malibu LS starts at $19,995, which is a $1,000 less than an Accord and about $800 more than Camry. The mid-level LT starts at $21,280 and the top-tier LTZ stickers for $27,445. For those eyeing up the mild-hybrid, the sticker starts at $22,790.
The bottom line is that the all-new Chevrolet Malibu is the epitome of a well-conceived midsize car for families, commuters, and even car critics. Malibu was selected by 45 automotive writers as the 2008 North American Car of the Year. High praise indeed. So move over Camry and Accord, the 2008 Chevrolet Malibu is a first-rate competitor, and one that no one in the market for a mid-size car can afford to ignore.
Engine: 3.6 Liter Twin-cam V6
Torque: 251 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 7.1 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 15.6 Seconds @ 95 MPH
60-0 MPH: 116 Feet
EPA: 17 MPG City/ 26 MPG Highway
Mixed Loop: 20.9 MPG
Energy Impact Score: 17.1 Barrels Oil/year