2008 Chevrolet Malibu
In nature, evolution generally occurs over thousands or even millions of years. In the car industry, it can happen almost overnight. Some may say that the 2008 Chevrolet Malibu
is one such miracle, going from thumbless primate to chatty Homo sapien in a matter of a model year. Besides the new body design, the Malibu has grown six inches in the wheelbase and three inches overall. Two engines choices, a four-cylinder and V-6, match the segment standards in horsepower and torque. But where you spend most of your time, the cabin, is where we make a most shocking discovery: it is incredibly pretty. This evolution is an advancement indeed.
What's to Like
The all-new exterior literally made us do a double – no, make that a triple - take. It is that much of an improvement. Its price point is bang on target with its class – stacking it up against the big players.
What's Not to Like
The four-speed automatic gearbox is a tad outdated. Visibility is limited due to huge pillars and the 18-inch aluminum wheels tacked onto the LTZ trim cheapen the car's overall look.
DriverSide Driving Impressions
The improvement in drive quality is refreshing to see in an American car. The four-cylinder may have some difficulty pulling the 3400-pound car in dynamic driving situations, but around town it needs nothing more. The four-speed transmission falls short of the competition though, with many having graduated to five-speeds by now. The V-6's additional power gives the weighty car a far more impressive push, but the Malibu has a hard time controlling it all, falling prey to torque steer. Sluggish acceleration out of corners and in passing situations can’t equal those of more finely tuned engines from manufacturers like Honda. Road noise isn't as blanketed as we'd wish, but for cruising at high speeds or in the urban alleyways, this sedan is perfect. Over the most torn up city streets, the Malibu's suspension softens up manholes and gravelly construction zones brilliantly.
Engine and Drivetrain
The Malibu's smaller engine is a 2.4-liter DOHC four-cylinder, which produces 169 horsepower and 160 lb-ft of torque. It is paired with a four-speed automatic transmission. The larger engine is a pretty dynamic 3.6-liter V-6 engine that’s mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox. It generates 252 horsepower and 251 lb-ft of torque. A manual mode holds the revs well, but only marginally provides any more control over the drive than in D mode.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
Attention extra long and vertically challenged drivers: An available button on the left of the steering wheel adjusts the position of the brake and gas pedals. This, in addition to a standard tilting and telescoping steering wheel, offers an utmost driving position. Standard features are abundant and include cruise control, air conditioning, power windows, locks and driver’s seat, a CD player with MP3 capability and an auxiliary input jack, XM satellite radio, traction control and a tire pressure monitoring system.
Key Technology Evaluation
On Star, free for the first year, takes the place of an in-dash navigation system. It provides audible turn-by-turn directions, but many people will miss the visual screen that many in the segment have. On Star also has included hands-free calling, a very clever fuel station locating service and numerous safety features like accident assist and roadside assistance. An upgraded audio system includes a six-disc CD changer - for those who still use those things - and eight speakers.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
In keeping with segment standards, the four-cylinder engine receives 22 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. The larger V-6 doesn’t hit quite the same fuel-efficient note as the rest of the class though and returns 17 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. Both engines obtain a LEV-II emissions rating.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
Two-tone interior themes bring life into the cabin. Steering wheel controls, beautifully designed instrument gauges and a streamlined center stack suggest that the Malibu is more expensive than its price tag.
The new 2008 design finally matches its popular rivals. The elongated sedan - by three inches - can actually be described as muscular and modern. The updated look gives the cleanly styled Malibu simple, unfussy lines. An optional sunroof is available on all but the base model and depending on the trim you purchase, you’ll be seeing 16-,17- or 18-inch wheels rotating beneath the body.
Market Segment and Pricing
The Malibu’s price range is in familiar territory with the rest of the mid-size sedans. It jumps off at $20,550 for the LS, followed by the $21,835 LT and the richly appointed LTZ for $27,745. Ringing in at similar numbers are the Saturn Aura
, Honda Accord
, Toyota Camry
, Hyundai Sonata
, Mazda 6
, Nissan Altima
and Ford Fusion
. A hybrid version is available as well, for $24,545.
What We Think
What a difference a year makes. The new Malibu lives up to the segment’s competitive nature and returns an all around improved drive experience. Both engines have a solid performance and the design has been stepped up a few dozen notches. Most surprising is the fit and finish of the interior, which in our opinion beats out some of the monsters in the class. Hold onto your hats, ladies and gentlemen, Chevy has restarted the Malibu’s engine.