When we first got our hands on a new 2008 Chevy Malibu for review, this is some of what I wrote:
“I had been so skeptical about the new Malibu since seeing the earliest concepts and artists’ renditions that once I finally got to drive it, I spent most of my week behind the wheel trying to find fault with the car instead of focusing on the positives.”
My conclusions? Those import models that have been cannibalizing midsize sedan sales over the past couple of decades had better be worried.
More recently, we took delivery of the newest Malibu, in hybrid form – not a “pure” hybrid such as the two-mode Tahoe but a hybrid nonetheless using GMs earlier technology of pairing a gasoline engine with an electric motor whose primary duty is not propulsion but restarting the gas engine from stops, where the vehicle operates in electric mode at idle.
I also wrote that this is the car I would want Mom to drive (Mom’s a Chevrolet gal), and if I can get away without violating any copyright laws, I would name this Malibu as the new “American Idol” – Simon Cowell be damned.
We have now driven two Malibu models with very different powertrain and interior packages and I still stand by that statement.
The 2008 Chevrolet Malibu sedan is built on the shared platform underneath the new Saturn Aura that won accolades last year in the automotive press – front-wheel-drive unibody Epsilon architecture that has been tweaked and tested by GMs European engineers who have been utilizing the same design in Opel and Saab products.
The GM Hybrid system featured on the Malibu Hybrid saves fuel by using sophisticated controls and software, as well as a unique, 36-volt electric motor/generator mated to GM Powertrain’s 2.4L Ecotec VVT four-cylinder engine and Hydra-Matic 4T45 four-speed transmission.
The GM Hybrid system maintains the vehicle’s sporty feel and seamlessly reduces fuel consumption by:
• Shutting off the engine when the vehicle is stopped, to minimize idling;
• Restarting the engine promptly when the brake pedal is released;
• Enabling early fuel shut-off during vehicle deceleration;
• Capturing vehicle kinetic energy during deceleration through regenerative braking to charge the advanced nickel metal hydride battery;
• Performing intelligent battery charging when it is most efficient.
The GM Hybrid system provides additional power, when required, during launch from the electric motor/generator. At wide-open throttle, such as during a passing maneuver, the system enhances acceleration by using the motor/generator to bolster the gasoline engine and achieve maximum power.
The GM Hybrid system also is designed to automatically maintain full accessory functionality – including climate control – when the vehicle is stopped, so that hybrid operation is seamless to the driver and passengers. The Malibu Hybrid delivers a balance of fuel economy and cabin comfort with an air conditioning system with two selectable modes.
The Hybrid A/C mode favors more fuel-efficient performance by limiting the draw on the hybrid powertrain, while the normal mode provides maximum passenger comfort in hot climates and enhances defogging performance. We used the latter on our road trip recently, all the while still managing 32-33 mpg highway driving.
Inside and out, Chevrolet has really done its homework to deliver a winning midsize product. Design elements work very well together with attention paid to fit and finish, tighter tolerances and gaps and materials that consumers would actually like to have in a motor vehicle. Seating is comfortable and there is more than enough passenger room front and rear. Trunk space is equally adequate and the rear seat folds (60/40-split) to allow for even more cargo capacity.
Designers have employed a Chevrolet-signature dual-cockpit design complete with prominent, brighter gauges and a more accommodating center console.
All of the latest electronic technology is available and our tester even included a 110v power outlet at the rear of the center console.
According to the most recent sales data, consumers have responded very positively to the new Malibu with dealers wishing they could get their hands on more supply (a very positive change).
Pricing for our Kansas City, Kan.-built 2008 Malibu Hybrid begins at $24,545, or about four grand more than a base Malibu with the I-4 engine.
As for any negatives I have tried to find thus far, I am still looking. The new Malibu and Malibu Hybrid are winners.
The 2008 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid is covered by GM’s five-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. In addition, the Malibu Hybrid’s advanced nickel metal hydride (NiMH) battery pack is covered by an eight-year/100,000-mile warranty.
UPDATE: I almost forgot – the new Malibu Hybrid is eligible for a $1,300 tax credit from Uncle Sam.