Volume III, Issue 1, Page 36
Words and photos by Ro McGonegal 01/15/08

This is a very big year for the Malibu. Kind of like moving from the minors to the major leagues--as an overnight sensation. But it didn’t happen overnight, no. There were years of shame and humiliation as the fleet car crow, an appliance COPO if we ever saw one. Never mind that the brand besmirched a very cool Chevy moniker dripping with heritage, with how cool Chevys really were (we had a new 4-speed, L79-powered Malibu, circa 1967). Some people have actually been calling for a rename of the car. We don’t think so. Once they experience the new Malibu, that’s all it will take. And they will do that simply by default, but the traditional target audience may still have no idea of what they are really buying. The new ‘Bu is about to change all that.

It’s about two hundred pounds heavier than the old guy but spreads the weight over a wheelbase that is six inches longer. It does wonders for the ride quality and simultaneously opens the box for swoopier, wedgier sheet metal (dig that ‘50s custom clam-shell hood rendition). See if you can dredge a styling cue from the old Malibu. It’s as if the lineage ceased abruptly with the ’08 family.

Those 200 glorious pounds? You’d never notice. Now that the Malibu has a real engine, one that responds like a hot rod and has brakes to match, we find that its handling characteristics more than equal the rest of the mechanicals. Can’t fault the wisdom or the technology behind that 6-speed automatic, either. And looks?

That turnip Malibu flourishes with world-class lines now--all this stuff being critical to the current notion of the affordable mid-size sedan—and all of it packed in there as standard equipment. Indeed, the LTZ press car flaunted but $1,335 worth of candy: 110v  power supply (on the back of the console), manual backlight shade, tilt/slide sunroof, and Red Jewel paint. Stuff that is superfluous to the basic car and stuff that won’t make the LTZ run one iota better.

Chewing up eastbound I-4 at a leisurely pace, the LTZ felt easily the equal of its Camry and Honda competition and right on par with the ambience and exhilaration of a 3-series BMW or C-series Mercedes.

We’d just retrieved boss Burky Boy and CEO Richard Burk from the Tampa air park, final destination Orlando for the Performance Racing Industry show. Lotsa BS. Lotsa cocktails. An unforgettable dinner or two. Camaraderie. Senior moments, yes. And the stuff at the show.