By on March 14, 2016

2016 Chevrolet Malibu, Image: © Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars

“Would you like a Ford Fusion or a Chevrolet Malibu?”

“Is it the new Malibu?”

“Absolutely. I’ll pull it around.”

“This isn’t the new Malibu.”

“It’s a 2016.”

“There’s a newer Malibu than this. Let’s take a look. Well, at least it’s an LTZ. And I just need it for a quick trip to Pittsburgh and back. What the hell. One last ride. As Thoreau once said, let’s try being the new man in the old clothes.”

“Thor who?”


2016 Chevrolet Malibu, Image: © 2016 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars

It was a last-minute idea: take a Saturday to drive from sunny Powell, Ohio, where all the children are above average and there hasn’t been any significant crime or commotion in a hundred years despite nearly everybody being a super-racist, ultra-violent Trump supporter, to a little town just north of Pittsburgh. The purpose: to see a man about a bicycle. The secondary purpose: to head south to the big city and indulge in the Ruths-Chris-dinner-and-Kimpton-suite combination that serves as a recurring touchstone of bourgeois diversion in my otherwise empty life.

This Malibu LTZ, supplied here with the “Eco”-spec four-cylinder, was a strangely appropriate vehicle for such a middle-middle-class journey. There was a long period in this country, maybe from 1946 or so all the way to the demise of the G-body Malibu in 1983, where the ownership of a fully-loaded Chevrolet mid-size sedan conferred a unique sort of respectability on a suburban father or young executive. It meant that you appreciated the finer things but didn’t care for the gingerbread. Think of the message that Camry or Highlander XLE ownership sends today — “I could probably afford a Lexus, but I don’t care to do so” — and you have the idea.

Of course, it’s been a long time since the Malibu had any reputation other than “rental sled” or “buy-here-pay-here.” Perhaps the new car will change that; I spent some time in a brand-new Malibu press car in California last month and was favorably impressed. It kind of looks like a final-generation Chrysler 200, but that’s okay with me because I always dug the way the Chrysler 200 looked. The problem, not to put too fine a point on it, is how you get people to respect the nameplate after 20 years of cars that were only occasionally up to the standards set by Honda and Toyota.

2016 Chevrolet Malibu, Image: © 2016 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars

Let’s start the subjective-impressions portion of this review with a thoroughly unfair but nonetheless accurate conclusion: I’d much rather have this Malibu LTZ than a base Hyundai Sonata. Not fair at all, right? The Chevy stickers for nearly eight grand more than the Hyundai. On the other hand, this car was born to have cash on the hood. Your mileage may vary.

My mileage wasn’t particularly good. To get to my new bicycle, I had to start by covering about 170 miles on the freeway. I never exceeded 80 miles per hour and didn’t really exhibit any symptoms of being in a hurry, but the ‘Bu struggled to provide a self-reported 29.5 mpg. In that same situation, a four-cylinder Accord easily gets 35. Hell, my Accord V6 coupe can return 30-31. So the “Eco” badge on the back is more wishful thinking than a real-world result.

On the roll, the LTZ is a pleasant place to be. The seat heaters were well-reviewed by my female companion, whose last recorded words were she to fall into an active volcano would be “It’s just a little cold in here.” The stereo is decent if not stunning, helped by the respectable lack of road and aero noise. The dark faux-wood doesn’t fool anybody but the general quality of the trim is much better than in the other Malibus I’ve driven of this generation. It’s a relaxing and competent freeway car that has an aura of quality assembly and acceptable materials choice.

Once I reached the back roads north of Pittsburgh, however, I was in for a surprise. Both in the sense that the roads were stunningly good, whipping up and down and around a spectacularly hilly region, and in the Malibu’s genuine love of medium-spirited driving. Even the normally tepid Ecotec seemed a little better than I remembered it, although the Tiptronic mode, controlled by a button on the top of the shifter, remains just plain stupid. The brakes didn’t fade, while the steering was both responsive and communicative by the standards of the class. You can have a bit of fun in this car. Maybe because the wheelbase is so short, maybe because the LTZ gives you slightly better wheels and tires than the run-of-the-mill Malibus get. No matter what the reason, I had no trouble making almost shocking pace on the two-lanes.

2016 Chevrolet Malibu, Image: © 2016 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars

After picking up my bike, I headed south to the Hotel Monaco on cruise control — in all senses of the word. It was the most relaxing Chevrolet I’ve driven in a long time. My companion wasn’t quite as relaxed. “I don’t trust the start-stop when you’re making a left turn at a light,” she complained, and I couldn’t really blame her. It’s unnerving to have the engine die when you’re contemplating a turn across a few lanes of city traffic. The solution is to give the brake a little release-and-catch, which fires the engine back up, and then make your turn. With that said, the auto-stop feature never misbehaved. Even the noise of the starter, which I recall from previous Malibus as being abysmal and worrisome, seemed better-insulated.

Bike in 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Trunk, Image: © 2016 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars

Long-time TTAC readers or front-wheel-drive Malibu fanciers — what’s the Venn diagram there? — will recall that this generation of Malibu rectified its predecessor’s lack of trunk space by moving four inches from the wheelbase to the trunk. How pleasant to see that my bike fit easily back there, although it would fit better in an Accord or Camry. It’s not quite as pleasant to look behind my driver’s seat and see about three finger’s worth of gap between the seatback and the lower bolster of the rear bench. This car would have been better as a coupe; the mailed-fist look of the prognathic front end would serve a coupe better and it would also prevent anybody from getting the idea that they’d be comfortable in the back seat of a Malibu.

The drive back to Columbus the next day was, as they say, a doddle, helped in part by the best seats I’ve experienced in a GM car lately. I returned the Malibu that evening and gave it absolutely no thought whatsoever until it was time to write this review. The truth is that I want to like the LTZ for what it does well: freeway driving, front-seat comfort, low noise. It’s a good example of how a few detail refinements and some extra-cost options can make a car significantly better. When I drove an LS two years ago, I hated it. I don’t hate this car. It’s the opposite of the Sonata I drove right before it, which was a good car made unlovable by excessive cost-cutting. This is an indifferent car made acceptable by sound insulation and heavy control feel.

The funny thing, however, is that you could use the same phrase to describe that G-body 1982 Malibu. As an Iraqibu, it was abysmal. With all the boxes checked on the order form, it was a pretty decent store-brand variant of a Buick Century. That used to be enough to move the metal. In 2016, it’s not. Therefore, I cannot love this run-out LTZ, even though I can hear myself think on the freeway and I can amuse myself a bit on the backroad. It’s just too fundamentally flawed, from the useless stop-start to the short wheelbase. The new Malibu is better than this one. Which is good, because it desperately needs to be.

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121 Comments on “Rental Review: 2016 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ...”


  • avatar
    rocketrodeo

    Somehow Chevrolet manages to get the Malibu almost-OK every other generation. The alternate generations are truly bad.

    • 0 avatar

      The ’08 car turned things around for the better. The ’13 was a step backwards.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        They should have stuck with the 08 design longer, the 13 is truly an awful looking vehicle. The 08 design showed the nation GM could build an acceptable midsize car, and then 5 years later they destroyed all that credibility.

    • 0 avatar
      USAFMech

      @rocketrodeo – I wish we could leave your reply – and just your reply – as the only comment on this Malibu. It’s a two-sentence Gospel of Meh.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s the James Bond series of cars.

      Casino Royale? Great.
      Quantum of Solace? Horrible.
      Skyfall? Amazing.
      Spectre? Verdict is out (I haven’t watched it yet.)

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Spectre was a horrible mess. It’s chock full of Brosnan-era trite garbage. It’s about 2.5% better than QoS by my estimation, if only because the bad guy is not a wet noodle eco terrorist in Spectre.

        Interestingly, Spectre is all about flashbacks and showing prior Bond important events, through reference and video clips. QoS bad guy is nowhere to be seen, clipped from the timeline in their revisionist history.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          No one probably remembered that guy anyway, but I’m gonna disagree on Spectre being bad, or as bad as QoS. If nothing else the film had some seriously cool cinematography. They blew a bundle on this one and it shows.

          But I was disappointed in Christoph Waltz’s character (who I won’t name even though anyone who’s ever seen a Connery-era Bond movie knows what the guy’s nomme de guerre is – it’s not too hard to figure out).

          However, I did really enjoy the Connery-era vibe, with the gadget car, the train fight, and the villain lair. They even threw in a “Welcome, Meeester Bond, we’ve been expecting you” moment. Plus some good Aston porn.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            It was filmed well, I agree. And I was excited for the movie after the killer helicopter bit at the beginning.

            If you expect us to remember Casino Royale, you should also expect us to remember QoS, as it’s newer!

            The rest of the movie just faltered with wasted Waltz talent, and too much time spent with tech nerd guy Q, who’s comic relief didn’t sit well with the general tone of the film.

            I half expected Bond to wink at the camera in certain moments. The chase through (totally car-free) Rome, and the (suddenly totally empty) luxury train put me off too. He had zero chemistry with Bond girl.

          • 0 avatar
            bunkie

            I could watch the first part of the opening sequence again and again. Bond and the unnamed-lady walking toward their impled tryst slowly, yet purposefully, set against the backdrop of the spectacle that is the Dia de los Muertes, is one of the sexiest things I’ve seen on film.

    • 0 avatar
      MoDo

      One of the only cars I use to flat out refuse from the rental counter – A Malibu 4 cylinder just like this article is about. Had to use one on a 5 hour each way business trip last year and OMG I despised that underpowered, works when it wants to stop-start system, and so boring you’ll pass out – thing.

      If you can take a Cruze instead, do that. While the new style mali looks way better, I bet it rides just the same.

      I don’t have the job anymore where I use to have 1-3 rentals every week – but the last gen Chrysler 200 was better than the Malibu. The only cars just as bad were the Kia Optima, Mazda CX5 (the van looking one) and Toyota Corolla.

  • avatar

    Aside from being a diehard GM fan/apologist (you have to both, can’t be just either), I’ve grown to love these unloved GM fleet specials for all they are and all they have to offer.

    I paid about a grand more for a ’15 Impala LTZ w/sunroof, spoiler, and 23k miles than I would’ve for a ’12 Camry LE with 60k miles. And the Impala is a better car.

    I paid about a grand LESS for a ’13 Captiva Sport LTZ w/sunroof, leather, park sonar/cam, and 25k miles than I would’ve for a ’14 Rogue Select S with dumba** ’06 Sentra wheelcovers, no roof rack, no spoiler, and 35k miles. And the Captiva is a better car.

    I know when my girlfriend’s sister moves off with her dips*hit jarhead boyfriend in a year, a factory-warrantied Cruze Limited LT or Captiva Sport LTZ with a little repaired apron damage is what she’s going to be packing her stuff into. Can’t beat ’em for the money.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I think the Cruze is pretty good. I think the Captiva is an awful old Saturn! Haven’t been in a new Impala but I want to check it out – I’m sure it’s better than the Camry.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        It is, although the materials are chintzy and the steering wheel looks like a cheap version of a W222 S-Class whee.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          You know, maybe I was in a rental base Impala. It was buzzy and jerky, constantly going REEEERRRR as it shifted up and down.

          I just put it out of my mind because I really didn’t like it. Hopefully upper trims are much improved.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            I keep getting completely loaded but non-turbo 4cyl Impala LTZs from Hertz. Nice car, but even *I* think the performance is marginal at best, and I am happy driving 112hp Volvo 940s…

            No rental this week, doing a gig in Northern Maine so driving my M235i! Last week was a new but utterly base model rental-spec Elantra sedan (tight do not exceed on the expense billing, ugh). Cheap and cheerful, great gas mileage, appalling steering but absorbent ride on the nasty Houston roads.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Lol, last year my parents went to Boston to visit my brother. They rented a car, so that’s two things they normally never do – travel via plane, and rent something.

            My dad did the reservation online at Avis I’m guessing, and picked the smallest subcompact class because “It was the cheapest!”

            Then they ended up driving around in a Rio for four days, and were not impressed.

            I said, “You know, about $7 more dollars a day, you could have had a Cruze, and I guarantee you that’s much nicer.”

            “Well, it was the cheapest.”

            *facepalm*

          • 0 avatar
            05lgt

            If I could find the emails my wife sent when she got a rental spec (old after the new version came out) Impala… I’d say she hated it, but that would be a massive understatement. I ended up giving her my car so she wouldn’t wreck the loaner out of spite.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        Just got back from Florida an the rental of an Impala LT with the V6. It’s a great car: it has a huge trunk, big rear seats, excellent driver comfort, Apple Play and it is quiet and composed as well as responsive.

  • avatar
    USAFMech

    You ever have those writers (Peter Egan, PJ O’Rourke, etc.) who you love and you think “I’d read those guys writing about burnt toast!” Now I know; no, I wouldn’t.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I was a bit concerned when I saw they’d filled the engine bay with old computer towers. But I reminded myself this is the way of modern engine.

    • 0 avatar
      bills79jeep

      The engine bay of a modern car is a sad place.

      I was just wondering the other day – is taking a look under the hood even part of a new car sale anymore? Admittedly, looking at the engine in a new 1968 Malibu wouldn’t have really ‘told’ you anything a spec sheet couldn’t. But at least there were shiny chrome pieces, mfg specific engine block paint colors, etc. Today, you can’t even see the engine.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        because by and large you don’t need to.

        It was good that older cars were so easy to work on because you always had to work on the darn things.

        • 0 avatar

          agreed. I’ve got a 77 Chevelle that I DD for about 6 months, I was under the hood of it at least once a month checking fluids, adjusting the carb, re-adjusting the timing, resetting the idle speed, adding washer fluid to the ridiculously tiny washer fluid jar (holds about a quart)

          It never left me stranded, but it’s a needy beast when used as a DD.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Stories like this keep me from buying a car with a carb.

          • 0 avatar
            greenbrierdriver

            I like Carbs so much, I have two! :)

            Regular looks under the hood with an occasional tweek here and there and away you go. Today’s “Sealed Hood” vehicles don’t allow people to have a clue how the car works or in some cases where the dipstick that isn’t driving is located. Cue my 21 yr old – who despite many years of my trying to get him to open that hood and check fluids – calls me at 0300 to ask if the rattling noise under there is bad.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Instant diagnostic sez “Sounds like a heat shield is loose or a cat going bad.”

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        Modern, OHC engines can make a fair amount of noise from the valve train. The engine cover has more to do with NVH than anything else.

        • 0 avatar
          bills79jeep

          Never thought of that. Good call.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          And DI injectors/pumps are even louder than that.

        • 0 avatar
          hybridkiller

          “Stories like this keep me from buying a car with a carb.”

          I’m old enough to have owned a few (back in the day). Computer-controlled FI is flat out the best thing that has ever happened to automobiles, period.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Once at my mechanic they had a big navy Continental circa 1960 in there. I had to ask what they were doing to it – and he said they were converting it to FI!

            I can’t imagine how many hours of work that is on something that old.

          • 0 avatar
            greaseyknight

            @CoreyDL

            FI swap is getting to be a piece of cake now thanks to the aftermarket.

            There are kits where the throttle body is a direct swap for the carb, plug in some power wires, a couple sensors and mount an O2 sensor in the exhaust and you’r done.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I suppose is this only easy kit work for more popular cars, like the iconic Lincoln? What about like a Grand Wagoneer?

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Incoming ponchoman49 post about how a rental Camry scratched up the backs of his legs and left him stranded.

    A coworker has a more basic Eco LT (a ’14?) and my experience riding in that car is much the same. Very quiet and heavy/solid feeling, but wholly unremarkable in any other respect. The front airdam is extremely low hanging as with all GMs (cars, trucks, CUVs) so he’s constantly scraping it in daily driving. Interior feels more constrained than most other midsizers, in terms of rear legroom, knee space and width up front, and headroom when getting in the car. If the priority is serene highway cruising across the Midwest, this is a good choice as long as you stay away from the low profile wheels of the 2.0T cars.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      That car gave me a rash, and the vents fell out over a railroad track and lacerated my wrists. Then it got 15 mpg, and called my wife ugly!

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      …and how it torque-steered towards children on the sidewalk and channelled Satanic incantations through the stereo speakers.

      There’s a mild psychosis there. If I have to read one more fictional comment about how the Sonata is so much faster and handles better, I’m just going to exhibit a psychosis of my own and post the link to Jack’s Camry SE track test on every single comment he makes whether it relates to automobiles or not.

      • 0 avatar
        Sam Hell Jr

        He actually takes that show on the road. I distinctly recall a ponchoman deriding a Camry rental on cnet cars or something. Can’t remember the specific gripe, although the trunk may or may not have crushed his luggage like a trash compactor.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          A crusader! Out to stop, single-handed if necessary, the heretical Camry and all its many abominations. Should our warrior succeed, the best selling car in our fair land will be another budget-conscious four door conveyance with a different symbol on the hood and all will indeed be well.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      LOL actually all I was going to say is that most of what Jack wrote here is pretty accurate of my findings in the current 2013-2016 Malibu. It’s not a great car but isn’t as bad as some make it out to be in the higher trim levels. But since you brought up the 2014.5 Camry rental we had for a weekend it didn’t actually scratch up the backs of my legs but the harsh material used on the SE trim seats did irritate my skin after getting in and out of the car numerous times over the course of 2 days. It also didn’t leave me stranded per se because it failed to start at my house in the morning due to a mysteriously dead battery. It just made me a little late for work because I had to put a battery charger on it for an hour to get it to fire up and bring it back to the rental station. I just tell it like it is. Sorry if that creates some butt hurt for Camry fans. On another note the new 2015/2016 Camry seems like a much improved car with nice seats in the higher trim levels, better fitting interior pieces etc. It will be interesting to rent one of those soon.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Poncho, nothing says butthurt like telling the same rental story ad nauseum for something like 2 years straight. And on multiple websites it seems.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    I thought this was going to be another shot to the groin for the Malibu, but Jack pulled his kick a bit. I recall some commenters on the prior excoriations claiming that it was a very quiet and serene freeway car good for long distances.

    The new one looks like a stronger contender.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      With the new base engine now a wheezy 1.5T with 160hp, I have my doubts as to how strong of a contender the new car may be. The current 2.5 in the Malibu may be a bit coarse, but at least it’s got 195hp to work with! I kind of doubt that Chevy cut enough weight from the 2016 to make up that power loss.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        That’s just 25 more than in the Cruze, which is surely lots lighter.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Actually the Cruze is quite a porker for the class at about 3100lb IIRC. The new Malibu is 3150ish, a huge cut from the car like Jack tested. For reference, a Camry is about 3200lb with a 4cylinder, so in the same ballpark. Reading a few reviews, it seems the 1.5T has a very flat torque curve down low that moves it along nicely in regular, city driving. 8.0-8.5 0-60 depending on where you look, so it’s in the ballpark. What it might feel like NVH wise getting on the highway might be a different story, I wasn’t terribly impressed with the 1.6EB Fusion I had as a rental in this regard.

          Which brings me to my next point: what’s the better steeply discounted lightly used commuter car buy: one of these Malibus like Jack’s, or a Fusion (2.5 or 1.6EB)? The Fusion has similarly good noise insulation, but offers a more inviting cabin, in addition to looking better on the outside (IMO).

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Ha, that’s maybe why I like the Cruze. It’s just too heavy to feel like a cheap car. Road hugging weight is important!

            I have not been in a Malibu, but I have been in a low level Fusion. It feels -very- cheap and “thin” in there. I wouldn’t want to deal with that every day. Based on that, and how Jack said the interior materials have improved in the Malibu lately, I would lean toward the Malibu.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            If you’re keeping it for less than 7 years or so then I think the 1.6L offering on the Sonata and Optima is the best option. It seems to be faster, smoother, and more efficient than what is available on the Ford or Chevrolet.

            If you’re keeping for 10+ years, I’d just go with a Camry.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Agreed on the Cruze Corey, the Eco 6MT I test drove back in 2012 was truly ‘Germanic” feeling, with tall lazy gearing to complete the highway cruiser image. Very solid over road imperfections and well isolated. Add to that mature and restrained styling, and it’s easily my favorite GM vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        The new 1.5T wasn’t far off from the 2.5 in MT’s test of it. I recall very little positive in reviews of the 2.5, so if I were willing to gamble on a Malibu, I may as well gamble on the new turbo as well. Apparently it only weighs 3160 lbs, nearly 400 lbs less than the old one.

        I’m guessing prospective customers will care more that the new car has a real backseat and some attractive styling inside and out.

    • 0 avatar
      slance66

      Ugh. Any car with less than 2.5L and no turbo should just be sent to the crusher. Isn’t this a site for fans of actual cars?

      • 0 avatar
        glwillia

        > Ugh. Any car with less than 2.5L and no turbo should just be sent to the crusher. Isn’t this a site for fans of actual cars?

        That definition includes the E30 M3, Caterham 7, and virtually all Miatas.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        What’s an “actual car” in your book? The much-beloved Ranger and S-10 had a standard NA 2.3 and 2.2, respectively.

  • avatar

    My cousin has an 8th generation Malibu. He desperately wants a Charger or Challenger SRT, but with 3 kids to feed IT AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN.

    The 8th generation grew in size and therefore became more acceptable to the mass market – but the backseat wasn’t spacious enough (primary complaint).

    The 9th Generation offers a great front and great backseat.

    QUESTION: Why can’t the idiots at GM make a VOLT the size of the Malibu 8th or 9th generation?

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      It makes me physically ill that I am agreeing with you on your last point. I have said it before and will continue to say it over and over- the ATS/CTS should have been Epsilon II based PHEVs. So much more relevant to market trends and luxury buyers in general than “Brembo brakes and Ring times”, which you famously and perfectly mentioned “don’t mean SH*T when you are STUCK IN TRAFFIC!”

      A +1 size Volt with more motor would have to be a Cadillac to justify the price of entry. I could easily see it starting at $40K with the kind of horsepower and charge it would need to compete with something like an ES350 or BMW 328i

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    I had a 78 Malibu and a 2004 Malibu. The 78 was a 305, 4-speed coupe, the 04 a Maxx wagon. The 78 seemed to last forever, reliable, well made, decent materials. The 04 was already aging on the showroom floor. The interior materials maybe the worst I’ve ever seen on a car, an ABS system that was dangerous, electric steering that would suddenly ‘lock’ in aggressive maneuvers. A car so horrid, I vowed to only drive the best I could afford, so I bought a then 10 year old Lexus.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      If the Maxx so plainly sucked when you bought it, I gotta ask WHY you bought it in the first place.

      • 0 avatar
        Lightspeed

        A fair question. I wanted a wagon, but not an SUV as gas was very pricey then. Wanted FWD and ABS for the wife. Was also foolishly loyal to GM from working in a GM store for many years. The ABS was so bad on that car if you hit a pothole under even light braking it would go on. I actually got a ticket braking for a red light in winter and simply blowing right through the intersection. I’ve lived and driven in western Canada all my life, I could have stopped for that light without that Chevy’s hopeless ABS.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      I loved my neighbors 1978 Malibu Classic painted in two tone dark and light silver with red interior, a 305 V8, automatic and A/C. She used to let me drive it to pick up spring water in the gorge. The 2004 Epsilon cars had horrible electric steering issues. I don’t think they resolved that until the 2008 new style if I’m not mistaken.

    • 0 avatar

      I got news for you, even your 78 Malibu will lock the steering under fast enough inputs. Every A/G I drove and my current 77 A-body all exhibit the pause when jerking the wheel from one side to the other and running out of assist.

      For an electric steering though, that’s inexcusable.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I had a lower trim version as a courtesy car a couple of years ago and it wasn’t bad at all.

    Would I have bought it? No.

    For THE one single reason: Stop-start. I just don’t trust the long-term reliability of that system with the seeming increased wear & tear. I plan on keeping my 2012 Impala LTZ for as long as the wheels stay on.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Are you sure turning the engine on and off 18 times per journey is a bad idea?

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        Yeah, I think so, but it depends how long you remain stopped. You wind up playing with the brake pedal until you get used to it, but I will say the stop-start on the loaner was very unobtrusive.

        If I had one for my daily journey, it would not be an issue, and perhaps not bad where I live in north suburban Cincinnati driving.

        I still wonder about the constant cycling, though, but haven’t heard of or found any evidence that it is unreliable.

        In any event, my next car will most likely be a Malibu – a used one, so that’ll be the real test. But like I said, my Imp is around for the long haul, I hope!

  • avatar
    PenguinBoy

    “The problem, not to put too fine a point on it, is how you get people to respect the nameplate after 20 years of cars that were only occasionally up to the standards set by Honda and Toyota.”

    IMHO, this is the biggest thing holding back the Malibu, and also the main reason for the failure of the 200.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      The 200 should have been called something else. Guilt by association with the Sebring/Avenger never did that car any favors.

      • 0 avatar
        PenguinBoy

        Perhaps, but I think the big problems with both the Malibu, and to a greater extent the 200, are both problems with the brands described by Jack here. It will take more than just a simple nameplate change to fix these.

        1) The products themselves suffer from uneven quality, causing a lack of trust in the brand.

        2) The brands are tarnished, and lack the middle class respectability they once had. Jack sums this up nicely as well:

        “There was a long period in this country, maybe from 1946 or so all the way to the demise of the G-body Malibu in 1983, where the ownership of a fully-loaded Chevrolet mid-size sedan conferred a unique sort of respectability on a suburban father or young executive. It meant that you appreciated the finer things but didn’t care for the gingerbread. Think of the message that Camry or Highlander XLE ownership sends today — “I could probably afford a Lexus, but I don’t care to do so” — and you have the idea.”

        • 0 avatar
          nickoo

          Ford ruled the entry level roost from 1932 through about 1952. The thrift king and blue flame i6s were extremely inferior to the flat head v8s. Fords y block ohv v8 was also miles ahead of the small block chevy.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          Late to this party, but…this could have been Olds or Buick (which was considered a less-flashy alternative to a Cadillac).

          I don’t think the typical Chevy buyer of the day would have considered a Lexus-equivalent. Just baseball, hot dogs and apple pie.

  • avatar

    You’d think by now that car manufacturers would have an understanding that the average car buyer needs USB ports specifically to charge cellphones – and thus planned their cubbies around that fact?

    12V cigarette plugs are OK, but it doesn’t take much to add in a few 2 – 4 AMP USB ports.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      http://www.amazon.com/Aukey-CC-S1-4-8A-Charger-Smartphones/dp/B00M6QODH2/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1457972195&sr=8-4&keywords=cigarette+lighter+usb

      All of my cars have one of these in every 12v port.

    • 0 avatar
      zaxxon25

      There’s three places to charge in the Malibu, the center stack with an adapter (as he’s doing in the picture), inside the armrest (which is where you’d hook up an ipod or aux device) plus a 110v outlet between the buckets that faces the back seat. I usually just plug my phone into that rear facing outlet and run the wire up front for Waze, it keeps it topped off just fine.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I’ve always liked the way these drive even in LT form. I don’t especially mind the start/stop, the seats are very comfortable, the interior is well screwed together, and the ride/handling balance feels as premium as anything in the segmnent.

    Unfortunately the short wheelbase and high weight cause too many problems, though. Fuel economy is just as lousy as Jack indicates, and the car is slower than other similarly powered midsizers. There is no room in the back seat for normal people and that doesn’t translate to additional room anywhere else. Looking forward to my first rental of the new one, although after experiencing Ford’s asthmatic 1.6T I’m not particularly enthusiastic about GM following the same path.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      The gas mileage on these cars seems to vary from one car to the next. I suspect the more break in miles the better in most cases. I have had examples that averaged only 25. Others got 28-29. I for sure would not say the 2.5 is slow. It has more power and torque than just about any competitor with 196 HP and 191 torque and the base Malibu LS listed curbweight of 3393 isn’t all that far off the others.

      2016 Camry LE is listed as 3240
      2016 Hyundai Sonata SE is listed as 3252
      2016 Accord LX automatic is listed as 3245
      2016 Chrysler 200 base is listed as 3473
      2016 Ford Fusion S is listed as 3431

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Magazine 0-60 times tend to be in the low sevens for Camry and Accord, and in the eight-second range for these Malibus. That about matches my butt dyno from multiple drives in all of them. The engine has to work a lot harder. I don’t know how much of that is the weight difference, how much is gearing, and how much is a deficit of midrange torque.

        As for gas mileage, count me as unimpressed by the 25-26 I get out of these cars when a CVT Altima will get me 34 and a six-speed Camry will get me 31 with similar mixed driving.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Not so sure that Ruth’s Chris is a staple of middle class life. And in my opinion it is a grossly overpriced purveyor of middling fair.

    That aside, has GM solved their problem of not being able to figure out a way to fit a 3rd passenger into their back seats? Most other car manufacturers can build a mid-size with a flat back seat floor pan and an actual adjustable middle head restraint. GM seems to be unaware of how to accomplish this.

    As for the Iraqi Taxis (have never heard it referred to as an Iraqibus), the family of my closest friend had 2 and my neighbour also had 1. They were all very good, reliable, cost efficient and easy to maintain/repair automobiles with good visiblity and acceptable room for occupants.

    Personally we had a 5th generation Malibu and I believe that its maligned styling has aged much better than many other cars of that era. Never had a problem with it. If only they had offered a manual to go with the 3.1. In retrospect as I see so many still on the road, most with rust right below the gas fill cap, it seems that they might have been a much better ‘dollar for dollar’ deal than even the lauded Accords and Camrys of the era.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I was not too impressed with the Cincinnati branch Ruths Chris. The Jeff Ruby restaurants here have better steak at the same or lower prices.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        Jag’s isn’t bad, either. Right over the hill from me.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I do like Jag’s, and I like Tony’s as well. Carlo & Johnny is probably the flagship for up here though. All the money seems to go to Embers, I guess because of closeness to Indian Hill. Don’t go to Eddie Merlot because it’s crap, and they can’t cook a steak for some reason.

          There’s a new one over there in WC, off Union Center – Johnny’s. Been there yet? I wasn’t too sure about it because it’s attached to a hotel.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Woah woah woah, don’t be dissin in Eddie’s. I’ve had filets that you could cut with a spoon there, albeit maybe things vary from branch to branch.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            The Cincy one is BAD. Once, I ordered a filet cooked medium. It was well done +, and lacked any moisture.

            Next time I ordered a filet cooked medium. It was 20% cooked medium, and 80% bleeding. So I ate 20% of my food, and had some bread.

            That was my last time eating dinner there. Their rooms for cocktail events are fine, where they do not have to be trusted to cook an expensive steak. Overall, the poncy gold and purple decor puts me off as well. The entire restaurant is lamee.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Why do people grossly overpay for bland, improperly prepared steaks at places like Ruth Chris?

            That chain is absolutely subpar at its price point,

            Mortons & The Palm are either as bad or worse.

            What you want is a steakhouse that serves USDA, western, grass fed (finished with grain is fine), Hereford or Angus beef at a place that knows how to cook it – with direct fire.

            Ruth Chris is where the sheeple that don’t know what truly great beef tastes like prefer to hangout, I guess.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Left out PRIME by accident –

            “What you want is a steakhouse that serves USDA, western, grass fed (finished with grain is fine), PRIME Hereford or Angus beef..”

          • 0 avatar
            Zackman

            No, haven’t been to Johnny’s as yet. I have to budget for these things, ya know!

            Perhaps for our anniversary in September…

            You’re right about Carlo & Johnny. Outstanding.

            We did got to Ruby’s downtown for our anniversary – seated in the “Sinatra” room. Fit right in with my fedora, too.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I don’t like to think much about how much these places cost, since I am never paying! :D

            Going to C&J on Monday evening, I’m ready for mah steaaaak. Usually I get whatever aged strip or filet is on offer. Their scalloped potatoes are killer too.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            DeadWeight, not everyone wants to have to bite through a briquette-like burnt, er, seared exterior to get to the medium rare meat inside. Very high temperature searing is fine but isn’t the One True Way to prepare a steak. I had a steak a couple months ago from a local steakhouse (Daniel’s Broiler) that was prepared that way and I think I still smell like burnt protein. Personally, I’ll take mine just barely brown on the outside.

            I agree with you on the choice of beef, though.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Dal, I’m not talking about a blackened crust exterior.

            I’m speaking of brought open flame direct heat – distance being critical – to sear the exterior, char some of the fat, and caramelize the natural sugars in the meat to bring out the umami.

            And this has nothing to do with level of doneness, whether rare, medium rare, medium (though somewhere between medium rare and medium is best, IMO).

            A lot of this has to do with the resting period, also, which should be at LEAST 8 minutes to allow the meet to fully absorb its juices in a uniform manner, and not bleed them out when cut into.

            The difference between a steak cooked in a skillet or pan (inferior) and one cooked directly underneath (broiler with about 1 1/2″ of distance between foams and meat) or above open flame direct heat (on cast iron grate to keep flame from charring/burning meat) is remarkable – with open flame direct heat being clearly superior.

            I’ve eaten at Ruth Chris dozens of times. It’s never been a superior experience. Their filet, in particular, is bland and run of the mill, especially for the price.

            If you want a superior steak, go to Del Friscos off the strip in Vegas, and get either a New York Strip (28 day dry aged) or a porterhouse, medium rare. It simply blows Ruth Chris away (get a couple dozen Blue Point oysters there while you’re at it).

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Cincinnati has a Morton’s, which I didn’t learn until recently because I’m not very downtown-y. I went on their website, and it looks like the place is stuck in 1992.

          • 0 avatar
            CincyDavid

            We went to Ruth’s Chris once…not impressed. One noteworthy thing was that the waiter told us the steaks are seared at 1750 degrees…which oddly enough is the temperature of the crematory retort we use…I guess we just leave ’em under the heat longer.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      “That aside, has GM solved their problem of not being able to figure out a way to fit a 3rd passenger into their back seats?”

      I thought they did that by creating the new Impala.

    • 0 avatar
      nickoo

      Ruth’s Chri san diego is awful and costs 3x what it should. Texas de brazil is less and 2x the experience.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    While most on this forum will most likely never own a Malibu, this car serves a many purposes and for the final end user, the LTZ trim Bu’ most likely will be, up till now, the nicest car they have ever owned.

    These cars are rental fodder and/or company car fodder. When they are done with those ‘owners’ they go to auction and hit the used car lot. For the folks that respond to the advertisement advising them to bring their paystubs and the dealership will process your tax return for you and use it as a down payment on a car, this car is fantastic.

    It is quiet, reliable, has options such as leather and some times heated seats. This group is a notch above the buy here pay here crowd. They are one missed pay check away from BHPH status, but for now they are good.

    I would say, a review by one of these owners will read very differently.

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      Very astute, and probably at least part of the reason that late model domestic mid sized sedans have lost a lot of the middle class respectability they would have had 40 years or so ago.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        The 08-12 Malibus have solidly entered the BHPH sphere, judging by who/where I see them driven, and in what condition. The most common appearance seems to be an LT with the facsimile-alloy hubcaps pulled off exposing somewhat interesting 5 spoke stamped steel wheels, a very heavy tint job, and one of the bumpers hanging on by a thread. Not the car’s fault by any means, but the stigma is there. Ditto any Chrysler sedan.

        • 0 avatar
          87 Morgan

          And there you have the lifecycle of a domestic sedan: 200, 300, Bu’.

          Rental Fleet > Sub Prime Loan at XYZ Chevrolet Home of the Push Pull or Drag Trade Guarantee > BHPH lot > BHPH lot > Junk yard.

          This process can take anywhere from 8 to 18 years to play out depending mostly on the level of ‘Not Care’ demonstrated by the first two BHPH owners. As noted on TTC before if the oil is changed once a year 15 years of solid use can be had with weekly payments being made for the last 10 years on this car.

  • avatar
    Crancast

    I am always curious as to the breakeven point of rent vs drive your own in cases like this. 8 hours or so drive time, 500 mile round trip on a daily unlimited mile rental instead of the mileage on a personally owned late model? Not getting the math.

    Fantastic bike and enjoyed the jump to the story. A few things, those boys banana seat bikes of that vintage rarely survived and go for way more than $140 if the sellers know what they have, yes even the Ross. The Schwinns in relatively good shape start at double that and get to crazy numbers in excellent shape. Boys beat there bikes and those banana seats got converted to all sorts of different set-ups when the banana seat fad eased up in the 80’s. Decent unmolested versions are not that common. Good find, good karma! Congrats on finding one.

    For a similar reason, might want to hang onto your sons Gary Fisher. Yeah, its been a trek with slightly different geometry for a long while now, but the stand alone brand is gone.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      “8 hours or so drive time, 500 mile round trip on a daily unlimited mile rental instead of the mileage on a personally owned late model? Not getting the math.”

      It probably helps when you can write about it professionally…

    • 0 avatar
      319583076

      My guess is some combination of the following factors:

      1. Renting on a credit card that multiplies miles, points, or cash back.
      2. Renting for free or reduced rates using miles, points, or cash back.
      3. Accruing rental to maintain status in a miles, points, or cash back scheme.

      Kimpton Hotels have a membership/rewards program as well. Ditto the hotel stay.

      The system can be incredibly rewarding if you’re willing to learn the rules of the game. It’s profitable for the system architects because those who do that work are a small percentage of the overall user population.

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    question—- On these cars with the stop-start engine, what type of starter do they use? I would hope not the normal ring gear and pinion type.

  • avatar
    PRNDLOL

    Anyone remember the for 2013-only grille?

    So very c r a p.
    http://car-pictures.cars.com/images/?IMG=USC30CHC111B021001.png

  • avatar
    zaxxon25

    Well, here’s someone in that Venn diagram of TTAC reader and Malibu owner. Really interesting that you weren’t able to get above 30mpg in highway driving with the Ecotec. I have a ’14 LTZ with the 2.0T and have no problem hitting low 30’s in highway driving. Just did a 500 mile trip yesterday at 31 mpg. No stop start on the 2.0T.

    I’ve owned it for two years now and appreciate the comfortable interior, the extremely quiet sound reduction, the logical infotainment and its ability to get a vaguely spirited when asked. If I was forced down to a single car it wouldn’t be this one, but as the more traditional member of a two car stable it works very well.

    I also owned an 08 LTZ with the 3.6 and think the 14 is the superior car. The 08 definitely had more character though, it was the helpful best friend to the 14’s personality of a placid butler.

  • avatar
    david42

    Citing “ugly-hockey-sweater.com” for the Iraqibu reference… that’s a lot of effort to avoid linking to curbsideclassic, from which mr. ugly-hockey-sweater has copied his text (with citation).
    http://www.curbsideclassic.com/blog/automotive-history-snapshot-1981-chevrolet-malibu-iraqi-taxi/

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I’m trying to think of a nice way to write, “Fuck Paul and CC”

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Since he has never seen one, let alone driven one, what gives him the right to coin a name for them?

        I have never heard them referred to as anything other than an “Iraqi Taxi” for that is exactly what they were. Manufactured in Oshawa for that role.

      • 0 avatar
        05lgt

        Nice enough for me.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        I love Paul and Cc. And I love you and TTAC. Can’t we all just get along? I feel like the child of bitterly divorced parents.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          I will be direct.

          I like Jack despite his flaws (we all have them), and part of this is because he’s a great cultural writer and provocateur of all-things-cultural (i.e. gets the minds of readers sparked to life on touchstone cultural, identity and socioeconomic issues).

          But I’d be holding back if I didn’t state that it seems like Jack must have a drama-mama, real-housewives- of-auto”journalist”/presstitute spat with “rolling, ongoing drama” with at least one other automotive presstitute every 4 to 6 weeks.

      • 0 avatar
        tklockau

        Well, I left there for a reason, and it did not have to do with my enthusiasm for writing about old cars. I really enjoyed writing. But now I have more time to go to car shows! I attended the CLC Grand National and the OCA national meet, both in Milwaukee, and a couple of CLC regional shows in Chicagoland. I really enjoyed it.

  • avatar
    kjb911

    “Even the normally tepid Ecotec seemed a little better than I remembered it,”

    Jack you’re correct in assuming this Ecotec was different for the 16 Limited they decided to go back to the 2013 2.5L which had a slightly different tune but keep the transmission programming from 14 and above. Hence the drop in official fuel economy from the 15 to 16.

    When decked in LTZ guise with the 2.0Turbo, I loved my 14 Lease. Sadly that has come and gone as the deal I just got on 16 GLI SEL with six speed was an offer I couldn’t refuse

  • avatar
    zamoti

    Did you take 70N to 22 east near Cambridge? If not, I would say give it a go sometime. Lots of rollercoaster hills, a descending radius turn as it dips into a holler, many flat straight points for passing and a few places when the pucker goes to 11 if you dare to pass. All in all, a great underrated drive if you are ever out that way. Just beware the occasional tractor trailer that can ruin the fun.

  • avatar
    Chets Jalopy

    Why didn’t you take the Honda, Jack?

  • avatar
    ...m...

    …i learned to ride a very similar bike, down to the color and stripes, circa ‘seventy-seven: traded it for a black murray baja ur-mountain-bike four years later, after having broken and welded its frame back together thrice jumping off half-pipes, hillsides, and roofs…

    …i still have the knot in my knee from one of those crashes, fourty years later…

  • avatar
    05lgt

    I drove a 13 eco-bu, and could count 1.5 seconds off while waiting for my foot to be answered with thrust, which was really frustrating me on a factory laid out easy-cross track. Is it fixed?

  • avatar
    motormouth

    Having fun on roads around Pittsburgh? I’m surprised you didn’t win yourself a recognition prize from the local constabulary.

  • avatar
    jamesbrownontheroad

    Enjoyed this post, not just because I picked out a 2016 Chevy Malibu Limited LTZ from a rental lot at LAX last month, but also because I enjoyed the ease with which the trunk absorbed a bicycle.

    Car: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jamesbrownontheroad/25064140224/in/album-72157663441892363/

    Bike in trunk: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jamesbrownontheroad/25064148894/in/album-72157663441892363/

    (“Chapeau” to Wally’s Bicycle Works in San Luis Obispo for the rental of a road bike during a trip to the Central California Coast…)

    I didn’t mind the 2016 Malibu Limited, in part because I thought it was a 2015 and more desirable than a phalanx of Dodge Journeys in the no-status-customer “midsize or better” aisle at a rental company whose name rhymes with “Bashonal”.

    Being a Limey who only gets to the USA once a year or so, there’s nothing quite like a big lazy American sedan for consuming miles of freeway. Having witnessed the decline and ultimate collapse of the Chevy nameplate in Europe when it was attached to soulless Korean white goods, it saddens me that GM didn’t realise the large niche amongst European car buyers who would have paid good money for a big American sedan like this.


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