Chevrolet Keeps a Tepid American Tradition Alive for 2017

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
chevrolet keeps a tepid american tradition alive for 2017

The sport package, long associated with entry-level vehicles boasting questionable rear spoilers and not much else, remains a puzzling fixture in the automotive landscape.

For low-end imports — rebadged or otherwise — this package historically meant a swoopy graphic plastered along the bodyside, supposedly meant to alert bystanders to the vehicle’s blistering, paint-peeling speed. For others, it simply meant nicer wheels and a spoiler. Ideally a large one, so those same bystanders could ponder the downforce needed to keep a midsize, front-wheel-drive sedan’s tail planted. Rarely was there an addition of a single extra horsepower, and most lucid people knew this.

Chevrolet is keeping this tradition alive, resurrecting the sport package for its 2017 Malibu. However, while the current generation Malibu bowed to positive press, several changes coming for 2017 contain hidden downsides.

For starters, Chevrolet will ditch the 1LT and 2LT trim lines, replacing both with a simple, midrange LT model. That means the turbocharged 2.0-liter four, which makes 250 horsepower and 258 pounds-feet of torque, can only be had in uplevel Premier trim. That model ditches its eight-speed automatic in favor of a nine-speed unit, promising an extra mile per gallon on the highway (33 mpg) and unchanged city fuel economy.

Unfortunately for owners, the cost of feeding the engine stands to rise. While nothing has changed with the 2.0-liter between 2016 and 2017, General Motors now requires owners to fill up on premium fuel. For the 2016 model year, GM claimed premium fuel was recommended, but not required. This could certainly take away from the satisfaction that comes from achieving slightly higher fuel economy.

While the LT solders on as a single trim line, the availability of a sport package adds some visual appeal. The package, naturally, includes 18-inch wheels and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, as well as a blast from the past. Yes, you’l be able to get a rear spoiler for the svelte, carefully styled Malibu. Listed as a “late availability,” we assume the spoiler will be of the subtle, lip variety, because Limp Bizkit isn’t on the charts and no one in Detroit would think a wing works in this day and age.

So, if an LT offers too little but a Premier is too pricey, the sport package could partially fill in the gap, though it can’t replace the extra horsepower once found in the 2LT. Now, about that turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder found in the L, LS, and LT. The engine loses three horsepower compared to last year’s model, ringing in at 160 hp. Torque is unchanged at 184 lb-ft, so don’t expect to notice a difference.

While the lower trims lose horsepower, they do gain content. Apple Car Play and Android Auto are now standard on the LS and LT, as is a 7.0-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system.

[Image: General Motors]

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  • Xantia10000 Xantia10000 on Oct 21, 2016

    Let me answer the "puzzling" question about Sport trim levels from an OEM standpoint: it's a great profit-booster. Some customers will happily pay a few thousands extra for bigger wheels, more aggressive bumpers. spoilers, sunroofs, etc. They are relatively inexpensive and easy to make vs. upgraded engines/transmissions/diffs/etc. As companies that like to make money and make normal customers happy, 'cheesy' add-ons like these ones are a win-win.

  • Dougjp Dougjp on Oct 22, 2016

    Meanwhile the competing Ford uses the Sport name properly. GM has given up.

  • ToolGuy CXXVIII comments?!?
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.
  • ToolGuy Is it a genuine Top Hand? Oh, I forgot, I don't care. 🙂