By on October 20, 2016

2016 Chevrolet Malibu

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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59 Comments on “Chevrolet Keeps a Tepid American Tradition Alive for 2017...”


  • avatar
    Corollaman

    Sport a mostly misused term in the history of the automobile, it was even used once in the Yugo.

    • 0 avatar
      ect

      So right. I used to work with a guy who drove a minivan – a “Windstar Sport”. Had to laugh every time I saw the badge.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      As in “Sport Ute”?? Where is or what is the sport in an overweight, oversize, high center of gravity vehicle?

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      I wonder how many companies use Sport as a euphemism for base model versus companies who use Sport as a midlevel trim between volume model and extra special trim.

      For example a Mazda3 Sport is a base model while an Accord Sport sits between an LX and an EX.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’ll wait for the EUROsport.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Thank you, CAFE. Expect more model-line reorganizations like this as it gets more costly for automakers to sell cars with less fuel-efficient engines. Uplevel engines will get more and more expensive and will accordingly be packaged only with all the available non-engine content.

    If we had any political courage, instead of forcing both automakers and car buyers into this silly game, we’d just impose the externalities associated with increased gas consumption directly on the actual consumer of the gas through a higher gas tax.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “… increased gas consumption directly on the actual consumer of the gas through a higher gas tax.”

      While you and I could likely roll V12s even with an increased gas tax, it would be a raw deal for lower income people.

      My personal preference would be to drop CAFE, but to extend and ramp up the gas guzzler tax.

      • 0 avatar
        PeriSoft

        “While you and I could likely roll V12s even with an increased gas tax, it would be a raw deal for lower income people.”

        That’s a big issue. Outside major cities, poor people have a few things in common:

        1) They have to live far from where they work
        2) They live away from public transportation
        3) They work multiple short shifts
        4) They drive older cars, poorly-maintained, and have little choice in what they drive

        This all adds up to gas taxes being *incredibly* regressive. For those driving 25 miles in a 15mpg car to a four hour shift at a minimum wage job (and there are a lot of those people where I live), every shift would take 3.3 gallons of gas for $28 of gross income. European-style gas taxes (from $2.30 to $8.00 per gallon, or an increase of $5.70 per gallon) would cost them almost *fifty percent of their gross income*.

        Not cool.

        • 0 avatar

          Part of Elio Motors’ business model is selling new, high mpg vehicles with a warranty to folks driving old beaters to work, the idea being that the savings on gasoline will pay for the trike. Obviously, that works out better when gas is $3/gallon than the $2.09 I paid today.

        • 0 avatar
          rpn453

          Do people really need to drive to access minimum wage jobs? There must be thousands of them within walking distance of me. Tens of thousands within biking distance. They bring in foreign workers to fill them.

          • 0 avatar
            stevelovescars

            In my town, most of the businesses downtown complain that they can’t find help and many of them have help-wanted signs. These are mostly low-wage service industry jobs like restaurants and retailers. Starting salaries seem to be advertised in the $11-$12 range and this is in Northern lower Michigan.

            One would think cost of living here would be relatively low. While homes certainly cost a lot less to buy than they did when I lived in California, a recent audit found that there were no 1-bedroom apartments advertised within miles of downtown for less than $1000/month. We have a large tourist industry here and a lot of fancy summer “cottages,” but little affordable housing.

            Public transportation exists but with a large spread-out area one would need to navigate to find affordable housing, it isn’t really viable unless one is close to town, which is unaffordable or unavailable. At the same time, homeowners have repeatedly used their political pull to restrict “mother in law” units or rooms for rent which could open up some more affordable housing options.

            I honestly don’t know how someone at a job like that can make it, even here in a cheap part of flyover country. The cars I see a lot of people driving are decrepit, rusty, old, gas guzzling, and likely unreliable. Buying even a late model used car must feel completely out of reach to someone making even even 50% over the minimum wage.

            I agree that forcing manufacturers to sell something without a matching increase in consumer demand is pretty darned stupid but taxing the working class even more with higher gas prices could be an enormous hit to a lot of people already on the edge. There is just a huge disconnect and lack of a real strategy to address our energy use.

        • 0 avatar
          dividebytube

          Heh – that reminds me of my teenage years: driving a clapped out ’68 Firebird twelve or so miles to work. Every day – while getting rotten 400cid leadfoot mileage.

          Even with the low gas prices back then, a $3.35/hr wage meant that I was spending a big chunk of of my paycheck on nothing but gas.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        That’s very true but also unsustainable in the long run. It is very expensive to society to live as spread out as we do in much of America! And we currently subsidize sprawl heavily, partly through gas prices that don’t reflect the social costs of our high gas usage, and partly through uncritical acceptance of the very high per-capita cost of both building and maintaining public infrastructure like roads, sewers, and water in very-low-density areas.

        The solution would be a combination of making the increase in the tax happen over a very long period, continuing the existing trend of the past 25ish years toward increased urbanization, continued improvements in average fuel economy for used cars (which are already baked in), and changed housing policy (specifically, less restrictive zoning in urban centers) so that centrally located housing stops being ridiculously expensive.

        So, in PeriSoft’s example, your 25 miles might turn into 10, and your 15 mpg almost certainly *will* be 30, by the time gas would be anywhere near $8. And I don’t think you even have to go to $8 to make a big difference. $5-$6 would be plenty.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          “continuing the existing trend of the past 25ish years toward increased urbanization,”

          Why have a beautiful big country and force regulations on people to steer us all towards some sort of cramped, crappy Euro-inspired pseudo utopia?

          My understanding is that you like the city life, and that’s A-okay. But don’t project onto others.

          I just drove through Ohio/WV/Western PA to visit my brother who lives out in the sticks of Central PA. There’s certainly a fair amount of working class people with lower incomes living out there as PeriSoft described who I’m sure love where they live. Why try to punish them? Hell I’d love to move out to those parts. There’s something special about waking up in the morning and looking out onto a valley of horse pastures and family farms.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            “Why have a beautiful big country and force regulations on people to steer us all towards some sort of cramped, crappy Euro-inspired pseudo utopia?”

            The urbanization trend is not coming from any regulations (in fact, regulations are usually fighting against it at the local level, unnecessarily driving up the cost of city housing). It’s coming from people’s free decisions, mostly related to the fact that the growing service sector in our economy generates far more jobs in cities. The excess unemployment we have today is almost all in rural areas (with the exception of just a few still-depressed Rust Belt metros). Why? Because it’s far cheaper and easier to accumulate and refine a critical base of knowledge in a city.

            And, pretty much everywhere, the city is subsidizing the infrastructure in the sticks. If the folks out there were paying full freight for their roads and utilities, they’d be paying local taxes of at least twice those in the city. It wouldn’t be cheap for people struggling paycheck to paycheck.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            On the flip side, those people out in the sticks are the farmers and coal miners (and energy industry workers in general) that make it even possible to live in cities, so let’s let that dog lie. I live inside of a built up metro area, I am glad my taxes in part go to pay for roads so that people in the sticks can get around. It’s what allows me to eat, frankly.

            It’s perfectly fine that people want to move somewhere (city or otherwise) on their own volition. But to try to force your will on someone “impose … on the actual consumer … through a higher gas tax” to help drive said urbanization, I am absolutely opposed to. People like their elbow room, and that’s part of what this country is all about.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            This!

            All human communities generate stink, violence, noise and more humans in direct proportion to their densities.

            Staying reasonably far away from them while still close enough to occasionally tap their concentrations of health care and consumer products will always be the American Dream.

            In college, Asian students were aghast at my summary of this as “make enough money to get the f*ck away from everybody”. They wanted to swim in an ocean of social inferiors, all of whom would venerate (or at least sufficiently fear) them.

            We ain’t like that.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            “make enough money to get the f*ck away from everybody”.

            Haha succinct and to the point. That’s exactly my plan. A lot of land somewhere hilly, reasonable sized house, roomy standalone shop for my projects, an old 1950s Powerwagon to haul firewood, a tractor to brushhog, plow snow, and to do some hobby farming.

            My empty nester parents bought 7 acres about 3 years ago up in the hills south of Ithaca and have been really enjoying expanding their bee keeping operation, stocking their spring-fed pond with fish, building a small cabin, etc. They are not very wealthy people, just incredibly frugal for much of their lives.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Come to da Nort’, gtem. You’d find many kindered folk. Indiana will become the new Mississippi in your lifetime with climate change.

            “They are not very wealthy people, just incredibly frugal for much of their lives.”

            My highest respect.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Western PA is looking pretty good right now, we fell in love with Pittsburgh (visiting in February in single digits no less). That’d put us within a few hours drive of my brother in Central PA, and her NE Ohio relatives. The drive on US 30 between Canton OH and Pittsburgh is awesome. It’s small town America that I absolutely cannot get enough of. I love the people and their way of life. We’ve taken her grand parents gambling in Wheeling WV before, the drive there was very memorable. Stopping by their favorite little eatery on the way there for Friday fish fry, listening to the Indians game on an AM station and her grandpa stubbornly insisting on giving the directions the whole way in spite of modern GPS/phone directions. I sincerely hope my future children will be able to experience these things as well.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Same wavelength here, same love of Friday evening fish-fry tours. Best, most generous eateries in the world are in Midwestern small towns.

          • 0 avatar
            geozinger

            @gtemnykh: Western PA? Northeast Ohio? Northern WV? Know the area well. Now that heavy industry and mining have largely disappeared from there, it’s not a bad area to live in.

            I know many people talk about epic roads in different parts of the country, but in that triangle between the Alleghenies, Lake Erie and the Ohio River have some of the most technical roads I’ve driven. You have to get out and away from the Interslabs, but once you do, great fun can be had. Until you run up on a farmer harvesting hay or an Amish buggy or my favorite, deer as big as a house…

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            I don’t want to force anyone to do anything. I just want people to pay for the environmental costs that their decisions impose on everyone else. Spread-out living has a much higher environmental impact per capita. If I wanted to go live in the country, which would be appealing in some ways if I didn’t have to work in a specialized knowledge field for a living, I’d feel responsible for paying for the environmental impact of that decision. High infrastructure costs and societal costs associated with higher energy use for transportation and heating/cooling are all part of that.

            Of course there is a good case that we should subsidize people who need to be in rural areas to provide essential services like farming and energy. But that only describes a small fraction of the people who are in rural and outer exurban areas. Most of them are there as a result of personal preference, and while I have no interest in restricting their ability to exercise that preference I have no interest in subsidizing it with my tax dollars either.

            This is kind of academic today because high costs of living in the city, which are mostly a result of well-intentioned but badly failed land use policy, are forcing poor and middle-income people to live in outer areas whether they want to or not. (My ordinary, small, unrenovated city house is worth nearly three-quarters of a million dollars, which is totally absurd if you just look at it.) I recognize that cities need to get their own houses in order so that living in them is actually affordable for everyone in order for my ideas to make much sense.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I don’t want to force anyone to do anything. I just want people to pay for the environmental costs that their decisions impose on everyone else.

            Well then, no one except people with kids should pay property taxes to pay for schools. My healthy 27 year old self should not have to subsidize a obese smoker’s triple bypass surgery through redistributed crazy healthcare premiums. My taxes shouldn’t have to pay for a single mother’s poor decision to have three kids and not have the means to take care of them. See how easy that is to turn around?

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Society as a whole needs publicly funded schools for there to be any opportunity for class mobility. And I would argue, although it’s controversial in the US, that international experience amply demonstrates that providing a social safety net improves conditions for everyone even if some people exploit it. It’s much harder to make the same argument for society-wide benefit from subsidizing extra costs associated with low-density living, except in the case of people who are performing essential services.

        • 0 avatar

          Interesting and insightful observation, dal. This was made super apparent to me recently on a business trip to Denver. All I did was drive from the airport and around several sites and back to my hotel during three days. Bam, 240 miles on the rental’s odometer. I was struck by the massive stretches of open space in the city, huge roads, sets of three turning lanes, it’s all just massive and incredibly inefficient. Now, I’ve grown up in rural areas and now live in a very dense area of a fairly compact city (Montreal), so I’ve seen a fairly wide range of spaces to live, but you are right. Our pattern of development, especially in the last 75 years, has been incredibly energy intensive and fairly wasteful.

          And before you guys name me for anti-American sentiment…Canada is *just* as bad. I fully recognize this.

        • 0 avatar
          George B

          The United States is really two nations divided over the issue of population density. The part I live in strongly prefers owning your own house with a yard and not sharing walls with neighbors. Not hearing what your neighbors do in their house is good. We also prefer to drive a car wherever we want to go whenever we want to. I reject the idea that this lifestyle isn’t sustainable in the interior of the country where oceans don’t limit sprawl. There is lots of room for efficiency improvement without being forced to live in apartments.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            The quietest place I’ve ever lived was a rowhouse condo smack in the middle of Washington D.C. — just two blocks from the famous Ben’s Chili Bowl. Why? It was built with thick cinderblock walls that were matched by equally thick cinderblock walls on the rowhouse next to it. I never heard my neighbors there, ever. And it had a parking spot, so I could drive if I wanted, although the subway was often quicker. No yard, but a spectacular roof deck with a view of the Capitol where we had many great late-night parties (before kids).

            Now, I live in a single-family house with a yard just like you’re describing, and my neighbor’s damn dog woke me up this morning after four hours of sleep (late night at work). They also like to hang around in their backyard at night while I’m trying to work, and my home office is unfortunately on their side of the house, so I get to listen in on all their conversations.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        “My personal preference would be to drop CAFE, but to extend and ramp up the gas guzzler tax.”

        I do agree that the gas guzzler tax should apply to all vehicles with high fuel consumption if it must be applied to any. It seems strange that someone has to pay an extra tax to drive around in a car that uses less fuel than a truck or SUV that is not subject to the same tax.

        But my vote would be for gas taxes.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I’ve got an idea, as much as am I opposed on general principle to the EV subsidies (cough cough corporate welfare), why not take half of the 7,500 credit and put it toward traditional hybrid vehicles and end the EV only focus?

      • 0 avatar
        HotPotato

        For the most recent G20 summit, held this time in China, the US and China sought to set an example by studying and tallying up their respective fossil fuel subsidies. Turns out they add up to over $8 billion in the US and over $14 billion in China, and that’s direct subsidies alone. Indirect costs from pollution etc. have been tallied by others at a couple hundred billion extra, but even leaving those aside, let’s zero out that $8 billion first, and then we can talk about EV tax credits.

        Here’s the report if you don’t believe me. http://webiva-downton.s3.amazonaws.com/877/21/7/9092/P020160919418466525465.pdf

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    In Chevy speak, what is “LT” supposed to stand for anyway?

  • avatar
    Dingleberrypiez_Returns

    Unmistakably shot on Bridgeway in Sausalito.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    Hey now, my 2015 Sonata Sport came with… uhh… nicer wheels and a spoiler and no extra power!

    That said, it did also include better interior bits which, combined with the tech package, made for a really good selection of content vs what you’d have had to buy to get the same stuff without the ‘sport’ trim level.

  • avatar
    zip94513

    Good job, Sport! Actually, I’m for eliminating a model choice, but NOT an engine choice.

  • avatar
    crtfour

    Pardon my random negativity here but IMO these are some of the worst looking cars when viewed from head on or in the rearview mirror, especially given the 2 grilles and goofy looking LED’s. No sport package will fix that nose.

    Rant over…..feel much better now.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    “While the LT solders on as a single trim line…”

    So there’s an electric version?

  • avatar
    TMA1

    A Venn diagram of people who buy Malibus and people who want to pay for premium fuel are likely to be two separate circles that don’t touch. Even my Coyote doesn’t “need” premium.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I doubt the Malibu “needs” it either. But I bet it can’t hit those EPA numbers without it, hence the new “requirement”. But not using it isn’t going to break anything.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      I used it in my Focus ST when I had it because there are a few stations that offered it without ethanol. The increased fuel mileage without the ethanol made up for the extra cost.

  • avatar
    pb35

    Wake me when they add the Super Sport package.

    SS 2.0 FTW

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    A sport package has to come with upgraded suspension bits…otherwise its really nothing at all.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Corolla S

  • avatar
    pb35

    Caravan R/T!

  • avatar
    Prado

    201A. Count me as a fan of the ‘sport package’, I wouldn’t be driving a Fusion if this package didn’t exist.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    “Sport” is everything. My old 2004 Impala base model had the “sport appearance package” which gave me alloy wheels, nicer cloth interior and a cargo net in the trunk. The car had the split-bench seat with the column shifter. It also had the 3.4L engine. Never a problem, but did go through rear rotors several times! Warped like crazy.

    I bought that car new and I found it on our local Chevy dealer lot. Funny – the car was in the exact color I wanted, too. I owned it for over 8 years and I can honestly say I loved it the whole time.

    Yes, “sport” did mean something to me. Looking back I wish I had spent a bit more and got the LS trim, but I was pinching pennies somewhat.

  • avatar
    tedward

    It’s no surprise to me the Malibu is getting a base engine sport trim. Both the accord and the passat have one already, they are popular, and they wipe the floor with every other midsizer at that price point in instrumented testing. It’s the wide lower profile tires of course, but it’s still a ridiculous difference in outcomes.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Kinda like the “RS” package on our Cruze. No bump in HP, but there is at least a slight (very slight) tweak to the suspension. And I like the subtle body kit…not over the top, but it looks pretty darned good in the dark grey metallic we have.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    The 3 HP loss is not actually factual. Most reports listed the 2016 model at 160 HP and 184 torque. Then Chevrolet listed the 1.5T as having 163 Hp and 250 torque which was obviously in error in there website. The torque was corrected but the Hp remained at 163. Most every other source listed it at 160. So did this engine really lose 3 HP?

  • avatar
    xantia10000

    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.

  • avatar
    dougjp

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

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