In its current guise since 2016, the ninth-gen Chevrolet Malibu is no spring chicken; the rumor is an all-new model will arrive in 2025. And after three days and some 700 miles behind the wheel of a 2023 example, your author has a few observations and a strong overall opinion on the very last domestic midsize sedan in production. Let’s hop in and journey east, through the Appalachian Plateau.
Unlike Ford, which plans to put its sole remaining four-door passenger car underground by 2021, General Motors’ Chevrolet division is not quite ready to kiss the sedan goodbye.
While the automaker did cull its compact Chevrolet Cruze earlier this year (sparking a wail of grief from a certain writer whose year-old daily driver now bears an defunct nameplate), and while the Chevy Impala is also scheduled to bite the dust come January, the long-running Malibu is said to have at least a few good years left in it.
I thumbed the start button, adjusted the mirrors, and backed away from the coffee shop. A couple of miles later, my co-driver/navigator was distracted and we missed a turn on our route guide. I hustled around an unexpected roundabout, trying to make up time, and the mid-sized sedan dove into the corners like a much smaller car.
It’s remarkable how unremarkable the 2018 Chevrolet Malibu RS really is. I expected a dull car with dull responses and no power — which would provide ample opportunity for devastating snark. And yet, I can’t stop thinking about how surprisingly well this Chevy drives.
It’s easy to make fun of what amounts to an appearance package, but appearance remains a very important part of the car-buying decision. This isn’t a Warsaw Pact country, circa 1980.
To sweeten its midsize pot, Chevrolet crafted an RS-badged version of its Malibu sedan for the 2019 model year, perhaps as a way of tempting current Redline Edition owners to trade in their rides. Once glance should tell you this thing isn’t a rental, though it still contains the turbocharged 1.5-liter four-banger you’ll find under the hood of lesser-trimmed variants. But what does extra flash and no added dash cost compared to a volume LS? As it turns out, not a lot.
General Motors launched its Maven rideshare service in 2016 with the goal of providing renters with a taste of its vehicles, while also bringing in a little extra revenue. The service offers a wide array of vehicles ranging from small hatchbacks like the Chevrolet Spark to large SUVs like the Tahoe.
The service is available in many larger cities across the country and, since I was visiting Detroit for the auto show, I decided to give it a try to see what a potential renter might encounter. I signed up for the app and rented a couple of vehicles without notifying GM in order to experience the vehicles just as the general public would.
The vehicles were far worse than I expected.
Sometimes the little things make a big difference. Body color door handles, for example, can take a simple compact car from appearing fit for penalty box duty to appearing worthy of driveway placement. Swap those black side mouldings and matte black mirror housings for body color paint and you’re home free.
In other instances, the absence of foglights in foglight housings turns a decent front fascia into a disappointment. A bigger front air dam has the potential to suggest the addition of horsepower. Chrome window surrounds, upgraded lighting, metallic paint, and red-trimmed grilles can add a premium aura to otherwise pitiful products.
Oh, and don’t forget the wheels. Wheels can cover a multitude of design errors.
But does any car benefit more from big, stylish wheels; body colour mirrors; and LED daytime running lights than the 2017 Chevrolet Malibu? And does any car suffer more from small wheels with puffy tires, black mirrors, and stock lighting than the 2017 Chevrolet Malibu?
“The night of the fight, you may feel a slight sting. That’s pride f***ing with you. F*** pride. Pride only hurts. It never helps.” Recognize that quote? It’s from Pulp Fiction, of course. There’s only so much wisdom you can take out of any Quentin Tarantino movie, but if you’re looking for some, there it is.
Unfortunately for you earnest advice takers out there, the auto business runs on pride. From the websites to the styling studios, from the wash rack to the RenCen, you’ll find insecure, petty, miserable people who allow their perpetually wounded pride to make astoundingly indefensible business decisions on their behalf. Here’s an example: I once worked at a dealership that was pretty much run into the ground by a pair of incompetent, dishonest managers. The owner was despondent and he had pretty much decided to sell the franchise, but at the last moment he changed his mind, took some good advice, and brought in a fellow who was kind of a superstar but also kind of a loose cannon.
Make America Great Again! It’s a dynamite slogan, simultaneously implying that America has fallen a little short of greatness lately and that a return to said greatness can absolutely be accomplished in short order. It’s a winner’s slogan, and it did wonders for that noted repeat winner, Ronald Reagan. By contrast, “I’m With Her,” the current slogan of choice for Mrs. Clinton, sounds like something a henpecked live-in boyfriend would tell a too-inquisitive salesperson at the Pottery Barn.
Whether or not Mr. Reagan truly made America great again is a discussion for another time. I will say, for the record, that I am on a particular side of that discussion, and the quasi-musician known as “Jello Biafra” is on the other.
What cannot be denied, however, is that the Reagan era saw the arrival of some truly great American cars. The C4 Corvette and its third-gen F-body cousin. The 225-horsepower Mustang GT. The Dodge Rampage 2.2. The list goes on and on, although you wouldn’t think that it does from the fact that I got to the Rampage 2.2 so quickly. I would also definitely include the Plymouth Turismo 2.2 in the list, although it would be after the Rampage because the Rampage had more cargo capacity.
Could a Trump presidency spur another era of great American cars? Or would Mrs. Clinton be the right choice to unleash a new generation of “superpredator” sports cars on the American public? While we wait for the American motor-voter to decide, let’s take a look at some of the current lows, and highs, in the domestic-brand arsenal of democracy.
There are a lot of unhappy union executives in South Korea today after General Motors announced it won’t green light Chevrolet Impala production in the surging Asian market.
The model will continue to be imported from GM’s Hamtramck assembly plant, despite the popularity it has shown since going on sale in September of last year.
The union representing the bulk of GM Korea’s 17,000 workers isn’t taking the news lying down, saying the move threatens the existence of the company itself. Ko Nam-seok, leader of the GM Korea branch of the Korean Metal Workers Union, is expected to pan the decision in a meeting with GM CEO Mary Barra later this month.
“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.”
The Malibu Maxx was a funny looking, crypto-station-wagon version of the 2004-2007 Chevrolet Malibu (which was itself based on the Opel Vectra C). It sold poorly and is now largely forgotten, which makes it exactly the kind of junkyard car I like to find.
Yes, obscure sales flops in the junkyard have stories to tell!
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