Hitting showrooms sometime in 2007 is Chevy's all-new 2008 Malibu. Chevy says this dual-port front end is the new face of Chevrolet, so get used to it. From the rear, the new Malibu looks like a cross between an Infiniti M35/M45 and a Buick Lucerne, despite the integration of Chevrolet's trademark twin-round taillights.
Compared with the current Malibu, the 2008 model is three inches longer and has a wheelbase that is a gigantic six inches longer. Under its bulging hood will lie one of two engines - GM's Ecotec 2.4-liter, 164-hp four, or a 252-hp, variable-valve-timing 3.6-liter V-6.
V-6 models gain a standard six-speed automatic with paddle shifters and dual chrome exhaust outlets. That transmission is optional on four-cylinder cars, which otherwise make do with a four-speed automatic. EPA highway estimates are expected to be 31 mpg with the four-cylinder, 26 with the V6, making the Malibu eligible for Chevy's "over 30 mpg on the highway" club - albeit barely.
Three trim levels will be available, the LS, which wears sixteen-inch wheels, LT with seventeens, and LTZ with eighteen inch rubber. The LTZ also gets fog lights and LED taillights.
In the safety department, the 2008 Malibu comes standard with ABS, traction control, head-curtain side airbags and front seat-mounted thorax protection airbags. Electronic Stability Control and panic brake assistant are standard on all but the base LT models.
Promising to move the Malibu upmarket, the interior will feature optional two-tone color combinations, an available large, panoramic sunroof, and a standard tire pressure monitoring system.
The 2008 Malibu is a step in the right direction for the General. It's handsome and distinctive, and unquestionably better looking than the previous Malibu. But so is Michael Jackson.