Preview: 2008 Chevrolet Malibu

ON SALE: NOVEMBER / $18,000-$25,000 (EST.)

If last year's make-or-break vehicle for Chevy was the Silverado pickup, this year's is the all-new Malibu sedan. The Malibu's twin, the Aura, has made a big splash at Saturn, but the Malibu is even more crucial to GM's attempt to reinvigorate its bread-and-butter passenger-car portfolio. This is GM's Toyota Camry, its Honda Accord. Fortunately, the new Malibu promises to be a vastly superior car to its predecessor and a worthy competitor to those class leaders. Its exterior styling won't stop traffic--a typical trait in family sedans--but it is crisp, pleasing, and modern. The interior is a big leap forward in both design and execution, and two-tone leather trim is now available. The new Malibu has grown three inches overall, and its wheelbase is six inches longer, which helps give it a wheels-at-the-corners stance. Two engines, both new to the Malibu, include the 2.4-liter Ecotec four hooked to a four-speed automatic (a six-speed automatic will come later in the model year). A 3.6-liter V-6--which comes standard with the six-speed auto--adds steering-wheel-mounted shifters.

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