- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 2, 2004

The “Bow-Tie” gang offers two Malibu vehicles for 2004: the Malibu sedan, and the Malibu Maxx — what the folks from Chevrolet are calling a five-passenger extended sedan. Construction consists of a unit body frame, front engine and front-wheel drive.

The Malibu was engineered to deliver what most frequent travelers crave — the comfort of first class for the price of a coach-class ticket, or tailored styling at off-the-rack pricing.

It comes in three trim levels: Base; LS and LT and is built in GM’s Kansas City, Kan., plant to compete with the likes of Toyota’s Camry, Honda’s Accord, the Dodge Stratus, Hyundai Sonata and Mazda6.

The standard engine for the base Malibu sedan is the Ecotec 2.2-liter Inline four-cylinder, delivering 145 horsepower and 155 foot-pounds of torque. GM’s 3500 3.5-liter V-6 producing 200 horsepower and 220 foot-pounds of torque may be ordered as an option to power the base sedan and standard equipment in both the LS and LT trim levels. All engines mate to a four-speed electronic-shift automatic transmission.

The four-door Malibu rides on a wheelbase that is 6 inches shorter than the 2004 Malibu Maxx, yet the sedan’s overall length is a half-inch longer.

The Malibu rides and handles like a more upscale sedan while providing interior versatility.

Both the “all new from the ground up” Malibu Maxx and the Malibu sedan are the first North American applications of General Motors’ “Epsilon” global architecture, which also provides the foundation for the new Opel Vectra and Saab 9-3, accounting, in part, for the European flair in Malibu’s ride and handling, though each Epsilon-based vehicle is adapted regionally to meet local conditions and tastes.

Rear seats and the front passenger seat fold forward flat, creating a space that can accommodate longer items. The rear seats also are split 60/40, providing flexibility for passengers and cargo with easy-to-reach releases in the trunk.

The Malibu’s design exhibits clean, crisp lines on a car that features a space-efficient and aerodynamic exterior.

Crystalline headlamp lenses and a chrome front bar and gold Chevrolet bowtie highlight the car’s contemporary lines.

The Malibu sedan and Malibu Maxx are the first cars in their class to offer an optional factory-installed remote vehicle starter system, allowing the driver inside the house to start the car outside on cold winter mornings or sweltering summer afternoons. The system is designed to work from approximately 200 feet.

Four levels of radio offerings are available, including an uplevel ICDX radio with an in-dash, six-CD changer, six speakers (including two tweeters on the A pillar), automatic volume and tone controls, and XM Satellite Radio compatibility.

Safety features in the Malibu include dual-stage front air bags for both driver and front passenger; three-point safety belts for all occupants; standard safety belt pretensioners for front-seat passengers; optional head curtain side-impact air bags to help protect front and rear outboard passengers; standard four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with traction control; and a Latch (Lower Anchors and Top Tethers for CHildren) child-seat attachment system in all rear seating positions.

Operating with the idea that a comfortable driver is a better driver, engineers also equipped the Malibu to fit the driver like a tailored suit. Power-adjustable brake and accelerator pedals and a tilt/telescopic steering column are standard.

All Malibu models are equipped with electric power steering (EPS) featuring variable assist for low- and high-speed steering maneuvers and power brakes.

Also standard is a driver information center (DIC) integrated into the radio display that enables personalization of electrical features and provides more than 15 warning messages including low key-fob battery life, the possibility of ice forming on the road and an oil life monitor.

Options include heated front seats, OnStar and XM Satellite Radio.

The base Malibu test sedan rang up at the register for $20,775 after adding a preferred equipment group, anti-lock brakes with traction control, head-curtain side air bags, remote vehicle start system and destination fee to the base sticker of $18,370.

The Malibu in LT trim was base priced at $22,870 with a final sticker of $25,720 with OnStar, the preferred equipment group, XM satellite radio and destination charges.

The Malibu is a clean, attractive contemporary four-door sedan. Even the 2.2 liter four-cylinder engine provides plenty of get up and go with great fuel economy to boot.

The 3.5-liter V-6 obviously delivers a higher level of performance and would be my personal choice, while the Malibu Maxx is the real deal in terms of optimum versatility and flexibility.

The new Malibu is pleasing to the eye, responsive and comfortable, with many features included that most competitors don’t offer — at least, not as standard equipment. It may well be one of the most impressive new models to come from the General for 2004.

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