2006 Malibu New Car Test Drive
The Chevrolet Malibu was launched to compete with mid-size imports such as the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. The Malibu emphasizes civilized road manners, quality construction, and buttoned-down practicality wrapped in innocuous if not anonymous styling.
The driving performance of the Malibu exceeded our expectations. We were surprised by the acceleration performance from the V6 and delighted by the crispness of handling on winding roads. It feels firmer than the Camry, but softer than the Accord, a good balance, in other words.
Malibu's solid structure is based on GM's newly developed Epsilon platform used by a couple of highly successful European sedans. Along with its compliant suspension, this gives the Malibu a smooth, comfortable ride, yet allows for spirited driving. This is no mush-mobile. At the same time, steering effort is light at low speeds, making the Malibu easy to maneuver in crowded parking lots and other tight parking situations.
The cabin offers roomy accommodations for four passengers, five if one of them is sufficiently slender to squeeze into the rear middle seat. The seats are comfortable and the controls are logical and easy to use. Malibu is quiet underway, and it offers a wide range of engine choices. No question, this is a highly competent sedan that's practical and easy to live with.
The Malibu has something the imports don't: the Maxx. The Maxx is a long-wheelbase variant, whose extended roofline and rear cargo hatch suggest a sporty wagon. While Malibu seems destined to disappear into a crowd, Maxx looks just as determined to stand out and be noticed.
For 2006, the Malibu SS models receive a new, 240-hp, 3.9-liter V6 coupled to a sport-shift automatic. Performance in these is even peppier yet, adding to the Malibu's overall promising lineup.
Starting at just over $17,000 and topping out around $27,000 fully optioned, the Malibu is extremely competitive with the prices of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, which can approach $30,000 with options.
The 2006 Chevrolet Malibu is available as a conventional four-door sedan, or as the longer-wheelbase Malibu Maxx.
The sedan comes in four trim levels: LS ($17,365), LT ($18,725), LTZ ($24,205) and SS ($23,865). The LS and LT are powered by a 2.2-liter dual overhead cam four-cylinder engine. The LTZ comes with a 3.5-liter overhead-valve V6, which is optional in the LT ($1560). The SS comes with a new, 3.9-liter overhead-valve V6. All models come with a four-speed automatic transmission; the SS adds a sport-shift function.
Standard features at all levels include: air conditioning; a power, vertical-height adjuster for the driver's seat; power windows, door locks and outside mirrors; tilt/telescoping steering column; four-speaker stereo with compact disc player; and 205/65R15, all-season tires on hub-capped, steel wheels. An engine block heater is optional across the line ($50).
The LT adds cruise control; remote vehicle starter and keyless entry; map lights; map pockets in the backs of the front seats; manual lumbar adjustment for the driver's seat; six-speaker stereo with the Radio Data System (which displays the kind of station you are listening to); 205/60R16 all-season tires on painted silver steel wheels; front and rear carpeted floor mats; and a cargo net. Options include a Front Seating Package with leather-appointed seats, six-way power adjustment for the driver's seat and heated front seats ($450); a Luxury and Convenience Package with the seating package plus electrochromic rearview mirror, lighted driver and passenger vanity mirrors, rear map lights, fog lamps and 16-inch chrome-trim wheels ($995); power-adjustable pedals ($125); XM Satellite Radio with three-month trial subscription ($325); six-disc in-dash CD changer ($300); and rear spoiler ($175).
LTZ adds automatic climate control; leather-appointed seats; heated front seats; 6-way power driver's seat; leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel with steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls; power-adjustable pedals; front and rear map lights; two illuminated vanity mirrors in front; fog lamps; power, heated, manually foldable outside mirrors; body-color rocker moldings; a rear spoiler; P225/50R17 all-season tires on bright chrome aluminum alloy wheels; a Homelink transmitter for opening garages and security gates; one-year, pre-paid OnStar with on-line emergency notification, vehicle diagnostics and hands-free calling; and electrochromic rearview mirror. XM Satellite Radio and the six-disc, in-dash CD changer are optional. So is a power sunroof ($800).
SS upgrades with leather-appointed sport seats; six-way power driver's seat; leather-wrapped shift knob; leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise controls; power-adjustable pedals; P225/50R18 all-season tires on machined, ultra-bright, aluminum alloy wheels; and fog lamps. Optional on the SS are XM radio, in-dash CD changer, sunroof. Summer performance tires ($150) and OnStar with a one-year pre-paid subscription ($695) are also optional.
Maxx is built in three trim levels: LT ($21,025), LTZ ($24,755), and SS ($24,065). The Maxx LT is better equipped than its sedan counterpart, and comes with cruise control; P215/60R16, all-season tires on silver-painted, steel wheels; power hatch release; fore-and-aft adjustable rear seat; and other highline features. Similar options packages are available for the Maxx as for the sedan. Maxx exclusives include a rear-seat audio system with two wireless headphones and auxiliary jacks ($175 on the LT, standard on the LTZ and SS) and a DVD/CD rear-seat entertainment center with wireless headphones, remote control and a monitor that flips up from the front console ($995).
Safety features on all models include dual-stage frontal airbags; three-point seatbelts for all occupants; adjustable head restraints for all outboard seating positions and child safety seat anchors (LATCH). Front seat-mounted, chest-protecting side-imp.
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