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The folks over at Inside Line appear to have an itchy trigger finger, and as such, the embargo on the 2008 Chevy Malibu is toast. (Note: It appears that Motor Trend was actually first, as the Malibu is in the Feb issue hitting newsstands now.) Given the spate of vaporized embargoes we've seen over the last week or so, this is about as surprising as the sun rising in the morning. That said, we're more than happy to bring you all the skinny on GM's new midsize sedan now that the cat's out of the bag.
Like the Saturn Aura, the all-new Malibu rides on the 112-inch wheelbase Epsilon platform. Given that we've driven the Aura and liked it very much, this bodes well for the new Chevy. We'd been wondering how GM would differentiate the two cars, and now we can tell you more about that. While the Saturn currently comes in two trim levels with V6 power only (3.5 or 3.6), the Malibu will be offered with three trim levels -- LS, LT, and LTZ -- with power coming from either a 164-horse 2.4L Ecotec or the very capable 252 HP 3.6L V6 with VVT.
If you think that the top-level Malibu LTZ is a V6-only car, you're wrong. The 2.4L four cylinder is available for all three trim levels, and when selected for the LTZ, it's mated to GM's Hydra-Matic 6T40 6-speed automatic with wheel-mounted shift paddles. (On LS and LT models, the four-banger is hooked up to a four-speed auto.) As with the Aura, the 3.6L is connected to the Hydra-Matic 6T70 6-speed with paddle shifters.
Follow the jump for more analysis, and be sure to check out more shots of Chevy's new 'Bu in our photo gallery.
This also marks the first time we're able to see the rest of the car, and we're happy with what GM has put together. The overall design is tasteful and non-controversial, traits that one can easily ascribe to the Malibu's chief import competitors, the Camry and Accord. The car's face, which we've already discussed at length, incorporates the new corporate grille, as well headlights that bear familial ties to the Chevy Cobalt. The car's flanks are uninterrupted by rub strips, but receive a subtle metallic accent that runs the length of the doors just above the rocker panel. Similar trim surrounds the Malibu's side glass. A thick C-pillar flows into the car's short rear deck. Walking around to the back reveals the new-look taillamps, which look very similar to the ones on the current Infiniti M, right down to the circular reverse lights. The thing is, we rather like the look of those lights, which aren't shared with any other GM car. The Malibu's identity is very much its own.
Now, while the car's outward appearance is a bit staid when compared to the more visually extroverted Saturn Aura, Chevy has gone to great lengths to ensure that the same can't be said of the Malibu's interior. The twin-pod layout we were introduced to last month can be ordered in a dizzying array of color and trim combinations, including several very attractive-looking two-tone packages.
We're looking forward to seeing the car in a little over a week and eventually getting behind the wheel when it's released. For now, however, based on the photos and info we've seen, it appears that the General is doing all the right things, product-wise, to get the ship turned around. None of us liked the old Malibu very much. This car, on the other hand, has our attention.