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MORE VERSATILITY IN A FAMILY SEDAN

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Jun 12, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

MORE VERSATILITY IN A FAMILY SEDAN By HARVEY SCHWARTZ

Back in the 1950s, Dinah Shore was famous for belting out, "see the USA in your Chevrolet" - the main sponsor of her long-running TV show.  It was the heyday for Chevrolet during that time as the world's best-selling nameplate.  But that was yesterday, and today Chevrolet sedans are an afterthought with Toyota's Camry, Honda's Accord, Ford's Taurus outselling the bowtie-badged sedans.

© All photos by Harvey Schwartz

This year, Chevrolet brings out two all-new Malibus: the regular four-door sedan, and the Maxx five-door sedan.  Both models share the same new clean, contemporary design inside and out, the all-new, more rigid body structure, a new 200-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine, four-speed automatic transmission, fully independent suspension, four-wheel disc brakes and 16-inch tires and wheels.  The regular sedan gives families what they're looking for in an economically priced, mid-size sedan with all the quality, features and safety found in the competition from Toyota, Honda and Ford.  What the all-new Malibu Maxx offers is all that, plus a versatile rear cargo hold that increases the uses of the Malibu for daily family chores - even a drive from coast-to-coast.  The all-new Malibu Maxx is truly unique in the mid-size sedan segment, and I was very impressed with the idea and execution.

The Malibu Maxx rides on a 112.3-inch wheelbase that is six inches longer than the Malibu sedan, yet its overall length of 187.8 inches is a half inch shorter.  The result is an interior that is cavernous for a car its size.

The Malibu Maxx has the ride and handling of a sedan with the interior versatility of a SUV.  Chevy calls it a five-door extended sedan.  This new category of car is reflected in the design of the Malibu Maxx's rear profile.  The rear window is a liftgate, which is made of lightweight aluminum for easy operation - and is more like a sedan than a station wagon.  The steep angle and high overhang of the rear hatch make it easier to load or unload cargo, because the cargo area is right in front of you when you open the hatch.  The cargo area of the Malibu Maxx (the area behind the back seats when up) is officially calculated at 22.8 cubic feet - nearly 50 percent larger than the trunk of other mid-size sedans. 

The design of the Malibu Maxx's cabin and seats offer even more flexibility.  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.  The cargo area also features a standard power outlet and a two-sided, multi-functional cargo panel with four positions for two-tier loading.  The cargo panel also can be positioned as a table for picnics or tailgate parties.  Hooks on the cargo panel help secure smaller items, and cargo nets on each side of the cargo area help keep items from sliding around.  The cargo area and cargo panel are very similar to what you have in the Chrysler PT Cruiser and Chrysler says that you can reconfigure the rear cargo area over 32 different ways. The economically priced Malibu Maxx also gives first-class comfort to rear and front seat passengers.  The rear seat slides nearly 7in. fore and aft-unlike the stationary rear seats of most conventional mid-size sedans-and is split 60/40 not just in the seat back, but also the seat cushion, to further increase comfort.  The seat backs recline-distinguishing them from the seat backs in most sedans-allowing different-size rear passengers to tailor their seating position in a similar way front-seat passengers can.  The Malibu Maxx has a generous 106cu.ft. of passenger space and a luxurious 41in. of legroom with the seats pushed all the way back.  The Malibu Maxx also features a standard fixed rear glass skylight that provides a spacious, open atmosphere over the rear seats, and reduces the feeling of occupants being cut off from the outside that some backseats create.  Both driver-and passenger-side rear occupants have the option of opening or closing the standard split/retractable shade to control the amount of light coming through the skylight. 

Interior fit and finish is much better than on the previous Malibu - even the imitation wood inlay on the dashboard and doors is of a higher quality. The steering wheel is now both tilting and telescoping with power pedals that give you the perfect position behind the wheel.  The leather-wrapped steering wheel also contains buttons to control the audio system and cruise control.  The instrument panel is clean, nicely laid out, easy to see and understand with a big 140 mph speedometer and 7,000 rpm tachometer, with smaller gauges for fuel and engine coolant temperature.  Bright LED readouts alert you to system or safety failure.  All buttons, dials and levers are within easy reach and fully illuminated for safe nighttime driving.  The tumbledown center stack is within easy reach with simple to use controls for the audio system and electronic climate system.  Two vents on the center of the dash-dubbed 'turbo blasters' by the car's engineers-are designed to pour generous amounts of heated or cooled air directly into the back seat.  Four levels of radio offerings are available on the Malibu Maxx, including an up-level radio with an in-dash, six-CD changer, six speakers, automatic volume and tone controls, and XM satellite radio.  An optional DVD entertainment system complements the spacious rear accommodations.  The system is mounted into the rear of the center console, increasing rear visibility for the driver, and includes a 7in. flip-up LCD screen, two sets of infrared headphones, video game jacks, remote control and independent audio selection. 

Other standard equipment in the Malibu Maxx include power-heated outside mirrors, automatic headlight control, fog lamps, power door locks/windows, power rear hatchback release, leather trimmed seats with drivers-side six-way powered, cruise-control, remote keyless entry, variable speed wipers/washers, thick pile carpeting with embroidered front floor mats, plus the center stack has a readout for the driver information center that enables personalization of electrical features and provides more than 15 warning messages including low key-fob battery life, outside temperature readout, the possibility of ice forming on the road and an oil life monitor.  Options include heated front seats, OnStar, and XM satellite radio.

Like the Malibu sedan, the Maxx is all new from the ground up.  The Malibu Maxx and sedan are the first North American applications of GM's Epsilon global architecture, which also provides the foundation for the new Opel Vectra and Saab 9-3.  The main characteristics of the Epsilon architecture were developed with GM's Opel subsidiary in Germany, which accounts, in part, for the European flair in Malibu's ride and handling.  However, each Epsilon vehicle is adapted regionally to meet local conditions and tastes.  "A lot of customers may not care that we call this the 'Epsilon architecture', but if they have driven last year's version of the Malibu, they will immediately notice a firmer, quieter, more linear feel in the ride and handling of the '04 version" said Gene Stefanyshyn, vehicle line executive of the Malibu sedan and Maxx.

In addition to the vibration-reducing properties of the Epsilon architecture itself, the car has a host of noise-elimination features, including a cast foam-rubber barrier covering the dash panel, a modular noise-dampening plate in the dash panel, a compression-molded fiberglass-composite hoot insulator, and front and rear 'glove-fit' carpet floor modules. The Epsilon body structure gives the Malibu Maxx a high degree of structural stiffness, greatly enhancing both vehicle handling and interior acoustics.  A fully isolated powertrain cradle with tuned bushings-also found on many high-end luxury vehicles-further contributes to Malibu Maxx's quiet ride.

The all-new Malibu Maxx is designed with crisp lines that nicely outline the car's space efficient and aerodynamic exterior.  Crystalline-like halogen headlamps behind clear lens, a wide grille and lower airtake, bright rectangular fog lamps and a chrome front bar with a gold Chevy bowtie highlight the front fascia.  The side view shows the low front end, steeply raked windshield, flat roof, blacked-out green house, full-perimeter lower body extensions, full-length rub strips, pullout door handles, and 16 x 6.5 inch machine-faced aluminum wheels that are wrapped around by P215/60R16 all-season touring tires.  The rear fascia is highlighted with the deeply cut hatchback or fifth door, big, triangular shaped tail/brake and back- up lamps, chrome bar with a gold Chevy bowtie and a single aluminum coated stainless steel exhaust tip. 

Powering the all-new Malibu Maxx is GM's new 3.5 liter OHV V6 with a cast iron block and aluminum head.  This engine makes 200 horsepower at 5,400 rpm and 220 pounds feet of torque at 3,200 rpm.  The new V6 engine features many improvements in performance, fuel efficiency and NVH over last year's 3.4liter V6.  This engine is mated to a Hydra-Matic 4T45-E four-speed electronic-shift automatic front-wheel-drive transmission for smooth and powerful shifting.  All Malibu models are equipped with electric rack & pinion power steering (EPS) with variable assist for low and high-speed maneuvers.  Giving a smooth and precisely controlled ride is Malibu's new fully independent suspension system.  Up front are MacPherson gas-pressurized coil-over struts, coil springs, 19.5 mm stabilizer bar and a full frame isolated front chassis cradle.  The rear suspension features a 4-link design with twin-tube gas shocks, dual rate (non-linear) mini block coil springs, 20mm stabilizer bar and adjustable toe and camber. Safely slowing the all-new Malibu Maxx down from speed are big, power-assisted four-wheel disc brakes with ABS (anti-lock braking system), traction control, dynamic rear proportioning and active wheel-speed sensors.  Up front are 11.65-inch vented discs with a dual piston caliper and in the rear are 10.63-inch solid discs and a single piston caliper.

Keeping you safe in the event of a collision are standard front/rear crumple zones, driver/front passenger front airbags, optional head curtain side-impact airbags, 3-point safety belts for all passengers, with front pretensioners, daytime running lamps, steel beams in each door, LATCH child seat latch system, child-proof rear door locks, and energy absorbing steering column. The all-new 2004 Chevy Malibu Maxx is a fresh, new idea in the mid-size, family sedan segment, giving good value for the money with versatility and flexibility not found in any sedan priced under $30,000.  The Malibu sedan and Maxx are also the first American automobiles to offer remote-starting, allowing you to start the car while inside the house on cold winter mornings, or sweltering summer afternoons.  The system is designed to work from approximately 200ft. With everything that is available, the Malibu Maxx is a great car for a staring price of only $24,100.00.  The remote starter is just $150.00 and the DVD system is just $995.00. I really enjoyed the better handling, smoother ride and interior versatility - as good and better than the competition. © All text and photos by Harvey Schwartz

For more information on Chevrolet products, go to www.chevrolet.com. More photos from Harvey Schwartz can be found at www.autofotos.com

  SPECIFICATIONS   Name of vehicle: 2004 Chevrolet Malibu Maxx   Price: $24,100.00, as tested $24,965.00   Engine type: 3.5-liter OHV V6 with cast iron block, steel crankshaft and cast aluminum head   Horsepower: 200 hp at 5,400 rpm   Torque: 220 lb.ft. of torque at 3,200 rpm   Drive configuration: Front engine/front-wheel-drive   Transmission type: Hydra-Matic 4T45-E four-speed automatic with OD   Front suspension: Independent MacPherson coil-over-strut (gas-pressurized), coil springs, 19.5 mm stabilizer bar, full frame isolated chassis cradle   Rear Suspension: Independent four-link design, twin-tube gas shocks, dual rate (non-linear) mini block coil springs, 20 mm stabilizer bar, adjustable toe and camber   Wheels/tires: 16X6.5 machine faced aluminum wheels/P215/60R16 all-season touring radial tires   Brakes: Front: 11.65-inch vented discs with twin-piston caliper Rear: 10.63-inch solid discs with a single piston caliper.  ABS, traction control with dynamic rear proportioning and active wheel speed sensors   Overall length: 187.8 inches   Overall width: 69.8 inches   Overall height: 58.1 inches   Curb weight: 3,476 pounds   EPA mileage estimates: 22mpg/city, 30mpg/highway   0-60mph: 8.2 seconds

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