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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
The V-6...doesn't feel quite as powerful as its numbers suggest
quicker to 60 and the quarter mile than seven...sports cars
The four...has lost much of its thrashiness
Road & Track
The 2008 Chevrolet Malibu is more responsible than it is fun to drive, but it’s not without its driving pleasure.
The more popular engine choice for the 2008 Chevrolet Malibu lineup is the economical 169-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, which is rated at a frugal 22 mpg city, 30 mpg highway and comes only with a smooth-shifting four-speed automatic transmission. (A six-speed automatic will be available later this year.) Performance is good enough with the four-cylinder, but if you plan to haul full loads or take on mountain passes, you may be wishing for the 252-hp, 3.5-liter V-6, which is very responsive and much more refined than the V-6 in the previous Malibu.
Reviews for the Malibu’s performance are mixed. On one hand, the New York Times compares the "eagerness" of both the four-cylinder and the V-6 favorably with the Honda Accord and the Nissan Altima--due to what ConsumerGuide calls "caffeine under the hood."
Road & Track says the four-cylinder Chevrolet Malibu's "loss of thrashiness" and better noise control is attributable to a redesigned intake manifold. Cars.com acknowledges that the V-6 is "sturdy" and produces "plenty of power," but there is some disappointment that the power is not in line with its "numbers." Lower fuel-economy numbers are a gripe over at Edmunds, too; they note, “Possibly this is due in part to the Malibu's heft. At 3,649 pounds, the Malibu V-6 is the fat kid of the group.”
There’s also a Hybrid edition of the newest Chevrolet; 2008 versions sport the same four-cylinder engine installed in the base model, though it’s augmented with a small electric motor to assist it, along with brakes that regenerate the batteries. The result is a mere 2-mpg increase in mileage. The majority of reviewers agree that these features aren't really worth the extra $1,800--the federal $1,300 tax credit notwithstanding. Automobile disagrees: “The system's simplicity, low cost, and passive nature are appealing. Factor in the hybrid tax incentives, and you're almost getting something for nothing.”
In terms of handling, most reviews felt the Malibu had benign handling. Cars.com says, “It has excellent ride qualities, certainly on a par with the Camry and Accord.” However, “while handling is good,” they note, “there's still more lean in corners than with its competitors.”
Editors at TheCarConnection.com think the 2008 Chevrolet Malibu has a very smooth, well-controlled ride and handles securely, though without much performance flair. If equipped with the four-cylinder engine, the Malibu has a fuel-saving electric power steering system, but V-6 versions come with hydraulic power steering that gives a bit more road feel.
The 2008 Chevrolet Malibu has four-cylinder frugality and V-6 thump—but driving passion is largely off the menu.