Palo Alto, CA – There’s a polish to it. A refinement. A sensation of fine-tuning and attention to dynamic detail that stands out in the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu. The new-for-2016 version of Chevrolet’s Camry and Accord fighter feels honed. Dialed in. Calibrated.
Whip it through a corner at a good clip. You just steer, and the Malibu follows your orders, takes a set, doesn’t stumble or hesitate or wallow around like an inflatable bouncy castle. You don’t second-guess or readjust your steering input. It just does as requested, precisely and confidently, and fast.
Steering is directed by a chunky, thick leather wheel. You don’t feel much of the road through it. Truly, it’s fairly numb where feedback is concerned (what isn’t, lately?) But the ratio is just right. It’s balanced nicely against the tuning of the suspension. Not so quick that it startles and lurches the car, not so slow and sluggish that it’s boring, but just right.
Brakes, too. Pedal feel is excellent, well above average for the segment and awfully close to the level of precision found in certain BMW and Lexus models which your writer holds as favourites for brake system execution. The Malibu’s brakes bite hard, but not abruptly so, at a mere touch of the pedal. Deceleration builds strongly and progressively as the pedal closes in on the firewall, and the brakes never feel like they’re running out of steam.
Judging by the trophy rack, Chevrolet gets many things right with the Malibu each time around. And thanks to what seems like careful sweating of the dynamic details, this latest Malibu might be the first one anyone ever bought because of how it drives.
And it’s not just the dynamics, either. Thanks to a new body structure that’s reinforced on a precise, as-needed basis with high-tensile steel, there’s virtually no flex in the Malibu’s body. No flex means a quieter ride, since body flex pumps air through the cabin, turning it into a giant speaker, and causing noise. No flex also allows engineers more control over the suspension.
“We can control the rubber components, like bushings and isolators,” said performance director Mike Strickhauser. “The less flex there is in the body, the more precisely we can control those components, so they can do their job better.”
So, from the driver’s seat, you get a quieter cabin (road noise is present but muted, wind and other noises even more so), and better ride quality. Further, the body structure is 45 kilos lighter, enabling reduced weight of other components, which totals up for a Malibu that’s some 130+ kg (300 lb) leaner than last year’s model. Did I mention it’s notably larger than the outgoing car too?
Lighter is more efficient, and benefits are synergistic. Case in point? Since she’s not bloated like a pregnant manatee, there’s no need for a V6 engine. That means lighter engine mounts, lighter structures upon which to mount Malibu’s all–four-cylinder engine lineup, and lighter, smaller brake and suspension componentry, which have less weight to deal with.