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2016 Chevrolet Malibu First Look

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 4/1/2015 Scott Burgess
2016 Chevrolet Malibu Profile Teaser Photo© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Profile Teaser Photo

Chevrolet doubled down on the midsize Malibu that will debut at the New York International Auto Show Wednesday.

In typical automotive fashion, Chevrolet promises the 2016 Malibu will be bigger, stronger, and more efficient than the previous generation. It's also significantly better looking, but we'll get to that in a moment. Sneaking under the radar is Chevrolet's decision to include three different powertrains with none of them being a V-6. The world is changing, and Chevrolet is using turbos to catch up.

The Malibu will come with either a 1.5-liter or 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder mated to a six-speed and eight-speed automatic, respectively. The base 1.5-liter model will be able to hit at least 37 mpg on the highway and will include stop/start technology to increase city mileage. Final power numbers have not been released.

The 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder will be the performance-based model, offering additional power that should perform at least as well as the 2.0-liter engine in the Cadillac ATS, which produces 272 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque.

Despite stretching the wheelbase of the Malibu by 3.6 inches and the overall length by 2.3 inches, Chevrolet put the Malibu on a strict developmental diet, shedding as much as 300 pounds on some models. That's where some of the car's efficiencies will come.

The third powertrain the Malibu will offer is a full-hybrid version that incorporates some of the technology developed for the second-generation Volt, including a 1.8-liter I-4 mated to two electric motors. The motors will run off an 80-cell, 1.4-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack that will be placed under the second row seats. (The hybrid will lose some trunk space but still provide ample room in the rear.) Chevrolet promises at least 45 mpg combined fuel economy on the hybrid Malibu.

Related Link: See More News from the New York Auto Show

More important to consumers are the changes to the interior and exterior. The Malibu is beautiful and has a modern, well-proportioned look. Although it's built on the same chassis as the Impala, designers and engineers were able to lower the Malibu to give it a much sportier stance. The Malibu uses more high-strength steel and lighter undercarriage parts to help it shed pounds but enhance performance. The new roof design, which stretches farther back, helps provide ample headroom for adult passengers in the back and gives the Malibu a more distinct shape.

The new headlamps sweep back along the front fenders, and Chevrolet has included LED daytime running lights to give it a unique signature. The lower hood helps improve the car's overall aerodynamics.

The material choices and design in the cabin are much more upscale than the outgoing model. The longer wheelbase adds 1.3 inches of legroom, and the center stack-mounted touchscreen (either 7 or 8 inches) will include a number of apps and navigation, known as MyLink. MyLink will also include the Teen Driver feature that will allow parents to monitor their children's driving habits after every journey.

There are also a number of high-tech driving features, such as adaptive cruise control, rear camera, lane keep assist, blind-spot warning and forward collision alert. The pedestrian alert system can help spot pedestrians with its radar and cameras and force the car to stop if the driver does not notice them.

This is the first Malibu in a long time -- this is the ninth generation of the Malibu, which was first introduced in 1964 -- that does more than catch up with the competition. In many ways, its efficiency, technology, and overall comfort passes some current offerings from other makers. That may not make a dent in this year's sales number, as the new Malibu won't arrive until the fourth quarter of this year, but if these cars perform as well on the road as they do on paper, the Malibu could begin to make more people's consideration list over time.

That, of course, is a very big if. But it's nice to see Chevy devoting so much time and energy to a car that in the past just didn't keep with the Camrys and Accords. For the moment, at least, it's leaving them in the slow lane.

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