2013 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ 2.0 Turbo
From the March 2013 Issue of Car and Driver
Let us now officially place “turbocharged” alongside “humdinger,” “nifty,” and “bodacious” in the pile of words that once denoted cool but, today, is just stuff old people say. Yes, enthusiasts, welcome to the modern reality of ubiquitous forced induction, where even the Chevy Malibu is offered with a turbo. In fact, it’s the same basic 2.0-liter turbo fitted to the Cadillac ATS, the Buick Verano, and the Buick Regal.
In addition to a 62-hp bump over the base 2.5-liter engine, to 259, turbo Malibus receive specific shock and steering tuning along with front and rear brake rotors that are almost an inch larger than brakes fitted to less potent Malibus.
But these spec changes were made more to retain the placid ride and easy-to-drive nature found in lesser Malibu models than to create a sports sedan. The turbo Malibu possesses the same cozy seats and a similarly silent cabin as the rest of the range, making it ideal for engaging the cruise control and settling into a freeway groove to lay down serious miles. Precious little feedback of any sort penetrates this chamber, and given the direct-injected four’s willingness to spin those front wheels—260 pound-feet of torque is available from just 1700 rpm—it is easy to find yourself traveling at supra-legal speeds.
Or fighting for control, as the turbo Malibu’s front end gets light and its tires go darty under full acceleration. And you will be downshifting; one, two, sometimes three ratios at a pop, as the six-speed automatic is always too eager to reach top gear. Forget about picking your own, as manual control comes by way of a chiefly decorative rocker switch on the top of the gearshift lever.
This automatic, a Hydra-Matic 6T70, is a carry-over from the old V-6 Malibu, right down to identical gear ratios, though GM says the new unit has been updated for greater efficiency and more responsive shifting. We’ll buy into the efficiency claim, as the turbo Malibu earns a combined 24-mpg rating from the EPA. We managed just 1 mpg less. The other issue is not as clear-cut. At times the gearbox can go from sixth to third like a frog on a hot skillet. When you’re trundling along in traffic with the engine lugging well under 2000 rpm and you decide to pull out into an open lane, however, the time it takes for the transmission and twin-scroll turbocharger to respond feels like waiting for Kermit to boil.
From a standing start, the Malibu turbo is quick, hitting 60 mph in 6.3 seconds, matching the acceleration of the VW Passat VR6 that won our most recent hi-po mid-size-sedan comparison test. Thanks in part to its optional 19-inch wheels fitted with 40-series Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires, this $33,820 Malibu LTZ would have trumped that field in braking and roadholding as well. It turned in a 165-foot stop from 70 mph and an impressive 0.87 g on our skidpad. This surrogate for a V-6 Malibu makes good numbers. We just wish GM had made this version a more engaging car to drive for people who still get sweats when they hear the word “turbocharged.”
VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
PRICE AS TESTED: $33,820 (base price: $30,925)
ENGINE TYPE: turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 122 cu in, 1998 cc
Power: 259 hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 260 lb-ft @ 1700 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
Wheelbase: 107.8 in
Length: 191.5 in
Width: 73.0 in Height: 57.6 in
Curb weight: 3656 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS:
Zero to 60 mph: 6.3 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 16.7 sec
Zero to 130 mph: 35.3 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 6.6 secc
¼-mile: 15.0 sec @ 95 mph
Top speed (drag limited): 145 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 165 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.87 g
EPA city/highway: 21/30 mpg
C/D observed: 23 mpg
TEST NOTES: A cinch to launch merely by nailing the throttle. Brakes do a commendable job of resisting fade. All-season tires provide good cornering and braking adhesion.
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