MILFORD, MI â€“ Ask aCorp. engineer which aspect of the redesigned â€™08 Chevrolet Malibu sedan really gets his blood pumping and odds are heâ€™ll say itâ€™s the lack of noise, vibration and harshness.
Sexier attributes can be found on the new model, such as a lively 252-hp 3.6L DOHC V-6 with variable valve timing mated to a fuel-efficient, 6-speed automatic transmission â€“ a combination GM first used on the award-winning â€™07 Saturn Aura.
But GM clearly has given extra attention to making the â€™08 Malibuâ€™s cabin quieter and its ride more refined, which portends a pleasant surprise to consumers cross-shopping theCamry and Accord, says Mike Meloeny, chief engineer for GM midsize vehicles.
â€śWeâ€™re real proud of what we accomplished with NVH because it so important to the segment, and it is such an extremely and brutally competitive segment,â€ť Meloeny says during a recent media backgrounder here for the â€™08 Malibu.
â€śPeople in the midsize segment want an upscale-feeling car, but they donâ€™t want to pay for it,â€ť he adds.
To meet this challenge, the decision was made to dampen the Malibuâ€™s mechanics and provide the sort of atmosphere car buyers expect in a larger, more-expensive vehicle.
Engineers started with the chassis, strengthening and lengthening the same Epsilon-based global midsize vehicle architecture that underpins the Aura and Pontiac G6.
â€śWe got the engine out in front, instead of in your lap, but we also stiffened the engine cradle so it wouldnâ€™t twist or resonate with the exhaust,â€ť Meloeny says.
The auto maker used liquid spray-on sound deadener, laminated steel and composite wheel liners to further deaden noise from the chassis.
Engineers also concentrated on dampening noise from the Malibuâ€™s 4-cyl. engine, a 2.4L DOHC setup that delivers 169 hp and is a lock to be the carâ€™s most popular mill. Because GMâ€™s 4-bangers are not known for their pleasant acoustics, engineers added nine tuners and resonators.
â€śTheyâ€™re all geared to knock out the nodals in the induction system,â€ť Meloeny says.
GM mates the 4-cyl. to a familiar 4-speed transmission, for now. But in a segment-first, the auto maker will provide a 6-speed gearbox to the engine by the end of first-quarter 2008.
Other noise-reduction targets included the vehicle pillars, where GM added extra baffles, and also the rocker panels, which received baffles as well as a sound-dampening coating. Engineers even borrowed the laminated â€śquiet glassâ€ť found on the Aura.
GMâ€™s efforts to make the new Chevy Malibu seem more expensive â€“ the highest-trim-level LTZ version will start in the upper-$20,000, GM product chief Bob Lutz says unofficially â€“ didnâ€™t end with NVH.
The auto maker also sheds a longtime bugaboo by upgrading Malibuâ€™s interior with better materials, such as a cast-skin material on the instrument panel.
Additionally, the â€™08 model will offer 2-tone color combinations, a Malibu first that wowed critics at Januaryâ€™s North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Other interior upgrades include a wood-grain element, optional suede-trimmed seats and black-chrome accents on the LTZ trim line. A chrome â€śChevroletâ€ť sillplate provides a particularly thoughtful touch on LTZ models.
Outside, the Malibuâ€™s exterior design forgoes the generic styling that typifies the midsize segment for one that tries to communicate a longer, more stable wheels-to-the-corners look, while round taillamps pay tribute to its sporty Corvette stablemate.
Up front is the dual port grille now characteristic of all Chevrolet vehicles. Understated bright work furthers GMâ€™s case for an upscale look on the Malibu.
GM engineers like to think theyâ€™ve achieved a balance between ride and handling on the new Malibu that laps the competition. A 4-wheel independent suspension gets McPherson struts up front and a multi-link setup in the rear.
The front suspension takes advantage of aluminum control arms to smooth out the bumps, while the rear suspension gets monotube, or twin-tube shocks, depending on the model.
Hydraulic ride bushings and body-control damping measures keep drivers in touch with the roadway without sacrificing comfort, GM says. Available wheel sizes range from 16 ins. to a segment-best 18 ins.
GM employs variable electric power-assist steering on 4-cyl. models, while 6-cyls. get a hydraulic assist. The auto maker characterizes response from both systems as â€śprecise and immediate.â€ť
The all-new â€™08 Malibu will need all the inspiration GM engineers have provided to successfully compete in a crowded segment whereMotor Corp. and Motor Co. Ltd. continue to carry the most clout among consumers.
Not only does Chevyâ€™s new entry have to measure up to the all-new Camry launched last year but also a redesigned â€™08 Accord thatâ€™s already drawing media raves.