The ’08 Malibu, which sports several new Chevrolet design cues, plus engineering from General Motors Corp.’s Adam Opel AG GmbH subsidiary, takes the stage next week at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Although the Malibu was the second best-selling car in GM’s U.S. fleet in 2005 with 245,861 deliveries – less than 1,000 units shy of the Impala, 2006 sales through November fell 34.2% to 152,465, Ward’s data shows.

GM stopped making the Malibu Classic, the older version of the Malibu, in 2005 when it closed the Lansing M plant that also previously had built the Pontiac Grand Am. The Malibu first debuted as a ’04 model.

Although dealers sold 42,358 Malibu Classics in 2005, the number plunged to 19 units through November 2006.

Built on the Global Midsize Vehicle Architecture (Epsilon) that also supports the new Saturn Aura, the ’08 Malibu is 3 ins. (7.6 cm) longer than the outgoing model, with a 6-in. (16-cm) wider wheelbase.

Similar to the Aura, the Malibu’s overall styling presents a lower and longer greenhouse and shorter deck. The new model is available in LS, LT and LTZ trims, compared with the Aura’s two trims.

A 2.4L Ecotec DOHC 4-cyl. engine will be offered with all trim levels. While the LS and LT models come with GM’s Hydra-Matic 4-speed automatic transmission, the LTZ trim brings the new Hydra-Matic 6T40 6-speed automatic, which the auto maker notes is the only 4 cyl./6-speed pairing in the segment.

The LTZ trim level also offers a 3.6L V-6, with variable valve timing, producing 252 hp. As with the Aura XR, the LTZ comes with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters when configured with the 3.6L.

GM’s StabiliTrak electronic stability control is standard on LT and LTZ models.

The ’08 Malibu’s dual-port grille represents the new face of Chevrolet, the auto maker says. The new model also goes slightly upscale with an available 2-tone trim interior and gauges with blue backlighting.

scanderson@wardsauto.com