Ask a General Motors Corp. engineer which aspect of the redesigned '08 Chevrolet Malibu sedan really gets his blood pumping and odds are he'll say it'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 mated to a fuel-efficient, 6-speed automatic — a combination GM first used on the '07 Saturn Aura.

But GM clearly has given extra attention to making the '08 Malibu's cabin quieter and its ride more refined, which portends a pleasant surprise to consumers cross-shopping the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, says Mike Meloeny, chief engineer for GM midsize vehicles.

“We're real proud of what we accomplished with NVH because it is so important to the segment, and it is such an extremely and brutally competitive segment,” Meloeny says. “People in the midsize segment want an upscale-feeling car, but they don't want to pay for it.”

To meet this challenge, the decision was made to dampen the Malibu'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.

“We got the engine out in front, instead of in your lap, but we also stiffened the engine cradle so it wouldn't twist or resonate with the exhaust,” Meloeny says.