The problem with the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ is that it has a lot to live up to.
That legacy is anchored with the classic Malibus from the 60’s and early 70’s. Back then Malibu was simply a name given to top of the line Chevelles. Named after one of the most famous star-studded beach cities in the world, it was the perfect upscale image for a mid-sized car. Malibus even had a great NASCAR racing record in the mid-70s.
What we often forget is that the Malibu slipped into years of mediocrity when it became its own model in 1978. It faded away in 1983 with few people missing its 150 horsepower (that was the high performance version). But you can’t keep a good name down, and the Malibu returned in 1997.
The 2013 model is the third revision on the reincarnated Malibu, and styling-wise I think the car has arrived. The front end looks like it means business. The sides have a nice upward sweep that goes into a revised rear deck lid. The trunk styling reminds me of a seven series BMW. All in all, it’s a nice upgrade from the last design. The car is a little wider but the wheelbase is about five inches shorter than last year.
My test car was the LTZ model (technically the 2LZ with the LTZ package) which had the Ecotec 2.0 liter turbo four-cylinder DOHC mated up to a six-speed automatic transmission which delivers 259 horsepower (a solid upgrade over the base motor which is a 197-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder). I have to admit that while I liked the horsepower, I felt it came on a little too slowly. I was hoping for acceleration similar to the 2013 Buick Regal GS (which only has 220 horsepower), but it just wasn’t there. Fuel mileage for the turbo was 21 mpg highway/30 mpg city. Incidentally, Chevrolet also offers an Eco model which gets a hybrid assist and a boost in MPG.
Inside the LTZ package had leather seating along with heated seats and memory settings. If you’re on the tall side, you’ll love the driver’s seat. It goes a long way back and down for extra leg and head room. On the other hand, if you’re expecting to ride in the back, you’ll be very disappointed. The rear seat has surprisingly little leg room (probably a result of the shorter wheelbase). That’s OK when the kids are small, but if the passengers in the rear are anywhere near adult size, they’ll be kissing their knees.
The dash and center console look nice and are loaded with buttons. Chevy’s MyLink system with its touch screen works so well, that they could probably get by with a cleaner dash. Having said that, it is properly stylish. I even like the chrome strip that stretches across the dash and reflectively glows blue thanks to a light strip just above (and out of sight).
My test car had the Advanced Safety Package which included a lane departure warning and a forward collision alert. The forward collision alert worked great but the lane departure warning gave enough false warnings that I finally turned it off.
Price for the fully loaded Malibu was$33,820 which included $1,000 for the LTZ premium package, $1350 for the Electronics and Entertainment package and $395 for the Advanced Safety Package.
Even with its faults (and every car has them) the 2013 Malibu LTZ was enjoyable to drive. It may not have the brute power of the muscle car era, but it’s strong enough to proudly wear the Malibu name.