2016 Chevrolet Malibu
Honestly, the Chevrolet Malibu has not traditionally been our best choice among midsize family sedans. More rental car necessity than suburban favorite. But the last gen Malibu took major steps to compete more directly with Camry, Accord and others. Now it appears the all-new 2016 Malibu has turned those steps into leaps. So, let’s see if this Chevy stalwart is finally a true family car contender.
Yes the Malibu has struggled, and maybe even been consistently underrated, in the midsize sedan segment. That’s why the 2016 redesign is such an eye opener.
For one thing, it’s a lot bigger, yet still lighter by almost 300-lbs. Wheelbase is now 111.4-inches, up 3½; while overall length increases by about 2-inches.
More importantly, substantial changes are afoot inside. In fact, if you were able to hide the Chevrolet badges, it would be hard to figure out what brand of car it is. It doesn’t look American, none of the switchgear is stock GM; and it certainly doesn’t look Japanese… appears a bit too showy for European… Korean perhaps?
Well that’s a good comparison, as Hyundai and Kia have done a lot over the past few years to step this class up, and it looks like GM is up to the task too.
Materials improve by a long stride; there are more soft ones, even if it’s still not a consistent feel throughout, there are different surfaces in high wear areas. It’s a good idea, but it could be executed a little better.
And while it may still not match a Honda-level of refinement, the layout and ergonomics are excellent; as they’ve done a good job of leaving proper buttons for the basics, and using touchscreen controls for secondary functions.
There’s even great seat comfort, perhaps the best we’ve felt from GM in recent memory. And they should no longer hear complaints about rear seat legroom, as with all of the additional wheelbase, it’s up by about an inch and a half; though it feels like even more.
On the minus side, all of the rearranging has caused both trunk space and fuel capacity to suffer.
Top drawer Premier trim fulfills all the luxury feature wants you could have in a family car; while available Driver Confidence packages add the latest safety features including automatic braking.
Gauges are fine and clear, and will make convert buyers feel at ease.
There are 3 engine choices, with all getting some type of assist. A 1.5-liter turbo I4 powers base models, and its 160–horsepower and 184 lb-ft. of torque will probably be adequate for most. It’s attached is a 6-speed automatic.
Next up, is a 2.0-liter turbo-4 with 250-horsepower and 258 lb-ft. of torque; and it gets a new 8-speed automatic.
Finally, a hybrid returns to the lineup but this time it’s a full-hybrid, based around a 1.8-liter I4 rated at 47 MPG Combined! With both hard and software from the new Volt, and 182 horsepower, it is equally well sorted, and smooth.
We spent most of our time in the 2.0T, and it’s a heck of an engine. Plenty of guts off the line, sharp throttle response, and great torque range for a 4. Transmission shifts are seamless, with programming among the best we’ve driven in an 8-speed yet.
Altogether, the new Malibu is extremely quiet, with virtually all engine and wind noise eliminated; the only real intrusion at this point is a bit too much tire noise on concrete.
Handling is just fine, better than most, as the chassis feels very solid; both suspension and body rigidity are greatly improved, and we found it more responsive than expected.
GM clearly focused efforts on improving ride and handling, and it shows; even the electric steering has decent weight, although also the typical numb feel.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are up across the board; with the 2.0-liter’s coming in at 22-City, 33-Highway, and 26-Combined……for a good Energy Impact Score of 12.7-barrels of oil consumption and 5.6 tons of CO2 emissions yearly.
As for the all-important pricing, Malibus start at a modest $22,500, with Premier trim coming in at $31,795.
With the growing popularity of SUVs as family mainstays, the four-door sedan market continues to shrink. Yet, it is still large, and with lots of entries, making it a true buyer’s market. The 2016 Chevrolet Malibu has now jumped into the sweet spot of that fray. The turbo-4 gives it a sportier feel over a traditional V6, and comfort is top notch. Plus, the Hybrid gives the most fuel conscience a serious new choice. While no car design is perfect, overall, this Malibu makeover has us very impressed.
- Engine: 2.0 liter
- Horsepower: 250
- Torque: 258 lb-ft.
- EPA: 22 mpg city/ 33 mpg highway
- Energy Impact: 12.7 barrels of oil/yr
- CO2 Emissions: 5.6 tons/yr
2024 Mazda CX-90
A Force To Be Reckoned With
If you’ve been following Mazda lately, you’ll know they’ve been fielding some serious new designs; you could even say, they’re latest efforts are 10-times better than before. After all, the CX-3 became the CX-30, then CX-5 became the CX-50, and now it’s the CX-9’s turn. So, let’s find out if this all-new CX-90, their largest SUV yet, is a real multiplier or if it’s all just a numbers game.
Don’t think of this 2024 Mazda CX-90 so much as an updated version of the CX-9, as it’s more of a complete rethink of their 3-row crossover, the first built on an all-new, large vehicle platform for the brand. And this platform carries a host of surprises. Not only does it make the CX-90 bigger by every dimension, but it’s a rear-drive architecture, and features all-new powertrains, including the brand’s first plug-in hybrid, and even an inline-6 engine.
Why an inline-6 to replace the CX-9’s turbo-4? Well, in general terms, I6s are better balanced, run smoother, and can deliver more torque at lower RPM. Just ask the BMW faithful, or any of the truckers you see going down the road hauling more than 20-tons of cargo with their inline-6s.
There are 2-versions of the longitudinally mounted 6, both assisted by turbocharging and a 48-volt mild hybrid system. Output for the base Turbo is 280-horsepower and 332 lb-ft. of torque; this Turbo S cranks it up to 340-horsepower and 369 lb-ft. The PHEV, on the other hand, is based on a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter I4, working with a 100-kW electric motor to deliver 323-horsepower and 369 lb-ft. of torque. A 17.8-kWh battery delivers 26-miles of EV driving.
It’s not the prettiest SUV, but it does have very smooth body work; plus, the longer hood and 7½-inches of wheelbase stretch over the CX-9, give it more stately proportions. All CX-90s come with i-Activ all-wheel drive and the brand’s first 8-speed automatic transmission; the longer wheelbase allows tow ratings to step up from 3,500-lbs. to 5,000.
At the test track, our Turbo S launched effortlessly with good grip on the way to a 6.4-second 0-60. The smooth vibes continued throughout the ¼-mile, with refined power delivery, seamless shifts, and a noticeably more solid and stable feel at speed than the CX-9. Our best time was 14.7-seconds at 98 miles-per-hour.
Through the cones, it still behaves like a Mazda, with very good steering feel and a solid presence in corners at low to moderate speeds. Some understeer and body roll will show up when pushed hard, but Mazda’s Kinematic Posture Control uses subtle selective braking to help the vehicle rotate, and safety systems will step in well-before it gets out of sorts.
There’s a nice firm feel to the brake pedal, delivering good stopping results of 118-feet from 60 miles-per-hour. You can feel a lot of weight transfer, but nosedive was well contained.
Another unique element the CX-90 brings is seating arrangements for 6,7, or 8. It’s the 8-seater that’s standard with 3-across bench seating for 2nd and 3rd rows. 7-seaters get either captain’s chairs in the 2nd row, or more contoured seats for the 3rd; 6-seaters sport 2nd row captains and the contoured 3rd row. Cargo capacity varies with seating, but is at best 15.9 cubic-ft. behind the 3rd row, 40.1 behind the 2nd, and 75.2 with all seats folded.
As far as what it’s like to actually live with, the CX-90’s cabin is a clear step up, including on some trims suede-like materials, intricate stitching, and real wood, all consistent with what we’ve seen from the brand lately. A 10-inch dashtop touchscreen is standard for infotainment, with upper trims getting a larger 12.3-incher. We applaud Mazda’s inclusion of plenty of old-school manual controls for radio and climate, which keeps menu diving limited to secondary functions. PHEVs get a few unique controls and readouts to monitor drive modes and battery level.
Overall, the CX-90 is highly functional, entertainingly sporty to drive, and will be more competitive in the ever growing 3-row family crossover segment; and its posh interior may even attract luxury buyers on a budget.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for the Turbo S are 23-City, 28-Highway, and 25-Combined. We averaged a good 26.5 miles-per-gallon of Regular.
Pricing begins with the base Turbo at Select trim for $40,970, PHEVs are available in Preferred trim and above starting at $48,820, and the Turbo S starts at $53,125.
Force multiplier is a military term for when strategic elements come together to produce results greater than would have been possible without them. Well, no high-level math skills are necessary here to see that the 2024 Mazda CX-90 is clearly more than just a much better CX-9; it’s now a force to be reckoned with in the 3-row family crossover segment.
- Engine: 3.3-liter I-6
- Horsepower: 340
- 0-60 mph: 6.4 seconds
- 60-0 Braking: 118 feet (avg)
- MW Fuel Economy: 26.5 MPG (Regular)
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Torque: 369 lb-ft.
- 1/4 Mile: 14.7-seconds at 98 mph
- EPA: 23 City / 28 Highway / 25 Combined
- Starting Price: $40,970