April showers may bring May flowers; in my case it brought the handsome, capable and much improved 2013 Malibu. How improved? For starters, the 2013 LTZ now boasts the same 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine as the award-winning Cadillac ATS. Tuned to 259 horsepower, with a healthy 260 ft.-lbs. of torque, the 2013 Malibu LTZ made passing and merging a pleasurable experience, which is saying a lot, given the nature of Detroit traffic. No exterior badging announces the presence of the 2.0L engine; your only clues are the discrete LTZ plaque on the back and the chrome tipped dual exhaust. You can’t hear the turbo, but you sure can feel it kick in!
There is no mistaking Malibu for anything than what it is – a thoroughly American family sedan. It’s big, bold and even a bit brash, with an oversized grill, large Chevy bowtie, a Camaro-inspired hood bulge and LED taillights, and optional large 19-inch wheels. The looks are deceiving however; the interior of the sporty looking Malibu is quiet, cultured and refined. Really quiet, thanks to the hard work of Suzanne Cody, the General Motors Aerodynamic Development Lead Engineer, Kara Gordon, GM Noise & Vibration Performance Development Engineer and their teams. Only the occasional tire noise could be heard, even over pothole and puddle strewn roads.
Inside, Malibu LTZ is driver-oriented, with large well-placed controls and Chevy’s intuitive MyLink system. The center infotainment screen has easy to read buttons, steering wheel mounted control make it easy to scroll between features – features like SiriusXM, Pandora and Stitcher radio. Pairing my Android phone was no trouble what so ever, voice commands worked on the first try. I’m a bit of a Luddite, if I can make high tech features work without a hitch, anyone can!
Other interior pluses: the storage space behind the flip up touch screen, the standard household plug charging point in the back row, perfect for rapid charging of laptops as you drive across town between meetings and the oversized fold down sunglass storage bin. Let’s face it, sunglasses have gotten bigger, thanks in part to Rachel Zoe, it’s great that car makers have kept up on style trends.
Speaking of style, the smart two-tone interior of this Chevy add a touch of distinction. Cocoa piping trimmed the supportive front row buckets and 60/40 split rear seats. Touch of chrome brighten the dash, center console and door panels, though the chrome trim around the shifter sometimes threw glare across the large 7-inch touch screen. Cool blue ambient lighting made the interior lines pop at night, the standard power sunroof helped Malibu feel light and airy. Three setting heated front seats took the chill off of damp and soggy morning, I can’t say enough good things about the speed at which the defrosters cleared the front and rear windows during torrential rain storms.
Other reviewers have commented on a lack of rear seat room in the 2013 Malibu, I found it comfortable and accommodating, even when seated behind to 6-foot plus friends. The rear seats feature both a ski pass-thru and are split folding, a feature that come in handy at the patio furniture store. The trunk is large, though the liftover height makes reaching items in the back of the trunk a bit of a stretch.
My Malibu LTZ test car came equipped with a rearview camera, and the Advanced Safety Package, with Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning. Oddly enough, front and rear parking sensors are not offered. The Forward Collision Warning System may be my favorite new safety feature, no more worrying about rear ending the person in front of you when they suddenly stop, brake or turn in front of you.
Fuel economy was dead on the 24 MPG EPA-estimates; I averaged 23.8 MPG combined over 400 miles. Not too shabby, give the ark inspiring weather and my sometimes heavy foot. The suspension is slightly stiffer than the other Malibu models, enhancing the ride and handling and adding to the more lively driving experience. Standard Stabilitrak stability control, balanced braking and responsive steering give you a real sense of confidence.
My well-equipped test model featured the available Electronics and Entertainment Package ($1,350), which added a Pioneer Premium Sound System, Rear Camera and 19-inch aluminum wheels plus the LTZ Premium Package ($1,000), Navigation ($795), and the Advanced Safety Package ($395) and Cocoa Brown interior trim ($150), bringing the Crystal Red ($395) from a starting price of $29,595 to $34,595. With so much to like, Malibu LTZ was a welcome rainy week garage guest and one welcome to come back for an extended nice weather visit.
Written by: Eve Pickman HerHighway Road Test Contributor, Edited by Christina Selter and Photography by Ingo Rautenberg.