In addition to redesigning its front-wheel-drive Malibu midsize sedan for 2004, Chevrolet launched an extended-length version called the Malibu Maxx. Billed by the automaker as an "extended sedan" with a rear liftgate, the Malibu Maxx holds a 3.5-liter V-6.
That engine receives variable valve timing for 2007, netting an 8 percent power increase. Other changes include newly standard side curtain airbags, which were previously installed only in uplevel models, and available turn-by-turn directions with GM's OnStar system.
Built on a wheelbase that's 6 inches longer than the regular Malibu, the Malibu Maxx is actually a half-inch shorter overall. Chevrolet promises the ride and handling qualities of a sedan, coupled with the interior versatility of a sport utility vehicle. At 22.8 cubic feet, cargo space is a major attraction. The space grows to 41 cubic feet with the second-row seat folded.
LS and LT models are available. An SS edition that features unique exterior and interior appointments, a sport-tuned suspension with 18-inch wheels, a more direct steering system and a 240-horsepower, 3.9-liter V-6 joined the lineup last year.
An optional remote starter can fire the engine from up to 200 feet away.
Like the regular Malibu, the Malibu Maxx is built on General Motors' global Epsilon architecture and has similar styling. Chevrolet says the rear window's angle within the lightweight aluminum liftgate makes the car's styling more like a sedan than a wagon.
Mounted on a 112.3-inch wheelbase, the Malibu Maxx measures 187.8 inches long overall and stands 58.1 inches tall. Aluminum wheels hold 16-inch tires; SS versions get 18-inch tires.
Five people fit inside the Malibu Maxx, and the rear seat slides nearly 7 inches forward for added cargo room in back. That seat is split 60/40 in both the seatback and cushion portions. Power-adjustable pedals are standard in the LTZ and available in the LT. GM's OnStar communication system is also available, and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel is standard. Heated front seats are standard in the LTZ.
A fixed glass skylight over the rear is intended to produce a spacious, open atmosphere for backseat occupants. Rear passengers have the option of opening or closing a split shade. Both rear seats and the front passenger seat fold flat. The rear cargo area includes a cargo panel with four positions for two-tier loading. A rear-seat DVD entertainment system is available.
Under the Hood
Like upscale versions of the regular Malibu, the Malibu Maxx gets a 3.5-liter V-6 that produces 217 hp and 217 pounds-feet of torque; that's a 16-hp increase over last year's engine. A four-speed automatic transmission is standard. A 240-hp, 3.9-liter V-6 goes into the SS model.
Antilock brakes and traction control are standard. Front airbags now employ a passenger sensing system. Side curtain airbags that protect both front and rear occupants are standard across the line, and side-impact airbags for the front seats are installed in LTZ and SS models.