It was a Saturday of ordinary things.

I ate oatmeal at breakfast. I had hamburger and pie for lunch. (I lied to my wife about that.) I drove a Chevrolet.

It was the 2001 Chevrolet Malibu LS sedan -- a silver car with a light-gray interior, leather-faced seats and polyurethane forestry.

Neither blue jeans nor T-shirts nor sneakers could be more ordinary. That was fine with me.

Anonymity has its benefits. People leave you alone. After spending several weeks in high-profile vehicles, the new Ford Thunderbird and fixed-roof Corvette Z06 among them, alone time was what I needed. No police escorts. No prying eyes. Blessed invisibility.

I once would've considered that an insult, but that was before I learned the value of normalcy. The Chevrolet Malibu LS is about being normal.

With the exception of an aerodynamically meaningless rear air spoiler, there is little pretentious about the car. Even the fake woodgrain accents along the dashboard seem appropriate, sort of like plastic flowers on the table in a neighborhood restaurant.

The thing is, the Malibu LS works. It does exactly what it is designed to do. It offers a comfortable ride, somewhat spirited, at a very competitive price. It offers safety and reliability -- and a list of standard equipment that easily makes it one of the best affordable family sedans sold in the United States.

An electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission is standard in both the base Malibu and the tested LS version. Additional equipment in the LS includes a four-wheel independent suspension system, anti-lock brakes, power windows and locks, cruise control, 15-inch-diameter aluminum wheels, AM/FM stereo radio with compact disc and cassette, and power-operated driver's seat.

The engine is willing. It is a 3.1-liter V-6 that develops 170 horsepower at 5,200 revolutions per minute and 190 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm, and it runs on ordinary fuel -- regular 87-octane unleaded gasoline.

You can drive around all year in the Malibu without attracting law enforcement attention. The car even bores police radar. It's perfect for politicians and others who like to sneak around under the cover of plausible deniability.

"He was in a car?"

"What kind of car?"

"I don't know. It was, like, um, just a car. You know?"

That's how I escaped my wife for an unauthorized Saturday trip to a local Wendy's. No one paid attention to me in the Malibu. No one saw me eating my hamburger and pie in the parking lot.

But I've got to give my wife credit for clever police work.

"Have you eaten?" she asked when I returned.

"Yeah, well, sort of," I said.

"Meaning what?" she asked.

"A sandwich thing," I said.

"What kind of 'sandwich thing'?" she asked.

"I don't know. It was, like, um, just a san dwich. You know?"