I've been looking at the LTZ V6 Malibu, Accord V6, Camry SE V6 and Altima SE V6. Drove all and they are all very well built cars. The Malibu had the quitest ride, period. I don't know what Chevy did but Honda and the rest better follow! I've been lurking on here a while and everyone seems to like their Malibus. Complaints i had was the upgraded stereo. It did not sound good at all. I clunk my head on the front pillar when getting in and thats it. Its been many years since i've had a domestic car (88 Escort). That domestic car gave me many problems. I like the Malibu but do not want to get that feeling again that the other domestic car gave me. So i have some questions
1. Is there any mechanical problems that the Malibu's 3.6 have weather it be yours or what you've read elsewhere? I've searched and can not believe i get hardly no results. It seems that engine is in many GMs.
2. What are you V6 owners getting to a tank of gas?
3. How much is the OnStar service? I have a Garmin, so is it worth it?
4. What makes this car so quite? Wow.
5. What is the uplevel instrument cluster upgrade on the LTZ?
6. How are the grey colored suede/leather combo seats holding up?
Can't think of any more but i'm sure more will come. More than likely i'll get the LT2 V6 for the fact i don't like the wood trim. The aluminum looked nice and can't be had in the LTZ.
Funny. I did the same exact thing in December/January. I too have had a mix of imports and domestics (my last domestic also being an Escort) and I thought I'd written off American cars forever.
I eliminated the Camry right away because I've had issues with where Toyotas have gone. They've gotten worse in quality and design, and you pay for the name with an outdated reputation for quality.
I liked aspects of the Accord, but I didn't like the feel of the ride or steering, the noise and the price when you add options. I did like the performance, and in particulare for the Accord coupe.
For me it came down to the Altima (originally the coupe and then the practical side of me decided the 3.5SE Sedan), and I actually was set to buy that car over the Malibu before I gave the Chevy a fair shot. I still really like the Altima, and you get a little more HP and efficiency out of the engine. The problem with Nissan is again their pricing. If you want anything nice added to the car they charge too much. They're reliable, but I don't know that they're much more reliable than most modern cars. It'll probably be true that after 70,000 miles the Altima would still feel tighter than the Malibu will, but only time will tell, and so far reports suggest that the difference between the two is pretty tiny compared to how it used to be. The Altima also didn't match up as well in looks, performance, features, quietness, crash testing, etc. With the things that it did better being only slight, and the things the Malibu did better being pretty substantial, and the price being way better for the Malibu, it became a no brainer.
To get specific to your points:
1. No major mechanical problems. In fact the Malibu lead the pack for initial quality ratings. It may be too soon to tell, but people have put a lot of miles on some of their Malibus and nothing major. Yes, you will see the "I hate Chevy and here is why" posts on the internet and some will be about the 2008 and 2009 Malibus, but if you look for those from ANY manufacturer, you'll find them. Lemons exist with every brand, as does bad luck and stupid owners. You have to figure out what brand or model is having too many issues vs. not many. You wont find any with none at all, and for the price range, this car is competing very well with imports and domestics that cost a lot more.
Every model has kinks to work out and there have been some minor body issues on some of the Malibus, an issue with bluetooth on others, and relatively minor transmission issues on some as well. The Malibu has a great warranty and so far GM has been proactive in fixing these things when they pop up and pretty simple, painless fixes have people back on the road.
Personally, I wish the shift points on my transmission were slightly different, but not because they're wrong. It's just my preference. This can be changed. I love how the manual mode holds gears though. The bluetooth stopped working on my car, and that was fixed with a software update. The transmission was fine, but they checked/fixed that for free too just to be sure as some had issues with the wrong gear being shown vs. what it was actually in.
2. At first the mileage will suck. You need to break in your engine, learn the car and the car needs to learn you. This will get better. The engine has a lot of pep and a huge power band for acceleration at a wide range of RPM, which beat the competitors in my book. As such, if you drive the car hard and get on the gas a lot, it will perfom very well, but the efficiency will drop a lot. If you baby it and try to drive efficiently, you certainly can achieve it. I have a pretty decent mix of city and highway. I am on the highway for about 90% of my daily commute, but when not going to work or back I'm off of it quite a bit, so over a typical week I'm probably doing 60/40 highway/city, and sometimes I'm hard on the gas and sometimes not, but it averages out to about 24/25 mpg. This weekend I took a long road trip and now that it's warmer out (I saw less mpg on road trips in the dead of winter) I saw a nice efficient ride. I drove about 400 miles. I was able to stay on the cruise control for some of it, but with traffic jams and such I couldn't the whole time and half of the trip was on highways. They didn't have stops, but there was cross traffic and sometimes only 2 or 4 lanes. I still averaged 31 mpg on this trip. If I had been on a flat interstate, setting the cruise (I tried to go 65-75 as much as I could) and kicking back I could see getting 32 or 33mpg average. I filled up at about 2/3 of the trip for cheap gas, but I was on pace to get almost 500 miles on 1 tank. Normal driving at home I get 320-360 miles before I fill up, and don't let it get completely empty.
3.Onstar depends on what package you get. You get 1 yr to try it out. I have a Garmin too and it's better than the OnStar turn by turn navigation, but if I led someone my GPS, I have it as a backup, and it would be nice if you didn't have GPS, but not as nice as a built in GPS unit. This is something the other cars did better. The homelink (or whatever GM's version is) is cool. The OnStar is also cool. I initally thought I wouldnt renew it, but I check traffic, weather, etc. all the time and like the security of it, and being able to unlock my doors with it. I'll likely renew dropping the navigation feature.
4.The car is quiet because they used laminated glass up front and put insulation throughout the car. I wish they'd used laminated glass in back because the car would be as quiet as a Mercedes. This comes at a cost. The car is heavy and looses efficiency from it, but I don't care. I like it. I'm spoiled already. I get mad at how much noise the car does make because I'm so used to it being quiet. Any heavy wind days and the corresponding noise drives me nuts. Riding in other cars is an eye opener.
5.The LTZ instrument cluster is a halo effect of light around the dials. It looks cool, but not a reason to buy the LTZ, and I think in 2010 they're dropping this. There are other reasons to get an LTZ, if you're interested though. Consider some of the options as well like the power package (adds a A/C power jack in the back... pretty cool)
6. I love the seats. I think I might have liked the light colored leather better, but it's true that the faux suede is nice in hot or cold, and leather isn't always like this. It's held up good so far, but I've only had it since January. I have a 2LT and it has wood trim. I like it, but I think it's an option depeding on color, etc., and not all 2LTs are without wood tone trim.