2008 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ V6
After our stint with the Malibu LS along the winding country roads of rural Mississippi, we decided to step up to a fully-loaded LTZ V6 model. While we didn't have a window sticker to confirm our car's as tested price, GM officials assured us that even a fully loaded Malibu LTZ just barely crossed the $28,000 mark. But is the LTZ model worth the $8,000 premium over the LS model? That's exactly what we set out to find.
From the outside, a few subtle design cues separate the LTZ from other Malibu models. The front fascia includes an upgraded silver grille, as well as integrated fog lights, and door handles change from body-colored to chrome. Out back, the LTZ gets one more set of visible circles in its taillight treatment and dual chrome exhaust tips hint at the 3.6L V6 underhood. 18 inch wheels give the LTZ a sporty look and do a nice job of filling out the wheel arches. The LTZ option also includes standard features from the 2 LT model, such as body-colored side mirrors.
The interior of the LTZ is basically the same as the LS but with a few upgrades. As we mentioned in our Malibu LS review, the LTZ receives a leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob — which are far better than their plastic counterparts found in the LS — as well as steering wheel mounted radio controls. The LTZ package also includes power adjustable pedals and power adjustable front seats — driver 8 way and passenger 6 way. In combination with the standard telescopic steering wheel, the LTZ makes it incredibly easy to find your ideal driving position. The LTZ option also include leather seats with contrasting piping — a very nice touch that is usually reserved for much more expensive vehicles.
Power for our test car came from GM's 3.6L V6 with Variable Valve Timing — rated at 252 horsepower and 251 lb-ft of torque — and was mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. After driving the asthmatic four-cylinder model, we would definitely opt for the V6. The LTZ V6 offered plenty of power throughout the rev band but really picked up steam after the 4,000 RPM mark. While we liked the amount of power on tap, it did have a downside. Under hard acceleration, the V6 served up a healthy dose of torque steer — often testing our grip on the aforementioned leather wrapped steering wheel. The six-speed automatic was great — seemingly light years ahead of the four-speed we tested earlier in the day — but the paddle shifters weren't as intuitive as they could have been. Instead of using a left paddle down, right paddle up setup, Chevrolet decided to use both paddles for up and down shifting — with your finger tips pulling in for downshifts and thumbs pushing away for upshifts. Shifts were smooth — albeit a little slow — but we loved the fact that GM would even include paddle shifters on its mid-sized offering, especially since it's not even an option the Cadillac CTS.
GM engineers were true to their word and, even with an additional 200 pounds from the larger V6, the LTZ's suspension setup was nearly identical to that of the LS model. The V6 did seem like a better match for the car's chassis and really added to the car's sporty nature. Chevrolet officials were quick to correct us when we referred to the LTZ as the sport model, saying there was no designated sport model in the Malibu range. Despite the lack of a sport model, GM officials say there are no plans to resurrect the Malibu SS — ditto for the Malibu Maxx.
GM expects only about 10-15% of Malibu customers the shell out the extra cash for the LTZ model, a realistic figure in our opinion. While the LTZ does offer a number of features, most can be had in the less expensive 1 and 2 LT models — although the handsome interior piping might be reason enough for us to upgrade to the LTZ model. The V6 seems like a must have to us — if just for the six-speed transmission — but does reduce fuel mileage to 17/26 mpg city/highway. Only about 25-30% of Malibu customer are expect to go for a V6 model, leaving our opinion clearly in the minority.