Just a quick note on the Chevrolet Malibu, a National Rental Car example I am driving this week. In the Chevrolet range the Malibu slots between the Impala and the upcoming Cruze, or the current Cobalt.
The current Malibu is on the GM Epsilon midsize FWD platform. This is a good thing, because it is a very good platform. GM has continued development of the Epsilon as the Epsilon II. The upcoming Cadillac XTS is likely to be on the Epsilon II platform. Epsilon II is adapted for FWD or AWD.
This Malibu is a flex fuel vehicle, which means that it can run on E85 Ethanol Fuel. E85 is 85% renewable Ethanol, and only 15% oil based Gasoline. I think we could get people much more interested in E85 cars if they were rated by only the gasoline portion. The Malibu using E85 for 100 gallons for say 3000 miles would only use 15 gallons of ‘gas’, for an effective 200 mpg of actual fossil fuel used.
This Malibu has the LZ4 3.5L OHV V6. Retail Malibus come with either the Ecotec 4 cylinder or the 3.6L DOHC V6. I really have enjoyed the similar 3.6L LY7 V6 in my CTS, and I am a big fan of the Ecotec 4-cylinder series. No bad choices here.
The 3.5L V6 has aluminum heads, an iron block, overhead valves, and limited variable valve timing. The 3.5L V6 was offered as an upgrade for special order fleet vehicles, (like National) to replace the Ecotec 4 cylinder engine, and generally was not available for retail customers. This is the current example of the OHV V6 series that have largely been replaced with the 3.6L DOHC engines. In the Malibu it makes a respectable 217hp and 220 lb-ft of torque.
Driving Impressions: The Malibu has very good low end torque, as you would expect from the OHV LZ4 3.5L V6. It is very maneuverable and responds well as I found since it seems everywhere I need to go on this trip requires a U-turn or two. The controls are well laid out. It is not a Cadillac, but I think this would be a good choice for most families for a family car.