The midsize-to-large sedan segment may not be interesting at a first glance. It's filled with grocery-getters and people-movers; it's not very sexy. However, this segment is one of the most hotly contested battlegrounds in the automotive industry. You probably pass more sedans than supercars on any given day, each one of which is a bullet fired in the battle for market superiority.
Chevrolet's latest volley is the 2013 Malibu LTZ, a sedan that is both handsome in appearance and in appointments, slotting near the top of the trim level spectrum and offering a good selection of standard features and options.
For our 2013 Malibu LTZ, the magic of internal combustion happens within the confines of a 2.5-liter, inline four-cylinder engine. Fuel and air are mixed right there in the combustion chamber thanks to direct-injection technology and output is quoted by Chevrolet at 197 horsepower and 191 pound-feet of torque, which isn't too bad for what is the base engine for the Malibu lineup.
Drivers wanting a bit more "oomph" can opt for a sportier 2LTZ trim level, which makes use of the now-familiar formula of a downsized (2-liter) engine, a turbocharger, and direct injection to bump the Malibu's output to 259 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Yet a third engine option exists in the form of the Malibu Eco's 2.4-liter eAssist power plant. Check out our full review of the Eco for more details.
After leaving the engine, our Malibu LTZ 2.5's 191 pound-feet of torque is multiplied by the single-option six-speed automatic transmission before being passed through the front wheels where it meets the road. This gearbox doesn't feature a sport program, but it does have a manual shift mode. Those manual shifts are activated by a rocker switch located atop the shifter stalk, which you'll probably miss it until you accidentally trigger it one day. As is the case with most grocery-getters that offer some sort of "Shiftronic" or "Manumatic" nonsense on their automatic transmissions, the Malibu's ability to manually select gears is potentially good for getting unstuck from slush without spinning the front wheels, downshifting to prepare for a pass, or pretending the turbocharged model is a sports car during the curvy bits of your commute. However, in day-to-day driving, it's mostly a useless feature -- I suppose that it's better to have and not need a feature than vice versa.
Handling is about what you'd expect from a midsize-to-large sedan: dull, but competent. This is not a bad thing. Put bravado aside for a moment, and even we auto journalists have to admit that dull is exactly what you want from this class of vehicle; that's how you know that the suspension is doing its job, soaking up the bumps for a comfortable ride and keeping the vehicle safely tucked into its performance envelope. Sure, you may want a bit of excitement from the Camaro ZL1, but drivers who buy a Malibu LTZ with the 2.5-liter engine are after comfort, safety, and predictability, which the Chevy delivers.
Speaking of delivery, the Malibu also made good on its EPA estimated fuel economy of 22 city, 34 highway, and 26 combined mpg, delivering 25.5 mpg in our testing -- nearly right on the money.
Usually, a base-level infotainment system is nothing to get excited about, but in the case of the 2013 Malibu LTZ, the entry level for dashboard tech is the Chevrolet MyLink system and it is rather good.
Based around a 7-inch color touch screen, the MyLink system gives the driver access to a number of digital and analog audio sources. You get Bluetooth for hands-free calling and audio streaming and USB connectivity for MP3 and iPod playback -- we tested it and found it to be iPhone 5-friendly when used with the Lightning-to-USB adapter. You also get an analog 3.5mm input, a CD player, terrestrial AM/FM radio, and SiriusXM Satellite Radio.
With your SiriusXM subscription, the MyLink system is also able to take advantage of SiriusXM Travel Link, a satellite-based data connection that beams weather forecasts, sports scores and schedules, stock prices, and searchable movie listings and theater showtimes into the dashboard.