No matter what anyone tells you, the automakers are making huge strides in fuel economy that do not take away from performance—which sums up the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ Turbo.
With just 2.0-litres to work with, the Turbo Malibu has 259 hp and, more importantly, 260 lb/ft of torque that sees it sprint from 0-60 mph in 6.3 seconds, which is equal to a lot of sporty cars on the road. Top speed is 248 km/h (155 mph).
And it does this with a fuel consumption rating of 10.1 L/100km city and 6.6 L/100km highway.
The turbo is standard on the topline LTZ model (as tested) with a list price of $30,650 and optional ($1,620) on the 2LT model one rung below.
The turbo is part of a four-cylinder strategy for the 2013 Malibu with the 2.0-litre joined by a standard 2.5-litre and a specially tuned 2.4-litre that is part of the optional GM e-Assist hybrid system on the Malibu Eco model.
Chevrolet has had a turbo 2.0-litre before in the discontinued Cobalt SS that also produced 260 hp. But the powerplant only saw limited use that included the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky before they too were discontinued.
The current 2.0-litre uses direct injection, variable valve timing and a twin-scroll turbo pumping at 20-psi.
But there is more to it than that.
The heads use the same metallurgy as the mighty Corvette ZR1. The special aluminum pistons have oil spray cooling. There is a two-stage thermostat and two-stage variable-displacement oil pump that enhance efficiency. The exhaust is specially configured to reduced back pressure with the bonus of a more throaty sound quality.
And wait, there’s still more.
Each of the two scrolls on the turbine is fed by a separate exhaust passage (one from cylinders one and four, the other from cylinders two and three) to virtually eliminate turbo lag at low engine speeds thus giving the engine immediate throttle response.
In the real world there was no difference I could feel between this and most V6s on the market when I drove it north from San Francisco to the Sonoma Valley region of California.
Coupled with GM’s ubiquitous six-speed automatic, the engine/transmission never hunts for a lower gear or higher one when running on cruise control.
On a mixture of secondary roads north of San Francisco as well as the California 101 expressway, the Malibu LTZ was perfectly civilized.
Besides the engine, Chevrolet has come a long way with its interiors and the LTZ, being the top-of-the-line, was completely equipped with a host of features.
There is not enough room to list them all but you get leather seating, dual-zone climate control, ambient blue interior lighting and remote start not to mention power everything.
Also part of the LTZ package is Chevy MyLink with a seven-inch colour touch-screen radio, Bluetooth and USB port.
I am not a huge fan of these infotainment systems but the MyLink does have a large screen that is not blotted out when hit by direct sun, which is a failing of some others.
I was able to dial in my favourite satellite radio stations with no problem but did not mess with the route settings, etc.
Me, I’m good with an old fashioned paper map but I understand people like the sense of security of being able to get where they are going especially in a strange area.
With its sportier engine, the Malibu LTZ Turbo is also tuned for improved handling.
The MacPherson strut front end features dual-path mountings which separate the transfer of spring damper loads to the body for a smoother-feeling ride overall and enhanced stability when cornering.
New for the turbo model are internal rebound springs for the front struts that give the Malibu improved body motion control and roll damping in handling manoeuvres
A direct-acting front stabilizer bar gives a sharper and more immediate feeling to steering inputs. It is mounted to the rear portion of the engine cradle with each end of the bar connected to the front struts.
At the rear, the four-link rear suspension includes an upper camber link, two lower links and a trailing link.
GM’s Stabilitrak with traction control is standard on all Malibus and modulates the brakes at the individual wheels, reduces power or does both to help the driver remain in control.
The system incorporates leading-edge braking features to assist in a variety of conditions. One of these features is Cornering Brake Control that is activated when the car is braking while cornering. Brake pressure is then individually varied among all four wheels to keep the car stable.
That’s a lot of engineering for just over thirty grand and most of us will never know it’s there in day-to-day driving. But it’s also nice to know the Malibu will sprint, stop and steer when you want/need it to.
And that all comes in a very nicely styled package with just a hint of wedge that leads up to the trunk with 463 litres of cargo volume, more than enough for four golf bags.
The Chevrolet Malibu LTZ Turbo looks great and that is matched by an interior that no longer suffers from GM’s woeful use of the cheapest possible plastics in the 1990s that steered so many North Americans towards the imports.
The new Turbo model should give Chevrolet a big boost in the mid-size sedan segment.
Chevrolet Malibu LTZ Turbo 2013)
Body Style: four-door, five-passenger mid-size sedan.
Drive Method: front-engine, front-wheel drive.
Engine: 2.0-litre DOHC turbo inline four-cylinder (259 hp, 260 lb/ft of torque
Fuel Consumption: 10.1/6.6L/100 km city/highway
Cargo Capacity: 463 litres.
Tow Rating: Not recommended
Price: $30,650 not including $1,500 shipping fee