This Malibu Maxx SS painted in Laser Blue Metallic is about the same color as the bolt of lightning that killed my pal Jeff's 1974 Cadillac. Actually, it wasn't lightning so much as an electrical arc. Maybe it was an electrical arc; we don't know for sure. The old Caddy just stopped running one day while we had a screwdriver stuck down its distributor.
Who's Jeff? He is a GM man, one of the few from Generation X. He lives in the Long Island suburb of Plainview-we're not making the name up-with his wife and new baby, his antique Cadillac, an Oldsmobile Alero, and a Chevy Malibu company car. He drives about 50,000 miles a year and goes for a spacious vehicle that doesn't cost much and gets decent fuel economy. The Malibu Maxx SS makes him hot. "As a company rep, I aspire to that car."
Chevy has been putting traveling salesmen in a sweat for 45 years by gluing the Super Sport badge to workaday sedans. The Malibu Maxx, Chevrolet's slightly funky, somewhat frumpy bobtail wagon was burning for the SS treatment from day one, which for the Maxx came in 2003.
True, the Maxx is already a Gauloises-smoking bohemian at the Chevrolet of baseball, hot dogs, and apple-pie fame. It rolls on GM's front-drive Epsilon platform, which it shares with European cosmopolitans from Saab and Opel. To American eyes, the body is a somewhat runty-looking cross between a family sedan and an ice chest, but it speaks to the Continental preference for hatchbacks. The chassis is also stiff and relatively sophisticated. Check out those cast-aluminum arms in the multilink rear suspension. Were autobahns consulted in the making of the Maxx?
With a thick spear of chrome splitting its face, the old Maxx looked as if it were wearing orthodontic headgear. For 2006 the Maxx gets a more straightforward array of grilles, and the SS receives extra silver accent rings. It's a simple change that, like having braces removed, works wonders for the smile. The SS also receives a spoiler on the hatch, some rocker cladding below the doors, and a square-jawed front bumper with a chin spoiler and fog lights. Inside the 225/50 Goodyear Eagle LS-2 tires are 18-inch alloy wheels with five very thick, very square spokes that look ready for the big torque.
The SS badge is really about the engine, and at the $24,690 base price (ours had only a $325 satellite-radio receiver increasing its sticker), the Maxx SS gets more of it. This is still a 60-degree iron-block pushrod V-6-and you were expecting . . . what?-but the bores grow by three millimeters and total displacement rises from 3.5 liters to 3.9. A variable-length intake plenum optimizes airflow, and a new variable-valve-timing system rotates the cam to crack open the intake valves (and yes, the exhaust valves, too) earlier or later depending on the motion of your right foot. That's a first for "cam in block" engines, says GM.
Snigger if you wish. Say that's like being first out with a black-and-white plasma-screen TV, but pushrod cam phasing is a new wrinkle worth noting and a widget that even the Corvette doesn't have.
Ultimately, easier breathing is what the fuss is about, and the 3.9 revs hard and fast with an unusually crisp song that we're unaccustomed to in GM's pushrod V-6s. It also doesn't gasp at the far end of the tach, winding to the 6200-rpm redline with a steady, consistent push. We'd be hooting even louder if this 3.9 were making, say, the same 250 horsepower and 242 pound-feet as the overhead-cam 3.5-liter V-6 in the Saturn Vue Red Line. That engine, by the way, is made by Honda, which knows a thing about squeezing out horsepower. Output from the Maxx SS is 240 horses at 5800 rpm and 240 pound-feet of torque at 2800 rpm, which is still an upgrade of 39 horsepower and 19 pound-feet over the 3.5-liter V-6 in the Maxx LT and LTZ.
Chevy gives the engine just four speeds to work with and an up-and-down button on the shifter if you want to change your own gears. After toggling into and out of overdrive a few times, the novelty wears off. The automatic's computer doesn't hate to downshift, so you rarely feel the need to take over. When you do, the button quickly becomes second nature to your fingers.
It's not an American car if it can't lay rubber. The Maxx sure does--a good 20 feet of it if you disable the traction control. Neighbor's party kept you up last night? Blast 'em out of bed at 7 a.m. with a burnout that will set off fire alarms. More judicious control gets the Maxx through a quarter-mile of asphalt in 15.3 seconds at 91 mph, having whisked past 60 mph in 6.9 seconds. The speed governor checks in at 115 mph. In a race to 60 mph, you'll clip a base Maxx by 0.9 second, which seems a small difference to a clock but is a substantial one to your keister. The fatter tires contribute to better stopping from 70 mph--177 feet versus 191 for the base Maxx, which has the exact same brake discs--and more athletic cornering. The Maxx SS pulls a stable 0.83 g on the skidpad; the base Maxx chews its tires at 0.78 g.
Chewing the front tires was a behavior we noted often in the base Maxx. The SS corners with far less understeer at speed, whether through extra rubber or better tuning of the suspension or both. We thought the electric motor providing the power assist was supplying unusually good feedback until we realized there's no motor. In the Maxx SS, GM replaces the electric-power-steering servo with a hydraulic one, and the SS tracks a turn flatly and impressively faithfully to the path you aim it along. Granted, it does try to aim itself under hard acceleration, tugging at the rim with torque steer, but the change in steering hardware is definitely applause material.
What body motion there is during quick driving gets restrained by the suspension to small, controlled movements. Even Chevy is joining the handling religion. Handling and ride? There's still some learning to do. For such a modern suspension, the Maxx SS's supplies a leaden ride in the style of Big Three performance packages of yore. Over bumps the floor shivers with impact clunks and resonant vibrations. There's always an acute sense of the metal in motion down below. We've seen much worse out of Detroit before. The Maxx's body feels tight and remained rattle-free, and the bump harshness is fairly tolerable.
You can have any interior color in the SS as long as it's black (your exterior paint choices are silver, black, white, and Caddy-killer blue). Except for some silver-painted plastic and chrome glints here and there, the Malibu is as dark inside as a film bag. The supportive front seats are dressed in a black vinyl-and-cloth mix accented by a cross-hatch pattern that looks like it belongs in a mid-'70s Porsche. A three-spoke steering wheel with a strange but inoffensive squared-off rim adds to the sport atmosphere. Adjustable pedals are standard.
The back seat is the star, as if the designers started with a living-room love seat and put a car around it. It is spacious, with 41 inches of legroom and a bottom cushion that slides back and forth to expand the baggage capacity as needed. The rear seatback tilts to three positions, and the daylight pours in through two skylights, which have retractable shades. Fold the Maxx's seats flat to open the already generous cargo hold from 23 cubic feet to 41.
If there's a betrayal, it's the SS's cheap trimmings. Ragged mold partlines are everywhere. Several plastic trim pieces feel as if they were secured by bubblegum and a prayer. There's this sense that if you turned the car over and shook it vigorously the entire interior might fall out. There are no overhead hand grips for front-seat occupants, and the trim around the skylights appears to have been cut out with dull scissors. If GM didn't build cars as if it expected to discount them, maybe it wouldn't have to.
Speaking of price, this SS's $25,015 as-tested sticker (less whatever spiffs are offered this week) comes in a shade below the $25,380 of the Maxx LTZ, which has leather seats and a few other refinements but not the maximum-bore V-6. We could drone on about idle quality and interior materials, both of which are better in a Honda or Toyota. We might mention that the more agile Mazda 6 wagon costs about the same and offers a stick. Our man Jeff doesn't care. You'd have had more luck telling Bella Abzug that they're running a special on corsets. Jeff is a GM man.
In 1965, Chevrolet introduced the Chevelle Malibu SS with the Z16 option, a high-powered muscle car that was notably kept under wraps, despite its raw power and capability to rival the Pontiac GTO. Only a select group of enthusiasts, through certain Chevy dealerships, even knew about this limited-production car.What does SS mean on Chevy Malibu? ›
Super Sport, or SS, is the signature performance option package offered by Chevrolet on a limited number of its vehicles. All SS models come with distinctive "SS" markings on their exterior.How much horsepower does a Chevy Malibu SS V8 have? ›
Overview. Sporting a hearty 415-hp V-8 and rear-wheel drive, the Chevrolet SS harkens back to the big-sedan, big-power formula of yesteryear.What is the 0 60 on a 2006 Malibu Maxx SS? ›
The bigger V6 yields a 0 to 60 of 7.5 seconds. While no barn-burner, it does better the typical Malibu V6 by over half a second. And the tighter suspension delivers a much more entertaining drive. But whether you go standard or Super Sport, the Malibu Maxx offers unrivaled versatility for a family car.Did Malibu ever have V8? ›
1964 - 1967 Chevy Malibu (1st Generation)
The Malibu SS was geared towards those who wanted more power, speed and performance thanks to its 6-cylinder V8 engine options, and it was available as either a coupe or convertible.
The Malibu SS was also added to the Chevrolet muscle cars lineup. Its interior featured bucket seats and a centre console with an optional Powerglide. It offered a V8 engine and inline-six engine options paired with a four-speed manual transmission.Is the Chevy SS a rare car? ›
This car is rare, though, unlike the VehiCROSS, it's not because it was built in a manner that would naturally limit production numbers. Instead, just 12,924 examples of the Chevrolet SS exist and of those, only 2,645 were equipped with a manual transmission. The Chevy SS is sort of like a case study.What year did Chevy stop the SS? ›
Chevy SS Discontinued - Chevrolet SS Stops Production in 2017.What is the difference between a Malibu SS and a Chevelle SS? ›
For model years 1964-1972 all Malibus are Chevelles, but not all Chevelles are Malibus. Until 1972, "Malibu" was a trim line in the Chevelle family. Whereas the SS was the performance package; the Malibu was the top-end luxury group. In 1964-65, there was also a "Malibu SS" nameplate.Which Malibu has the most horsepower? ›
- Base engine: turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder with 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque.
- Available engine: turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 250 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque (Premier)
- Drivetrain: front-wheel drive.
The 2022 Chevrolet Malibu RS Sedan takes 7.5 seconds to get to 60 mph from a standstill and - seconds for the quarter-mile. The 2022 Chevrolet Malibu RS Sedan can reach a top speed of 123 mph with this engine configuration.Is Chevy Malibu turbocharged? ›
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Unlike many other family sedans, the 2024 Malibu is only available with a single powertrain: a dutiful 160-hp turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that drives the front wheels through a CVT.
How Long Will the 2006 Chevrolet Malibu Last? A properly maintained 2006 Chevy Malibu will last about 150,000 miles, half as long as top competitors including the Toyota Camry. Regular annual maintenance costs are affordable according to Repair Pal, at $340 per year.What year was the first Malibu SS? ›
|1965 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu SS convertible|
|Body and chassis|
In its first year the Malibu SS was a separate series, available as a 2-door hardtop and convertible, either six or V8. It is important to remember Chevrolet had separate model designations for six and V8 cars. Therefore, the 1964 Malibu SS lineup consisted of four distinct models and two body styles.Did they make a 1970 Malibu SS? ›
For 1970, the Malibu was initially the only series of Chevelle offered, aside from the SS-396 and new SS-454, as the low-line 300 and 300 Deluxe models were discontinued for the American market (it continued in Canada until 1972), which also eliminated the two-door pillared coupes from the Chevelle lineup – which were ...What years are the SS Malibu? ›
CHEVROLET Malibu SS (2005-2008) Photos, engines & full specs
The design department installed a new front fascia for the SS version. The headlights were similar to those from the regular model, but the black mesh-grille featured a chromed surrounding and the bow-tie gold badge in the middle.