General Motors has an amazing adroitness for bearing articles that adumbrate approaching trends—but accomplishing it way too aboriginal and way too ugly. Exhibit A is, of course, the Pontiac Aztek, which presaged the crossover revolution. Exhibit B is the Chevrolet Malibu Maxx, an aboriginal archetype of an camp anatomy appearance that BMW would afterwards advance as the Gran Turismo (and had additionally previewed itself with the blighted E36 318ti). And aloof like the BMW, the Maxx was German. Sort of.
Cast your apperception aback to 2004, aback General Motors aboriginal abashed the Malibu to the Epsilon platform. In 2002, Epsilon fabricated its admission beneath that European traveling salesman’s special, the Opel Vectra. It additionally underpinned the 2003 Saab 9-3 and, eventually, the Europe-only Cadillac BLS. The ‘Bu was the aboriginal U.S.-specific car to apply these best German of roots.
Traditionally, the Vectra was offered as a sedan, a wagon, and a hatchback, the closing employing a sedan-like contour with its backlight continued alluringly to the end of the rear deck—think of the modern-day Buick Regal Sportback, which is, well, it’s an Opel Insignia hatchback.
This time ’round, those cool characters at GM Europe absitively to try article different—a car that bridged the gap amid auto and wagon. No agnosticism they were afflicted by the French, who were active beauteous the motoring accessible into abashed blackout with cars like the Renault Vel Satis. Opel affected its own adaptation and alleged it the Signum, and because Europe does not like to ache alone, America got its own interpretation, the Chevrolet Malibu Maxx.
One ability able-bodied accession the point that Americans of the aboriginal 2000s were abundantly aloof in both hatchbacks and wagons, a botheration that Chevrolet neatly sidestepped by labeling the Maxx as an “extended sedan.” (Man, they absolutely bamboozled us!)
Compared to the sedan, the Maxx had a six-inch wheelbase amplitude but was bisected an inch or so beneath in length. The primary almsman of this dimensional alive was the aback seat, which had seven inches of fore-and-aft biking and was accessed by rear doors decidedly best than those of the sedan. Chevrolet shoppers ability not accept accepted it at the time, but they were attractive at the car of the future: The Maxx featured a bottle roof over the aback seat, a affection that has become commonplace today, as able-bodied as an alternative ($905) rear-seat ball arrangement with a awning tacked to the aback of the centermost console. Trunk space, though, was beneath than that of the abate Subaru Impreza wagon.
In 2006, Chevrolet absitively to atom up some absorption by abacus an SS amalgamation for both the Malibu auto and the Maxx hatchback—sorry, the Maxx extended sedan. The Malibu’s 3.5-liter V-6 was apathetic out to 3.9 liters, and it got a atypical capricious valve-timing arrangement for both assimilation and exhaust. (The arrangement had to assignment on both valves, back the 3.9 was still a cam-in-block pushrod engine.) Output was 240 application and 240 lb-ft of torque, an access of 39 horses and 19 lb-ft over the 3.5-liter. The standard-fit automated manual still had alone four speeds (because General Motors), but at atomic it was acquisitive to backpack out part-throttle downshifts. The Maxx SS could get to 60 mph in aloof beneath seven seconds—not a bad assuming because the bewitched era of everyone-gets-300-horsepower was still a few years in the future.
The abstraction of accomplishing the Malibu’s bargain artificial autogenous in solid atramentous may not accept been Chevy’s best idea, as it was awfully aphotic and dreary. But they did accord it a rather nice three-spoke council caster with an SS brand in the center, and the dash-mounted ignition-key aperture accepted to all Malibus gave the car a nice, old-school feel. (Some ability say dated, but we digress.)
On the anatomy side, the SS got bigger tuning, fatter tires, and—most significant—hydraulic ability council in abode of the aloof electric council acclimated by added Malibus. A Porsche it wasn’t; the Malibu Maxx SS hit you with both torque beacon and understeer, but its European roots could be somewhat acquainted in the bendability of its basal platform. It wasn’t a abundant car, but it absolutely wasn’t a abhorrent car. Well, not too terrible.
Sadly, the agreement did not aftermost long: Chevrolet alien a new Malibu for 2008, and while the old-shape auto backward on an added year as the 2008 Malibu Classic, all Maxx and SS models were dead off. The Opel Signum didn’t book any better; the Insignia replaced the Vectra in 2008 and alone offered wagon and auto profile, the closing absolutely actuality a auto (see the Regal advertence above).
Just a brace of years afterwards the Maxx’s demise, BWM alien the 5 Series Gran Turismo, a car meant to arch the gap amid BMW’s wagons and SUVs. Put it ancillary by ancillary with the Malibu Maxx, and it’s appealing accessible to see how the abstraction managed to alive on. BMW’s beheading wasn’t absolutely as abashing as GM’s, but it still angry out to be a apathetic seller. Nevertheless, BMW persevered, absolve their little German hearts, and the 3 Series Gran Turismo and 6 Series Gran Turismo (the 5 GT eventually got answer by a number) didn’t get axed from the calendar until this year.
The BMWs are visually awkward, but the Malibu Maxx is its own appropriate affectionate of ugly—and that’s what makes it so endearing. The SS-ified ‘BuMaxx ability be weird, but it was one of those attenuate examples of a GM in its dullest years aggravating article that was absolutely different. Note to our accompany at Bring a Trailer: If you see a advertisement for one of these on the horizon, how about giving us a active up?
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