Sad but true -- a Malibu SS and a TrailBlazer SS just don't strike the same chord as a Shelby Cobra GT500 or a Dodge Charger SRT model. And maybe, on the road, they aren't supposed to -- but special performance cars such as these really earn their keep in marketing dollars and the reflected glow of their sexy performance.
Here's hoping that the Malibu and the TrailBlazer, ahem, blaze away in the minds of shoppers. With more performance, exterior sex appeal and interior upgrades, they are at least improvements over their mainstream equivalents. In the end, the question that burns is this: Can I rent that Malibu SS from Avis?
Sad but true -- a Malibu SS and a TrailBlazer SS just don't seem to strike the same chord as a Shelby Cobra GT500 or a Dodge Charger SRT model. And maybe, on the road, they aren't supposed to -- but special performance cars such as these really earn their keep in marketing dollars and the reflected glow of their sexy performance.
What it is
The Malibu SS and Malibu Maxx SS were introduced at the 2005 New York International Auto Show, along with the production version of the TrailBlazer SS. The three new vehicles join the SSR, Silverado SS, Impala SS, Monte Carlo SS and Cobalt SS Supercharged as part of the Chevrolet special performance lineup.
Why it matters
Another way to market mainstream cars, the SS lineup adds the TrailBlazer SS, Malibu SS, and Malibu Maxx SS models for 2006. Unlike many SS models, however, the TrailBlazer does not have a performance heritage -- even as a marketing ploy. In general, it seems unlikely that many TrailBlazer shoppers would be inclined to pay extra for more performance. Similarily, shoppers looking for a mainstream performance ride probably won't be too interested in the TrailBlazer.
When you can buy it
Production is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2005. If these vehicles make their way to dealerships, bank on limited numbers.
How much it costs
Pricing has not been announced.
How quick it is
Chevrolet's newest Malibu SS models are equipped with a 3.9-liter V6 that delivers 240 horsepower and 241 lb.-ft. of torque. General Motors claims that 90 percent of the engine's peak torque is available from 1800 to 5800 rpm. The engine is mated to a four-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode and adaptive shift control. Performance upgrades include a sport-tuned suspension. The TrailBlazer SS gets a big power spike, thanks to a Corvette-derived LS2 6.0-liter V8 engine. GM estimates that the TrailBlazer SS will accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds. A performance suspension with a lowered ride height also is part of the package. The TrailBlazer SS is available in two-wheel drive and all-wheel drive configurations. Also unique to the TrailBlazer SS's version of the LS2 engine is a composite intake manifold used in other mid-size trucks that was adapted to the this motor to help produce balanced torque and horsepower within packaging parameters.
What it looks like
Appearance changes include SS-specific front and rear fascias, with blacked-out crosshatch grille patterns, larger grille openings, projector beam fog lamps, rear spoilers and dual chrome-tipped 3.5-inch exhaust outlets. SS models also get monochromatic exterior moldings and trim, 18-inch flangeless wheels (20-inch for TrailBlazer) and an SS-specific ebony interior with "gun metal" trim accents. SS models also have sport seats with larger bolsters, a new three-spoke leather-wrapped sport steering wheel and a leather-covered shifter knob.
What we think
By adding more power, along with interior and exterior upgrades, Chevrolet has added some nice spice to three of its main sellers: the Malibu, Malibu Maxx, and the TrailBlazer. As a marketing device, it may well infuse two mainstream vehicles with some enthusiasm. And if the price isn't too much more, the SS could make an ordinary ride a little extraordinary.
--Malibu Engine: 3.9-liter V6 delivers 240 horsepower and 241 lb.-ft. of torque
--TrailBlazer Engine: 6.0-liter LS2 V8 engine delivers 391 horsepower and 395 lb.-ft. of torque
--Transmission: four-speed automatic with manual shift mode and adaptive shift control
--Exterior styling: SS-specific front and rear fascias, blacked-out cross-hatch grille patterns, larger grille openings, projector beam fog lamps, rear spoilers, dual chrome-tipped 3.5-inch exhaust outlets, monochromatic exterior moldings and trim.
--Wheels: 18-inch flangeless accompanied by sport-tuned suspension
--Interior upgrades: SS-specific ebony interior with "gun metal" trim accents, new sport seats with larger bolsters, new three-spoke leather-wrapped sport steering wheel and leather-covered shifter knob
Photos courtesy of Erik Hanson