It’s getting harder to find a mid-size family sedan that still offers a V-6 engine under the hood, and with good reason. Today’s turbocharged four-cylinders can match yesterday’s six-cylinder units in the power department while providing much more palatable fuel mileage. The 2013 Chevrolet Malibu (MSRP $26,715) is the latest four-door sedan to receive the turbo treatment, and we were on hand to drive it this past week along the twisty roads that carve through the hills of Northern California.
Lag-Free Twin-Scroll Power
Turbochargers have long suffered from a reputation of being laggards off of the line, victims of the need to built ‘boost’ before offering full engine power. Modern twin-scroll turbos have largely made this particular characteristic a thing of the past, as evidenced by the ability of the twin-scroll unit in the Malibu Turbo to provide effortless acceleration in any driving situation. The 2.0-liter, four-cylinder motor develops 259 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque – a considerable upgrade over the base Malibu’s 197 horses – and the direct-injection motor pulls strong even at the upper ranges of its power band. At no point during our time behind the wheel of the Malibu Turbo did we want for acceleration or passing capability, and the car was all too willing to break the wheels loose from a stop if the go-pedal was stomped on with a little too much enthusiasm.
The Malibu Turbo’s six-speed automatic transmission also played a role in putting a smile on our collective faces while driving the sedan. Perfectly matched ratios guided the four-cylinder engine’s power to the front wheels with surprising smoothness, and most gear changes were imperceptible when cruising at limit-friendly speeds. The autobox features a manual shift mode that allows for drivers to select individual cogs via a button mounted on the shifter, but we were content to let the computer handle the decision-making for us and just enjoy the turbo motor’s broad torque band.
No Longer Slow And Steady
Measured objectively, the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Turbo’s performance is an important milestone for the family car. After many years in the middle of the pack, the Malibu Turbo can now boast a zero to 60-mph time of just 6.3 seconds – a claim made by General Motors that felt very real to us when launching the car hard. Torque steer is barely perceptible, showing up as a slight wiggle through the steering wheel when pulling away from a stop. Although not a sport sedan, the forced-induction Malibu is advertised as being limited to 155-mph, a talking point normally reserved for the luxo-family rigs plying Germany’s autobahn. Fuel mileage remains respectable despite the added performance, checking in at 21-mpg in the city and 30-mpg highway.
A Worthy Addition
The 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Turbo gives the mid-size sedan a legitimate case to make alongside more modern family platforms currently plying the roads. The smooth power delivery and healthy torque produced by the Malibu Turbo’s four-cylinder engine completely transform the driving experience of the vehicle when compared to that of the base 2.5-liter motor. As an added bonus there are no compromises to be made in order to enjoy this personality makeover – the Malibu Turbo is completely sedate and drama-free when puttering around town, and it answers the right foot’s call of duty without hesitation when it comes time to instigate more rapid forward progress. If this is where the future of family car power plants is heading, it won’t be long before vehicles like the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Turbo erase the memory of old school on/off turbo drivetrains.
Photos courtesy of Benjamin Hunting.