Not done yet!
I still had a few days with the Malibu and used it to commute to work and back. I live in Sg Long, near Kajang. My office is located in Glenmarie, Shah Alam. Throughout the journey I undergo massive traffic congestion, road works, road hoggers, lane jumpers, the lot. I had no concern whatsoever with the Malibu though. I felt like a total boss riding around town with a too cool for school resting facial expression, with my Serengeti shades, one hand on the wheel as Still Dre blasts from the speakers. Even a friend who hitched a ride with me said that it made him feel like he was riding in something worth RM 300k or more, and it probably belonged to some underworld kingpin. It just oozes appeal.
So, what it means in a nutshell? There are other more practical ways to spend your money on a sub RM 200k D segment saloon. But for RM 159,609.48 you are not going to get this much of car anywhere else. It even has a remote starting system which cools the car down before even you get into it, for this price! The trim is not the class leader nor is it a total wreck, and I'm not too happy with the steering wheel design, steering feel and the feedback. What you do get that none of the other rivals bar one gives is character, loads of it. It is a cool car, it's an amazing car to look at, and by Route Hunters standard, Capt. America can lead us through any route hunting expeditions, any day. Yippie-ka-yay.
Marshaling the GrandTurismo
Naturally some of the Route Hunters were concerned about the pace that the Malibu can set , some worried that it would 'put them to sleep' since our roll out time was 5.30am. I assured the team that the car will do a steady 1XX kph on the Karak Highway. It didn't disappoint.
The car kept at a steady speed throughout the entire stretch that a third of the convoy was falling behind badly. After the tunnel I could hear nothing but a constant flow foul language from the 2nd and 3rd marshal cars asking me to slow down cause we were too far ahead. All the while I was listening to Justin Timberlake's Cry Me A River.
Of course one can argue that Karak Highway is still, a highway and a car with a 2.4 liter, 165bhp, 225Nm torque engine should be fast out here. Well off Bentong, we headed towards the gold mine town of Raub and proceeded to the Sg Koyan FELDA settlement. This was pure unadulterated B roads, especially past Sg Lui. Tight, twisty, and full of bumps and crests, it was a joy to use the weight of the Malibu to iron out the bumps that would otherwise upset other cars, and use the multi-link independent rear and the MacPherson strut to dance between those curves. I never resorted to caning the engine to its rev limit, or playing with the gear change buttons on the gear stick. The transmission obeyed my right foot commands and I could hit the right flow on these roads. Even overtaking slower traffic was not as intense as I expected. This time, Jay Z was blasting through the stereo.
At the Sg Koyan Felda, I split the group into two, cars with 200bhp and above in Group A, and cars with less than 200bhp in Group B. At that time everyone knew the Malibu's capability so they accepted and respected it as the marshal car for Group B. Be it on the uphill stretch between Sg Koyan and Ringlet (more on that route on Route Hunters Episode 6) or the downhill between Blue Valley and Simpang Pulai, the Malibu was setting a hectic pace for the boys in Group B. By the time we arrived in Ipoh there were a tonne and a half of stories to share about the drive and a stock standard D segment sedan was undoubtedly the wildcard of the day.
What most Malaysians might not know is, despite all the flak about 'American cars can't go around a corner' and 'D Segment saloons are only for cruising' this car actually is a sweet ride for the B Roads. The first tell tale signs came on when I drove the car for the first time from Chevy Malaysia to Glenmarie, but to really confirm there's this tinny twisty section that links the traffic light on Persiaran Kerjaya to the entrance of the Glenmarie Golf Course. It's like a control test for me, you can pretty much gauge what a car can do on those two turns itself.
Looks like Cpt America can indeed perform some jujitsu grade manoeuvre's in the turns. The Malibu is not the lightest of the D Segment cars, but what it has is incredible handling poise. Compared to say a Honda Accord, the previous generation was rather reluctant to turn, was more happy to go in a straight line, whilst the current one is lighter but not as involving in the process.
The Malibu is meaty in its response, has tonnes of grip and even more composure when hustling through rather tight turns. You do feel that there is weight that needs to be hustled, but when you do set the car up to a turn, the weight seems to 'disappear' in the wake of the grip provided by those gorgeous 18 inch Bridgestone tyres. All you do now is flex your right foot and let that six speed kick a gear down and yank the ride out from the turn. At this point you will be doing some pretty interesting speed.
For those of you who don't know, Route Hunters is a team that's dedicated to B Roads. We search them, catalogue them, drive performance cars on them as they were intended to be driven, and tune our cars to perform the best on, you guessed it, B Roads. And our GrandTurismo event was about to cover the 6th route under the Route Hunters catalogue, and then some. In total that would be 550km from KL to KL with a huge majority of them through mountain roads that criss-cross the Titiwangsa Mountain range across 3 states, our biggest drive yet. Needless to say with the wrong type of car this journey will be unpleasant, and with an array of rather imposing cars ( modded BMW's, Peugeot GTi's, the lot ), you really don't want to be the one who held up the entire group.
America, the land that gave us Hollywood, Motown, Elvis, Michael Jackson, NBA, NFL and pretty much every superhero we ever adored and idolized (Chuck Norris ya'll!). It's the country which prides predominantly in excess, in over the top sensation, in larger than life persona's (Chuck Norris, Lt John McClane).
That is reflected very much in the way American cars are made. Style, presence, statement matters more than anything else. It's the feel good factor, the coolness index, that no Japanese or German car can ever possibly hope to match. I mean seriously, would you look cooler getting out of a Corvette or a Cayman? But if I was going to be brutally honest, much like Lt John McClane, American cars don't quite deliver much else beyond the loud image. Good for bringing down a helicopter using a cab, not so when it comes to handling a marriage and two kids.
So when I was offered the Chevrolet Malibu from Chevrolet Malaysia to join in for Route Hunter's first ever GrandTurismo run, I was not expecting much. I figured it will be slow, it will be cumbersome in the corners, bad interior trims and so on. I figured, well at least there's one car to bring the camera gear in.
From the time I collected the car from Chevrolet Malaysia till the roll out point at Publika at 4.30am the next day one thing was very certain, the Malibu has presence. I am a huge Dr Dre fan and if you even listen to 5 of his biggest hits on Spotify you know he loves his Chevy's. And to me, if it's for the Doc, then it's good for me too. This makes the cut as a cool car.
But objectively speaking, the car's rear 3 quarter has a very strong design language about it. Strong square lines chiseled on to the bodywork to give it a butch stance. The rear end is dominated by the quad square tail lamps. The discreet but upwards pointing twin tail pipes give it a more aggressive demeanor when compared to its D-segment rivals like the Camry or Accord. You get a strong sense of the Camaro in the cars design. The front grill had to be molded from Optimus Prime's battle mask though, could not have been anything else!
Likewise the interior, the dash and dials mimic that of the Camaro. But the ace up the sleeve for the interior is the ice-blue mood lighting that lights up the cabin. When the sun goes down get Justin Timberlake's Senorita to blast on that lovely bass filled sound system and things get very sexy on the inside. The cushion is nice and plus, deep. I wasn't a fan of the steering wheel design, it felt rather awkward in my hands. Even when stuck in the worst of the Klang Valley traffic, I was at peace.
So is it a design tour de force? That will come down to the individuals opinion, as beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. Having said that, you cannot be mistaken for anything else when you drive this down the highway, especially from the back. And sitting in the Malibu, you will feel compelled to play every Hip Hop and R n B album ever produced. As mentioned before, it's cool to be rolling in a Malibu in Malaysia.