General Motors has an amazing knack for producing produces that prophesy future trends–but doing it route too early and course very ugly. Exhibit A is, of course, the Pontiac Aztek, which presaged the crossover revolution. Exhibit B is the Chevrolet Malibu Maxx, an early instance of an oddball form chassis that BMW would later push as the Gran Turismo( and had also previewed itself with the ill-fated E3 6 318 ti ). And just like the BMW, the Maxx was German. Sort of.

Cast your brain back to 2004, when General Machine first moved the Malibu to the Epsilon platform. In 2002, Epsilon formed its debut under that European traveling salesman’s special, the Opel Vectra. It likewise underpinned the 2003 Saab 9-3 and, eventually, the Europe-only Cadillac BLS. The ’Bu was the first U.S.-specific car to employ these most German of roots.

Traditionally, the Vectra was offered as a sedan, a wagon, and a hatchback, the latter utilizing a sedan-like profile with its backlight diversified gracefully 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 kooky courages at GM Europe decided to try something different–a car that bridged the gap between hatchback and wagon. No fear they were influenced by the French, who were busy stunning the motoring public into confused stillnes with autoes like the Renault Vel Satis. Opel invented its own version and called it the Signum, and because Europe does not like to suffer alone, America got its own interpretation, the Chevrolet Malibu Maxx.

One might well elevate the notes that Americans of the early 2000 s are mostly uninterested in both hatchbacks and wagons, a number of problems that Chevrolet neatly circumvented by labeling the Maxx as an “extended sedan.”( Man, they totally fooled us !)

Compared to the sedan, the Maxx had a six-inch wheelbase stretch but was half an inch or so shorter in section. The primary beneficiary of this dimensional change was the back seat, which had seven inches of fore-and-aft travel and was accessed by rear doors enormously longer than those of the sedan. Chevrolet buyers might not have knowledge of it at the time, but they were looking at the car of the future: The Maxx featured a glass ceiling over the back seat, specific features that has become commonplace today, as well as an optional ($ 905) rear-seat entertainment system with a screen tacked to the back of the center console. Trunk space, though, was less than that of the smaller Subaru Impreza wagon.

In 2006, Chevrolet decided to spark up some interest by adding an SS package for both the Malibu sedan and the Maxx hatchback–sorry, the Maxx provided sedan. The Malibu’s 3.5 -liter V-6 was accepted out to 3.9 liters, and it got a novel variable valve-timing organisation for both intake and exhaust.( The structure had to work on both valves, since the 3.9 was still a cam-in-block pushrod engine .) Output was 240 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque, an increase of 39 horses and 19 lb-ft over the 3.5 -liter. The standard-fit automatic transmission still had only four accelerates( because General Motors ), but at least it was eager to carry out part-throttle downshifts. The Maxx SS could get to 60 mph in really under seven seconds–not a bad present to review the magical age of everyone-gets-3 00 -horsepower was still a few years in the future.

The idea of doing the Malibu’s cheap plastic interior in solid blacknes may not have been Chevy’s best doctrine, as it was exceedingly dark and lonely. But they did apply it a rather nice three-spoke steering wheel with an SS badge in research centers, and the dash-mounted ignition-key slot common to all Malibus applied the car a nice, old-school feel.( Some might say dated, but we digress .)

On the chassis side, the SS get better tuning, fatter tires, and–most significant–hydraulic superpower steering in place of the daze electric steer utilization of other Malibus. A Porsche it wasn’t; the Malibu Maxx SS smacked you with both torque control and understeer, but its European springs could be somewhat felt in the solidity of its basic programme. It wasn’t a great car, but it certainly wasn’t a abominable gondola. Well , not too terrible.

Sadly, the experimentation did not last long: Chevrolet introduced a new Malibu for 2008, and while the old-shape sedan bided on an extra year as the 2008 Malibu Classic, all Maxx and SS sits were killed off. The Opel Signum didn’t fare any better; the Insignia changed the Vectra in 2008 and merely offered wagon and sedan chart, the latter actually being a hatchback( realize the Regal remark above ).

Just a couple of years after the Maxx’s demise, BWM pioneered the 5 Series Gran Turismo, a car meant to bridge the gap between BMW’s wagons and SUVs. Put it side by side with the Malibu Maxx, and it’s pretty easy to see how the idea managed to live on. BMW’s execution wasn’t quite as unsettling as GM’s, but it still turned out to be a slow seller. Nevertheless, BMW persevered, bless their little German mettles, and the 3 Series Gran Turismo and 6 Series Gran Turismo( the 5 GT eventually got promoted by a number) didn’t get axed from the lineup until this year.

The BMWs are visually awkward, but the Malibu Maxx is its own special kind of ugly–and that’s what acquires it so captivating. The SS-ified ’BuMaxx might be weird, but it was one of those rare examples of a GM in its dullest times trying something that was truly different. Note to my best friend at Bring a Trailer: If you interpret a lean for one of these on the horizon, how about committing us a heads up?

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The post Flashback: The Chevrolet Malibu Maxx SS Was Your American German Four-Door Coupe seemed first on Automobile Magazine.

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