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Chevrolet Malibu Through the Years

Art Michalik

From comfortable family sedan to muscle car and back again. From big block grunt to sophisticated turbo power. Here’s the nine Chevy Malibu generations.

The Spirit of Southern California

First launched in 1964, the history of the Chevrolet Malibu can be classified into one of two distinct eras. First, the nearly 20 year run of the rear-wheel drive version was available from 1964 through 1983. The Malibu model was then paused until 1997 when it returned to the market as a domestic-brand Honda Accord and Toyota Camry fighter. Within those years, Chevrolet sold nearly nine million units of the Malibu model. Let’s take a look at all nine Chevy Malibu generations.

First Generation (1964-1967)

1964 Chevrolet Malibu - chevrolet.com

1964 Chevrolet Malibu – chevrolet.com  |  Shop Chevrolet Malibu on Carsforsale.com

  • In 1964, the all-new Chevrolet Chevelle was launched on GM’s new A-body platform, along with its corporate cousins, the Buick Skylark and the Pontiac Tempest. It was the first time a perimeter frame underpinned an intermediate-class car and also featured independent front suspension and a live rear axle articulated around a four-link suspension with coil springs. The Malibu was the top-of-the-line trim level of the Chevelle range.
  • It sold well in four-door sedan, two-door coupe, convertible, and three-door station wagon configurations, totaling over 200,000 units sold in its first year. What caught the attention of enthusiasts was the Malibu SS.
  • The top-line Malibu SS was powered by a 327 CID small block Chevrolet V8 topped with a Rochester four-barrel carburetor. Backed by a wide-ratio Muncie M20 four-speed, the 300 HP SS could reach 60 mph in around eight seconds and run the quarter in 16.3 seconds. For 1965, Chevrolet added a higher-revving, higher compression 350 HP 327 V8.
  • The Malibu retained its body styling through 1967 with only a few changes, mostly to the grille and rear fascia. Front disc brakes and a stereo 8-track tape player were new options for 1967. The output of the top 327 V8 dropped to 325 HP.

Second Generation (1968-1972)

1968 Chevrolet Malibu - chevrolet.com
1968 Chevrolet Malibu - chevrolet.com
  • The second-generation Malibu continued on the original A-body platform, though on a shorter wheelbase for coupes and convertibles and an increased wheelbase for sedans and wagons.
  • Two-door coupe styling now featured a fastback look, a real departure from its boxy predecessor.
  • Body upgrades from 1968 through 1972 consisted primarily of changes to the grille, headlights, and taillights.
  • New for 1968 was the Concours option, which included upgraded cloth or vinyl bench seats, a center console, and a floor shifter only for coupes and convertibles.
  • The standard 250 CID six-cylinder engine produced 155 horsepower with a top-of-the-line 330 horsepower 400 CID V8 on non-SS Malibu models.
  • The biggest beast of them all was the LS6 454 CID big-block V8 rated at 450 horsepower. Only available in the 1970 model year, LS6 was built to be raced with exclusive high-performance cylinder heads, four-bolt main bearing caps, forged rods and crankshaft, high-compression aluminum pistons along with solid lifters and an aggressive camshaft. The LS6 was backed by the heavy-duty Muncie ‘Rock Crusher’ four-speed transmission.
  • The MSRP upgrade to the LS6 was $263.30. Today an LS6 equipped Malibu SS can sell for $200,000 or more over a similar 396 model.
  • The 1970 SS 454 model with the LS6 upgraded engine is the only Chevrolet production car to have exceeded the horsepower ratings of the Corvette in the same model year.

Third Generation (1973-1977)

1973 Chevrolet Malibu - chevrolet.com
1973 Chevrolet Malibu - chevrolet.com
  • The model year 1973 saw the introduction of a new, more robust A-body frame that retained the previous 112 wheelbases, though the bodies grew in length, width, and weight.
  • A Chevelle SS trim appeared in 1973 with a choice of a 350 CID small block V8 or a 454 big block offering a significantly reduced 245 horsepower.
  • For 1974-1976 a Chevelle Laguna S-3, with a more aerodynamic nose targeted at NASCAR racing, was made available. The bodywork changes had the desired effect on the results as the Chevy won 25 races in that period.
  • The 454 V8 was dropped from the California lineup in 1975, and for the rest of the US in 1976. The 400 CID small block V8 was now the largest available engine.

Fourth Generation (1978-1983)

1978 Chevrolet Malibu - chevrolet.com
1978 Chevrolet Malibu - chevrolet.com
  • Chevrolet discontinued the Chevelle line after 1977, and the next generation of downsized intermediate cars would be exclusively Malibu models from 1978 onward.
  • For 1978, General Motors downsized its intermediate cars across all divisions. The result was that the fourth-generation Chevy Malibu was a foot shorter and about 1,000 pounds lighter than the third-generation models.
  • Where the third generation had rounded edges, the fourth-generation models were sharp. Chevrolet produced three body styles (coupe, sedan, and station wagon).
  • Engine choices included the new Chevrolet V6 engines, with 3.3 L and 3.8 L CID displacements available. These uneven-firing 90-degree V6 were basically a small-block V8 missing two cylinders. A 5.0 L Chevy small block V8 was an option.
  • The fourth generation was produced through 1983, which was the last year Chevrolet offered the Malibu with rear-wheel drive.

Fifth Generation (1997-2003)

1997 Chevrolet Malibu - chevrolet.com
1997 Chevrolet Malibu - chevrolet.com
  • After a 14-year hiatus, the Malibu that returned to Chevrolet showrooms was a completely different car from any previous generations; it was a front-wheel-drive replacement for the Chevrolet Corsica.
  • The new Malibu was based on the GM N platform shared with the Buick Skylark and Pontiac Grand Am. Engine choices included a 139 horsepower 2.4 L four-cylinder and a 152 horsepower 3.1 L V6 powerplant. The only transmission was a four-speed automatic.
  • The 1997 Chevrolet Malibu was named Car of the Year for 1997.
  • Despite a newer model launched in 2004, the fifth generation remained in production until 2005 as the Malibu Classic; a model sold exclusively to fleets.

Sixth Generation (2004-2007)

2004 Chevrolet Malibu - chevrolet.com
2004 Chevrolet Malibu - chevrolet.com
  • Chevy’s sixth generation of Malibu was introduced in 2004 when it was switched over to GM’s global Epsilon platform. The platform was developed by Opel and debuted in the stylish 2002 Opel Vectra and 2003 Saab 9-3.
  • The U.S. Chevy Malibu was available in two body styles: a four-door sedan and a clumsily named and designed five-door hatchback Malibu Maxx. With its spacious rear hatchback and sliding rear seats (seven inches!), the Malibu Maxx did offer more practicality, though it was not a big hit with buyers.
  • While the sixth-generation Malibu didn’t win any awards for its styling, it did usher in more sophisticated technology, increased efficiency, and performance leading the way for the return of the Malibu SS.
  • A 144 horsepower 2.2 L Ecotec four-cylinder was the base engine with different available V6 engines ranging in output from 201 to 240 horsepower.
  • An SS trim package was made available for the 2006 model year, featuring a sport suspension with tower-to-tower brace, 18-inch alloy wheels, and revised power steering. Additional interior and exterior trim upgrades were part of the SS trim.

Seventh Generation (2008-2012)

2008 Chevrolet Malibu - chevrolet.com
2008 Chevrolet Malibu - chevrolet.com
  • Riding on an enhanced, extended version of the Epsilon platform, the stylish seventh-generation Malibu offered increased interior room and a more comfortable ride. The new Malibu featured higher-quality materials and delivered increased performance and efficiency.
  • Enhanced safety features in the seventh-generation Malibu included standard head-curtain side airbags and front-seat thorax airbags.
  • All Malibu models were offered with standard OnStar 8.0, which features advanced automatic crash notification, remote diagnostics, monthly status report, and Turn-By-Turn Navigation.
  • Recognizing the improvements, the seventh generation Malibu was voted the 2008 North American Car of the Year at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
  • Standard power came from a 169 horsepower 2.4 L 1LS four-cylinder engine. Optional was a 252 horsepower 3.6 l V6, the last V6 engine offered in a Malibu.
  • First offered in 2008 was the Malibu Hybrid; the model features a small electric motor that starts the 2.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and adds small amounts of power when accelerating. The gas engine alone produces 164 horsepower with just three horsepower added by the electric motor. Unlike other hybrid setups, the Malibu’s system provides full electric propulsion only up to about three mph.

Eighth Generation (2013-2015)

2014 Chevrolet Malibu - chevrolet.com
2014 Chevrolet Malibu - chevrolet.com
  • For 2013, Chevrolet added new connectivity features, comfort enhancements, and new front-end styling. This generation Malibu adopted the Epsilon II platform already in use under the Buick Regal.
  • In the interior, the Chevrolet MyLink multimedia system’s adoption added a touch screen, back up camera, and smartphone integration.
  • The exterior redesign features bolder headlamps and taillights though it still appears a bit “chubby” compared to the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry of the same vintage.
  • However, the redesign did increase trunk capacity and lower interior sound levels with acoustic glass.
  • Replacing the discontinued V6 was an available 2.0 L turbo engine developing 259 horsepower. When adjusted for changes in how engines are rated, the new turbo motor pretty much matched the output of the top-of-the-line 327 V8 of 1964.

Ninth Generation (2016-Present)

2018 Chevrolet Malibu - chevrolet.com

2018 Chevrolet Malibu – chevrolet.com  |  Shop Chevrolet Malibu on Carsforsale.com

  • The 2016 Chevy Malibu redesign finally accomplished what Chevrolet long set out to do: create an appealing midsize sedan that could go toe-to-toe with the Accord and Camry.
  • A stylish redesign made the current Malibu one of the better-looking entries in the intermediate category, with a vastly improved interior with more rear-seat room. Other interior features include the best-in-class Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system. The trunk is smaller than the eighth-generation Malibu, though around the same capacity as the popular Camry’s.
  • Chevrolet offers the ninth-generation Malibu with one of three powertrains. The base is a 166 horsepower turbocharged, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Optional is an updated, turbocharged 2.0 L four-cylinder matched to a new 8-speed automatic.
  • The significantly improved hybrid powertrain combines a 1.8 L four-cylinder engine and a two-motor electric drive unit that’s earned an EPA rating of 46 mpg combined.
  • Handling has been improved as well, especially on the 19-inch wheels and tires on the Limited. Road testers have rated the ninth generation’s handling above the Honda Accord.
  • New on the ninth-gen Malibu is Teen Driver technology developed to encourage safer on-road habits in young people by providing parental access to driving reports.
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2020 Chevrolet Malibu - chevrolet.com

2020 Chevrolet Malibu – chevrolet.com  |  Shop new Chevrolet Malibu on Carsforsale.com

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2016 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Art Michalik
Art Michalik

Art Michalik brings a career full of experience in the automotive industry to his writing. He has guided marketing at two major tire companies, represented some of the biggest names in the automotive aftermarket at an ad agency, built the enthusiast social media presence at a major online retailer and even managed one of the most famous racing schools in the world.

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