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Malibu meets Phillip Island

On the road: Holden's mid-sized Malibu undergoes local testing before its 2012 Australian release.

Holden helps develop new Malibu as GM’s all-new global mid-sizer hits Oz

8 Jun 2011

PHILLIP Island and Malibu are home to two of the world’s best known surf beaches, but now there is another link.

The southeast Victorian hamlet’s public roads – not its racetrack – have been used by GM Holden to help fine-tune its parent company’s all-new mid-size sedan, which will be known as the Malibu when it goes on sale globally from next year.

Revealed at the Shanghai motor show in China in April and due on sale in Australia later than expected in late 2012, the Malibu is being calibrated at Holden’s Lang Lang proving ground in Victoria.

The development work by Holden engineers, which also comprises country road evaluations at locations including nearby Phillip Island – where these two official images were shot – will help shape the vehicle that will go on sale as a Chevrolet in almost 100 countries.

Rather than developing chassis tune, as it has done with a number of previous GM models made in Korea for Australia, Holden has been enlisted as part of GM’s global “workshare” strategy to calibrate the four-cylinder engine that will power the Malibu’s front wheels.

13 center imageLeft: The Chevrolet Malibu.

As part of the job, Holden said its Powertrain Engineering team would continue development work on the Malibu until 2012.

As we’ve reported, the Malibu will replace Holden’s slow-selling Epica as GM’s mainstream medium sedan offering in Australia and, while it will also be built alongside Chevrolet’s next-generation Impala sedan in the US, Australia’s version again will come from Korea.

Before it goes on sale here inside 18 months, however, GM will launch another mid-size model that is also based on the company’s highly regarded global mid-size vehicle platform known as Epsilon II – the Opel Insignia.

As part of the Australian relaunch of GM’s European brand in 2012, the Insignia – unlike the Malibu – is expected to be available here in sedan, hatch and wagon body styles, and will be priced higher to compete with more upmarket rivals like the VW Passat.

While its 2738mm wheelbase is virtually identical to the Insignia sedan’s, the Malibu is almost 30mm longer at 4859mm, making it far bigger than key rivals such as the Toyota Camry (4815mm) and Mazda6 (4735mm) – and closer in size to the 4897mm Commodore than the 4597mm Cruze.

No local specifications have yet been confirmed, but most likely for Australia is GM’s new direct-injection 2.5-litre four-cylinder Ecotec petrol engine, which delivers about 141kW and 245Nm and will be matched with a new Hydra-Matic 6T40 six-speed automatic.

There is no sign yet of a diesel version of the Malibu, which borrows styling cues from Chevrolet’s Corvette and Holden-designed Camaro coupes, but the recently upgraded Captiva SUV’s new 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four is almost certain to become available.

GM claims its new global mid-sizer will offer best-in-class aerodynamics, new safety features including up to 10 airbags, a rear-view camera and lane departure/forward collision warning system, plus an electronic “active shutter” system reduce fuel consumption and wind noise on selected US models.

Also helping to make the Malibu competitive with new mainstream medium sedan entrants like this year’s Toyota Camry and the 2013 Mazda6 will be a new dual-cockpit interior that is said to be larger, quieter and, thanks to soft-touch surfaces and ice-blue centre stack ambient lighting, more ‘premium’ than the Malibu it replaces in the US.

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