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Autos

E2 • The Sentinel

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Behind the Wheel

Eco hybrid is most fuel-efficient Malibu ever The redesigned and re-engineered model also received the top safety rating in frontal and side crash tests. ■

by ANN M. JOB Associated Press

The family-size, 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco hybrid sedan is the most fuelefficient Malibu ever, with a combined city/highway federal government mileage rating of 29 miles per gallon. This is 11.5 percent higher than the combined mileage of any non-hybrid 2013 and 11.5 percent better than any 2012 . Better still, the redesigned and re-engineered 2013 Malibu Eco received the top safety rating — five of five stars — in both frontal and side crash tests by the federal government. In comparison, the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid received four out of five in frontal crash testing, as did the 2013 Toyota Prius and the 2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. There was no posting for the 2013 Camry Hybrid crash test results. While it may not be apparent from pictures, the new Malibu Eco also has significantly new styling, including a taller hood, wider track and a 4.5-inch shorter wheelbase from the 2012 . Many of the changes stem from the five-seat switching to the front-wheel drive platform of the Buick Regal so the model can be built at plants outside the that also build Buicks. The styling and platform changes sweep through the entire 2013 lineup, marking the launch of the eighthgeneration . Additionally, the 2013 Malibu Eco uses the Regal’s mild hybrid powerplant

that mates a 2.4-liter, gasoline four cylinder with an electric motor and lithium ion battery pack. Starting retail price is $26,855 for a base 2013 Malibu Eco, putting it amid mid-size, hybrid car competitors. Unfortunately, though, the major competitors have higher fuel mileage ratings from the government than does the new Malibu Eco. For example, the 2013 Toyota Prius, the top-selling hybrid in America, carries a starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $24,795 and has a combined city/highway mileage rating of 50 mpg. The Prius is a five-passenger, mid-sized hatchback. Toyota’s mid-size, 2012 Camry Hybrid sedan has a retail starting price of $26,785, or $70 less than the Malibu Eco, and has a combined mileage rating from the government of 41 mpg. has not announced 2013 Camry Hybrid pricing. Ford’s newly revamped Fusion Hybrid, while priced higher at $27,995, is rated by the government at 47 mpg. The 2013 Malibu Eco also is $3,705 more than the base, non-hybrid 2013 . But be aware the Malibu Eco comes standard with some equipment that’s extra on some non-hybrid model. This includes rearview camera and power seat adjusters for the front seats. In contrast to the Prius and other full hybrids, the Malibu Eco cannot travel on electric power alone, not even for short distances. The vehicle’s onboard electric assist — which Chevy calls e-assist — sup-

plements the engine power during acceleration, helping to bolster acceleration. The test car, for example, accelerated acceptably on flat pavement and moved along well in city traffic. But the test Malibu Eco, with three adults inside, felt sluggish going up mountain roads. The Ecotec four cylinder has direct-injection, which helps provide a somewhat peppy feel, but the engine seemed taxed in the test car, considering the weight of people and the battery pack it lugged around to work with the onboard, 15-kilowatt electric motor. Drivers don’t ever plug in the Malibu Eco. Electric power is generated as the car travels. For example, regenerative brakes on the car help save braking energy that would dissipate and be wasted. And gasoline is saved because the engine, which develops 182 horsepower and peak torque of 172 footpounds at 4,900 rpm, is shut down automatically at stoplights, when the car is stopped and idling curbside and other times when power is not needed. Then, when the driver wants to move, the engine restarts automatically, and this stopping and starting was seamless in the test car. Passengers could hear this four cylinder at work during acceleration, but because the Malibu Eco uses a regular, six-speed automatic transmission and not a continuously variable transmission, there wasn’t any drawn-out droning engine noise in the test car. The tester, with 70 percent city travel and 30 highway driving, averaged just over 26 mpg, which isn’t that different from the mileage that was racked up

Associated Press

The 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco.

In Focus 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco 2SA BASE PRICE: $25,335 for 1SA; $26,945 for 2SA. PRICE AS TESTED: $28,900. TYPE: Front engine, frontwheel-drive, five-passenger, mid-size, hybrid sedan.

in a non-hybrid, 2013 Mazda CX-5 sport utility vehicle. Note that the Malibu Eco doesn’t include some of the electronic aides, such as Brake Coach, that Ford has in its Fusion Hybrid that provide feedback to drivers to improve their mileage. Wind noise in the Malibu Eco was nicely muted. There was a bit of road noise from the tires, but it was not intrusive. Overall, the Malibu Eco test car rode with a compliant, rather than firm, sporty ride, and the suspension kept most road bumps away

ENGINE: 2.4-liter, double overhead cam, direct-injection, Ecotec four cylinder mated to a 15-kilowatt electric motor and lithium ion battery. MILEAGE: 25 mpg (city), 37 mpg (highway). TOP SPEED: NA. LENGTH: 191.5 inches. WHEELBASE: 107.8 inches.

from passengers. The car wasn’t wallowy, but there was noticeable body motion in turns and curves taken at a good speed. The electric, rack-and-pinion power steering felt a bit numb on center. But the soft-touch, nicely grained plastics inside on the dashboard and doors was nice. There was stitching here and there as well as silver-colored trim pieces and all gave an unexpected upscale feel. The ceiling material texture added to the richer feel, as did the optional leather seat trim. Be aware, though, that

CURB WEIGHT: 3,620 pounds. BUILT AT: Fairfax, Kan. OPTIONS: Leather package (includes leather-trimmed seats and front-seat heaters) $1,000; Black Granite metallic paint $195. DESTINATION CHARGE: $760.

the Malibu Eco’s trunk has just 13.2 cubic feet of space, and it’s cut up around the battery pack back there. A non-hybrid has 16.3 cubic feet of trunk room. Standard safety equipment includes plentiful air bags, electronic stability control and traction control. Some 4,300 Malibus from the 2013 model year were recalled in May because a faulty sensor module could cause air bags to deploy without cause and seat belt pre-tensioners might not work during a crash.

All About Cars

2013 Nissan Altima: Innovative design and tech improvements The quiet and sporty model increased 5 mpg in fuel rating from last year’s model. ■

By Mike Blake

The Nissan Altima is the second best-selling sedan in America and begins its fifth generation as an all-new mid-size with innovative body, engine, transmission, suspension and tech enhancements. Nissan’s flagship is built and assembled at its Smyrna and Decherd, Tenn., and Canton, Miss. manufacturing facilities and is available in seven models. The frontengine front-wheel-drive Coupe and Sedan employ unibody construction with a corrosion-resistant highstrength steel body and aluminum-alloy hood.

All-new aerodynamic body Its all-new body, while clearly recognizable as an Altima, is lighter and more rigid than in its previous incarnation. Available with 2.5-liter and 3.5-liter engine choices, both powerplants have been created for improved power and economy. Additionally, Altima’s new, refined rear multi-link suspension smoothes out the ride to rival that of the world’s top luxury automobiles; its hybrid power steering system combines the feel of a traditional hydraulic box with the efficiency of modern electric control; its front seats take their inspiration from outer space technol-

ogy to provide top-of-scale comfort; its intuitive 3Deffect information display is instructive, entertaining and state-of-the-art; its navigational system is proactive, interactive and never outdated; and other tech and entertainment features make Altima a true luxury sedan without luxury pricing. The fifth-generation Altima’s new aerodynamic styling employs rounded European features. A new front tower strut brace and additional rear structural support built into the rear parcel shelf provides structural rigidity and lateral handling response and the new design has reduced overall body weight by 80 pounds, utilizing aluminum hood and bumper reinforcements and expanded use of hightensile steel. About an inch longer and 1.3 inches wider than the previous generation, My Cayenne Red Altima 3.5 SL was mated to a charcoal leather interior and measured 191.5 inches long, 72.0 inches wide and 57.9 inches high on a 109.3-inch wheelbase (same wheelbase as Generation-4). Ground clearance came in at 5.4 inches and my Altima 3.5 SL weighed in at 3,355 pounds.

Increased fuel economy The Altima 2.5 is powered by a 2.5-liter inline-4 engine that develops 182 horsepower and 180 pounds-feet of torque and the Altima 3.5 employs a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that produces 270 horses and 251 pounds-feet of torque. Both engines use sequential multi-port electronic fuel injection set-ups.

On regular unleaded fuel, the 2.5-liter is EPA rated at 27 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway, an increase of about 5 mpg over last year’s estimates. The 3.5-liter V-6 gets a 22/31 rating, a jump of 2 mpg in the city and 4 mpg on the open road. My week of tests averaged an even 25 mpg, a real-world increase of 1.3 mpg over my tests in a 2012 Altima SR. Low-end torque is excellent and during track tests, my 2013 Altima 3.5 SL sprinted a smooth zero-to60 mph run in 6.4 seconds and darted through the quarter-mile in 14.8 seconds on Michelin/Dunlop 235/45/R18 tires. At speed, passing is effortless and its electrohydraulic steering feedback is on track with tight body movement. Altima’s independent strut front suspension with coil springs and stabilizer bar and a multi-link independent rear suspension with stabilizer bar level most road inadequacies.

Spacious premium cabin Roomy, sporty and quiet, Altima 3.5 SR’s interior presents the same spacious interior of the previous generation, matching Gen-4’s 40.0 inches of front headroom and 37.1 inches in row two, superior legroom of 45.0 inches in front and 36.1 inches in the second row, and shoulder room showing 56.4 inches in both rows. Altima’s premium cabin exudes luxury and advancements from its with new NASA-inspired “zerogravity” front seats, leather appointments, and a new standard Advanced DriveAssist™ display in the center of the instrument cluster that integrates key information – including available

navigation, text messaging notification and audio data , to its Bluetooth® HandsFree Phone System and Streaming Audio via Bluetooth®, and next-generation Safety Shield Technologies. Also onboard are 8-way power driver’s seat with 2-way power lumbar support, heated front seats and steering wheel, dualzone automatic temperature control, power windows with driver’s side auto up/ tima 2.5 starts at $21,700; down, auto reverse feature the 2.5 in S trim starts at and power door locks with $22,800 and its top-tier SL auto locking feature. starts at $28,400. The 3.5 starts at $25,700 and moves Advanced safety up to its top trim, the loadsystems ed SL at $30,500. My test Altima’s safety systems Altima 3.5 SL was based at include zone body con- $25,570. The SL Technology struction, Nissan Advanced Package was a great destiAir Bag System with dualnation-and-safety addition stage supplemental front air bags with seat belt sen- or $1,090 (Nissan Navigasors and an occupant clas- tion System with 7.0-inch sification sensor, driver and color touch-screen monifront passenger side-impact tor, traffic and weather and supplemental air bags, and Google-powered points of roof-mounted curtain side interest, blind-spot warnimpact supplemental air ing, lane departure warning, bags for front- and rear-seat moving object detection); a outboard occupant head rear decklid spoiler added $395; splash guards were protection. The base 2012 Nissan Al- $145; body side moldings

added $170; interior accent lighting was $200; cool external ground lighting that turns on when you press your key fob added $260; all-season floor mats were $90; and destination and handling charges of $790 brought the final sticker price to $33,640. --Visit www.CarlisleEvents. com for more on the automotive hobby. Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He’s been a “car guy” since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Autos Plus

The Sentinel • E3


E4 • The Sentinel

Sunday, November 25, 2012

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