From what we saw and heard, feedback was mostly positive when Chevy unveiled the 2016 Malibu at the 2015 New York International Auto Show in April. But though the multitude of comments rose two resounding criticisms of Chevy’s new midsizer:
- The lack of a V6
- The lack of all-wheel-drive
We’ll discuss the lack of all-wheel-drive in the near future, so let’s talk about the lack of a V6. Specifically, the 2.0L turbo-charged four-cylinder engine (250 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque) remains the optional high-end engi
ne in the Malibu, rather than a V6.
To that end, here’s a comment we found on the subject while scouring the web (we’ll keep it anonymous):
So why are the top sellers in the segment like the Camry, Accord and Altima offer V6 options while the Malibu does not? The 3.6L LFX is a great engine, with the other alternative being the new 3.6L LGX. Put either one of those in and watch sales explode.
Replacing displacement with boost is nothing new. And in many cases, the practice resulting a better vehicle that’s more responsive, more fun to drive and more economical. But there are two general problems with this line of thought. The first revolves around the misunderstanding of the competition, while the second doesn’t take into account the sales distribution of optional engines in the segment.
They Don’t Offer Turbo-Charged Fours Because They Don’t Have Them
Yes, the Japanese competition — Toyota, Honda, and Nissan — each offer a V6 as the optional high-end motor in the Camry, Accord, or Altima, respectively. But that isn’t because those six-bangers are so amazing. Instead, Toyota, Honda, and Nissan simply do not have a competent turbo-charged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine to use, even if they wanted to.
That’s right, the three biggest Japanese automakers, the same ones that are usually thought of by the public as offering the most environmentally-friendly and fuel-efficient vehicles, don’t have a modern turbo-charged four-banger to offer because they were late to the turbo-charged party. Late to approve such motors, late to develop them, and late to bring them to market.
Granted, Toyota is just now rolling out its new 2.0-liter I4 in the Lexus NX crossover, and the motor is expected to make its way across the rest of the Lexus and Toyota lineup over the next year or two. And whenever that ends up happening, we’ll bet that it replaces the Camry’s V6.
All in all, the world is replacing naturally-aspirated sixes with turbo-charged fours. And the top-sellers in the segment are resting on their laurels (read: reputation), and are therefore behind the curve.
But even if Chevy did offer a V6 in the Malibu, would it actually make “sales explode”? No, it wouldn’t.
That’s because only 15-20 percent of midsize sedan buyers in America opt for the more powerful optional engine. And when we’re talking about 20,000 Malibu sales in a given month, a number we hope the 2016 Malibu will raise, 15-20 percent simply isn’t enough to make sales “explode”.
That can only be done with a best-in-class vehicle with a stellar model and marque reputation.
All in all, there are obvious elements of a vehicle that should be changed or improved “because of the competition”. But offering a V6 rather than a turbocharged I4 in the Malibu isn’t one of them. In fact, in this case, the competition is behind Chevy and the Malibu, and will likely replace those sixes with boosted fours. Whenever they decide to catch up.