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2013 Malibu’s Ride and Handling Challenges Segment’s Best

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Segment-best ride and handling was a fundamental element for dynamic engineers, as they calibrated the all-new 2013 Chevrolet Malibu sedan for customers in 100 markets on six continents.

Benefiting from continuous refinement of an award-winning global architecture, the global development team matched the car’s resized proportions – including wider front and rear tracks – with more direct steering and advanced chassis control systems. Architecture refinements produced a Malibu with European-style precision and comfort tailored to North America’s diverse range of driving conditions.

“Our development team has been everywhere with the new Malibu, tuning the ride on rural backroads, suburban boulevards, urban freeways and just about every other type of road imaginable,” said Mark Moussa, global chief engineer. “The result is the most finely tuned Chevrolet midsize sedan ever, with controlled dynamics in all driving conditions.”

A roster of integrated elements enable the dynamics of Malibu’s driving experience, including:

A solid body structure as stiff as any in the global midsize sedan market, enabling more precise tuning and dynamic vehicle control
Proven and refined MacPherson strut front and four-link rear suspensions
Hydraulic ride bushings and isolated lower A-arms that enable a more quiet and refined ride
A premium rack-mounted electric power steering gear by ZF Steering Systems for smooth, precise responsiveness and greater on-center feel
Chassis control technologies include StabiliTrak electronic stability control, with full-function traction control, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist system and corner brake control
Large, ventilated front disc and solid rear disc brakes, which deliver a 134-foot (41 m) stopping distance from 60 mph with 17-inch wheels – or eight feet (2.4 m) shorter than the current Malibu with 17-inch wheels (142 feet / 43.2 m).
“Whatever the surface, you feel connected to the road in the new Malibu, while also being comfortably isolated from the imperfections and noise of the road,” said Moussa. “The feel behind the wheel is like that of premium sedans that cost thousands more, with a great feeling of control at highway speeds and excellent maneuverability at low speeds.”

All 2013 Malibu models feature mass-reducing parts and systems designed to reduce the overall weight and optimize fuel economy. Examples include:

Aluminum hood
Aluminum rear suspension knuckles
Aluminum rear bumper beam
Single-exhaust system
Laminated front side window glass
Dissipative dash mat
Dissipative carpeting
Tire inflator kit (in place of spare tire) – standard on Malibu Eco
Body structure optimization.
Collectively, the lightweight parts and systems represent about 130 pounds (58 kg) in weight savings.

Strong structure and new proportions

Malibu ’s greater feeling of control starts with the body-frame integral foundation. The body structure is 20-percent stiffer than the model it replaces, which translates to a more solid feel for passengers as well as enabling more precise calibration of the suspension and chassis components. More precise suspension tuning supports the car’s increased feeling of control.

The stiff body structure is composed of about 65 percent high-strength steel and ultra-high-strength steel. A finite element model computer program was used during development to ensure the optimal shape and forms of the steel, thereby eliminating unnecessary material that would add weight and detract from the Malibu’s overall ride and handling performance – and affect fuel efficiency.

Integrated within that stiffer body structure are new proportions that provide a wider stance. Compared to the outgoing model, the 2013 Malibu’s 107.8-inch (2,738 mm) wheelbase is 4.5 inches (114 mm) shorter, but with front and rear tracks – 62 inches each (1,574 mm) – that are 2.5 inches (63 mm) wider in front and 2.0 inches (51 mm) wider in the rear, which helps the Malibu feel more planted in turns.

Dual paths and four links

The benefit of experience with the Malibu’s architecture helped engineers dial in a greater degree of control through the front and rear suspensions. They are composed of a compact, low-mass strut design in the front and a multi-link design in the rear with a higher degree of tuning and the incorporation of premium features. Highlights include:

MacPherson-strut front suspension with dual-path mountings , which separates the transfer of spring damper loads to the body to a smoother-feeling ride and an enhanced feeling of control.
Side-load-compensated strut modules are designed to reduce the sliding friction caused by the bending load on the strut that is common in most suspension geometries, for more precise suspension tuning. This configuration also enabled the front wheels to be moved farther out to enhance stability.
Aluminum steering knuckle/strut carriers and control arms are used to minimize un-sprung weight, optimize weight distribution throughout the front suspension and intended to foster a more nimble driving feel.
A direct-acting front stabilizer bar enables a more direct and immediate feeling to steering inputs. It is mounted to the rear portion of the engine cradle, with each end of the bar connected to the front struts. This hollow bar is also lighter than a solid bar.
Isolated lower A-arms , with integrated ball joints, are attached via two mounting points on a sub-frame that, in turn, is mounted with four isolators to the body structure. This provides a firmer foundation for the A-arms, which helps engineers tune the suspension more precisely, while also reducing noise and vibration that could be transmitted to the interior.
Hydraulic ride bushings in the front control arms deliver a higher degree of ride isolation, quieter performance and more controlled transfer of road inputs.
A four-link rear suspension intended to contribute to the car’s controlled feel, with a direct-acting performance and precise calibration, thanks to its mounting directly to the stuff body structure. The four links include an upper camber link, two lower links and a trailing link. The suspension also features a hollow-section stabilizer bar.
A family of 16 -, 17-, 18- and 19-inch five-spoke wheels and tires is matched with suspension tuning specific to each wheel size intended to optimize ride and handling. The Malibu Eco features 17-inch aluminum wheels matched with low-rolling-resistance tires.
Electrifying steering

Another element of Malibu’s greater feeling of control is the integration of rack-mounted electric power steering technology on all Malibu models. It is a dual-pinion system – one for steering and the other to move the rack –designed to deliver excellent response and on-center characteristics. It also helps save fuel because engine power isn’t required to turn it, as is the case with conventional hydraulic systems.

A premium steering gear by ZF Steering Systems is used on the Malibu. It is known for torsional stiffness and lower operating friction, which is intended to enhance the steering feel with almost perfect linear response. Additionally, the steering column and intermediate shaft feature stiff, direct-acting and low-friction ball bearing designs. That means there is almost no “lash” in the entire steering system, which should translate to a more immediate and connected-to-the-road feel for the driver.

Variable-effort steering is offered on the Malibu. It increases the level of power assistance during low-speed maneuvers, such as parking, and decreases at higher speeds.

Confident chassis control systems

A collection of electronically controlled chassis systems is designed to enhance overall ride and handling qualities and help make for a safer journey. All are part of the StabiliTrak electronic stability control system, which also incorporates full-function traction control. This progressive system reacts indiscernibly for the driver and continually adjusts to accommodate the driving situation. In most driving situations, it enhances the feeling of control without the driver knowing it.

When a situation arises that requires a higher level of electronic intervention – signaled by inputs detected by a yaw sensor mounted in the center of the vehicle – StabiliTrak will modulate the brakes at the individual wheels, reduce power or do both to help the Malibu’s driver remain in control. The system incorporates advanced braking features to assist in a variety of conditions, including:

Cornering Brake Control is activated when the car is braking while cornering. Brake pressure is individually varied among all four wheels to keep the car stable.
Brake Assist helps the driver in emergency braking situations, giving the driver a higher deceleration gain than would be possible from the regular brake system booster.
The Malibu’s brake system consists of four-wheel discs, featuring 11.7-inch (296 mm) vented front discs and aluminum calipers in the rear. A four-channel anti-lock system is tied in with StabiliTrak to provide more control in wet and icy conditions.

Beyond the size and specifications of the Malibu’s brakes, they were tuned to provide a strong, confident feel and deliver braking performance that is expected to be among the best in the segment.

Most Fuel Efficient Chevy Malibu Ever

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The 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco with eAssist technology is the most fuel-efficient Malibu ever – delivering a GM-estimated 37 mpg on the highway, thanks to smart electric technology that doesn’t affect ride or performance.

The 2013 Malibu Eco is the first Chevrolet vehicle to feature eAssist. Along with specific aerodynamic enhancements, it achieves 12-percent greater highway fuel economy than current models equipped with the 2.4L engine.

“Malibu Eco’s eAssist system integrates regenerative braking with the latest lithium-ion battery technology, to give our customers significant fuel-efficiency gains,” said Steve Poulos, global chief engineer of eAssist. “Providing electric boost to the powertrain system during heavy acceleration and grade driving helps the transmission operate more efficiently. The engine’s start-stop and fuel shut-off during deceleration features add to the fuel savings.”

The eAssist system is made up of a 32-cell, 0.5-kW lithium-ion battery, an electric motor-generator and next-generation six-speed transmission. The system’s electric motor-generator is mounted to an Ecotec 2.4L four-cylinder engine, in place of the alternator, to provide both motor assist and electric-generating functions through a revised engine belt-drive system. The motor-generator is a high-performance, compact induction motor that is liquid-cooled for increased performance and efficiency.

The air-cooled 115V lithium-ion battery is integrated into a power pack located in a compartment between the rear seat and trunk. The power pack is surprisingly compact and lightweight, weighing only about 65 pounds (29 kg). It allows rear access to the trunk via the split-folding rear seat, unlike other hybrid competitors. Trunk space is slightly reduced from 2011 models, but still offers 14.3 cubic feet (405 liters) of storage for luggage, golf clubs and other large items. An electric fan cools the power pack, drawing air from a vent located in the package tray, behind the rear seat.

The induction motor-generator bolsters the engine with approximately 11 kW (15 horsepower) of electric power assist during heavy acceleration and 15 kW of regenerative braking power. This power capability enables the battery to capture energy during regenerative braking for improved fuel economy.

e Assist technology also allows for a numerically lower 2.64 final drive ratio. As a result, the Malibu Eco can travel 580 highway miles (965 km) between fill-ups, despite having a smaller (15.8-gallon / 59.9 L) fuel tank than other 2013 Malibu models (18.6-gallon / 70.4 L).

The system also enables the Ecotec engine to shut down fuel delivery in certain deceleration conditions, which saves fuel. While in fuel shut-off mode, the motor-generator unit continues spinning along with the engine to capture regenerative braking power and provide immediate and smooth take-off power when the driver presses on the accelerator. Then, as the vehicle comes to a stop, the motor-generator unit spins the engine, bringing it to a smooth stop – and properly positions it for a smooth and seamless restart.

“The battery system is designed to provide power assistance to the internal combustion engine, rather than storing energy for all-electric propulsion,” said Poulos. “It’s really an extension of the conventional internal combustion engine, not a replacement for it.”

Additional fuel-saving features include:

An aerodynamically optimized exterior, including underbody panels and electronically controlled shutters in the lower grille that close at higher speeds to push more air over and around the vehicle.
Lightweight components and systems, including an aluminum hood, aluminum rear bumper beam, low-mass carpet and dash mat and more, save approximately 130 pounds (58 kg) compared to comparably equipped non-Eco models.
An Eco gauge in the cluster continuously responds to driving behavior, encouraging fuel-efficient driving, while an Auto Stop Indicator on the tachometer informs the driver when the engine is in start-stop mode.
A power flow display in the driver information center – or the center console screen when equipped with the navigation system – indicates which of the following modes the Malibu Eco is operating in:

Battery charging – the eAssist motor is charging the high-voltage battery when the vehicle is slowing
Electric assist – the eAssist motor is providing electric power boost to the engine
Auto-Stop – the vehicle is stopped, the engine has automatically shut off and is ready to automatically restart when needed.
Driver-selectable modes are offered to enable maximum comfort or efficiency of the air conditioning system and include:

Eco mode – which maximizes the frequency and duration of Auto-Stop, while providing excellent cabin comfort
Comfort mode – reduces the frequency and duration of Auto-Stop to maximize cabin comfort.
2.4L Ecotec engine and next-generation six-speed

The eAssist system works with Malibu’s 2.4L Ecotec four-cylinder engine, which features fuel-saving variable valve timing and direct injection technology. It is rated at 182 horsepower (136 kW) and 170 lb.-ft or torque. That’s 13 more horsepower and 12 more lb.-ft of torque than the previous Malibu. – and it’s more power and torque than the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid, 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, and 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid.

The next-generation Hydra-Matic 6T40 six-speed transmission is designed to enhance powertrain efficiency.

Significant internal transmission changes to clutch controls and hardware provide reduced spin losses while improving shift response and time. The added electric power provided by the eAssist system allows for higher gearing to improve steady state efficiency without impacting acceleration performance or driveability. The system’s ability to provide some electric assistance at cruising speeds allows the driver to accelerate lightly or ascend mild grades without the transmission downshifting. Automatic Grade Braking keeps the transmission in a lower gear when decelerating or coasting on a downgrade, helping to improve brake wear performance.

An auxiliary, electric-driven transmission oil pump is added to the 6T40, which keeps the transmission primed and the fluid flowing when the engine shuts down at a stop. That keeps the transmission ready to perform when the driver accelerates, for a seamless, uncompromised driving experience.

“It’s a very integrated powertrain system, with no compromises in driving performance, shift quality or ride and handling,” said Todd Stone, Malibu lead development engineer. “We believe this combination points to the future of vehicles powered primarily by an internal combustion engine.”