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Reducing the weight of the 2016 Malibu
18 June 2015
Chevrolet’s new 2016 Malibu, engineered to offer more efficiency, connectivity and advanced safety features, and featuring the option of a new full-hybrid powertrain (earlier post), is also nearly 300 pounds (136 kg) lighter than the current model.
The 3,100 lb (1,406 kg) Malibu has the mid-size segment’s lightest base curb weight, and also offers an estimated 37 mpg (6.35 l/100 km) highway for the 1.5L turbo base engine. (The hybrid model offers an estimated 48 mpg (4.9 l/100 km) in city driving.) The lighter curb weight also improves ride and handling.
Imagine you’ve got a 300-pound lineman riding on the roof of your car and he decides to jump off—you’re going to notice a change in performance immediately. That’s what we’ve done with the 2016 Malibu, with the mass savings spread throughout the vehicle, providing greater overall balance, a more responsive and agile driving experience and lower fuel consumption. The Malibu team was challenged to look for weight savings in every area of the vehicle, no matter how small, because every gram adds up. The aim was to make Malibu the most mass-efficient car in its class.—Jesse Ortega, chief engineer
|Curb weights compared|
|Model||Curb weight||EPA Highway Fuel Economy|
|2016 Chevrolet Malibu 1LT (1.5L Turbo)||3,100 lbs (est.)||37 mpg (GM est.)|
|2015 Ford Fusion SE (2.5L)||3,461 lbs||34 mpg|
|2015 Toyota Camry LE (2.5L)||3,240 lbs||35 mpg|
|2015 Hyundai Sonata SE (2.4L)||3,252 lbs||37 mpg|
|2015 Honda Accord LX (2.4L)||3,192 lbs (MT)||34 mpg (MT)|
|2015 Nissan Altima SV (2.5L)||3,206 lbs||38 mpg|
|2015 Kia Optima EX (2.4L)||3,272 lbs||34 mpg|
The five most noteworthy mass-saving achievements, according to Chevrolet, are:
Leaner, stronger body structure. More than a third of the 2016 Malibu’s mass savings—approximately 120 pounds (54 kg)—comes from its all-new body structure, which features greater use of high-strength steels, enabling the use of thinner components in some areas, while delivering comparable or better crash performance.
The stronger-yet-lighter structure is also stiffer than the current model, which allowed suspension components to be tuned more precisely. Engineers had less body flex for which to account, contributing to the new Malibu’s sharper ride-and-handling reflexes.
Development of the Malibu’s structure is the result of extensive computational analysis, which employed sophisticated modeling programs to simulate dozens of design iterations that indicated the most strategic placement for high-strength steel elements such as the pillars and rockers, all while maintaining higher targets for strength, stiffness and crashworthiness.
The analysis took the guesswork out of the Malibu’s development, allowing the chassis to be developed with the just-right level of structural components. After the structure was determined, we started looking at all the components that are attached to it, evaluating where they could be optimized for lower weight.—Amir Sewani, structural engineer
Greater use of aluminum. The incorporation of more aluminum in the 2016 Malibu contributes significantly to its lower weight. Examples include an aluminum hood that is 6.6 pounds (3 kg) lighter than current model’s steel hood, and aluminum suspension knuckles and chassis components, as well as lighter mounts.
An additional benefit of the aluminum suspension components is reduced un-sprung mass, which contributes to the Malibu’s responsiveness.
Streamlined instrument panel assembly and lighter power accessories. New power window regulators collectively save 4.2 pounds (1.9 kg)—a 34% reduction over the current model, while another 2.2 pounds (1 kg) was saved by reducing the complexity of components within the instrument panel. That included simplified construction with more integrated parts—and fewer components in the assembly.
Even the center console has a streamlined, one-piece structural shell that is 1.75 pounds (0.8 kg) lighter than the current model.
Lighter leather seats and other soft materials. The Malibu’s available leather seats are collectively 40.6 pounds (18.4 kg) lighter than the current model. Additionally, about 1.5 pounds (0.7 kg) was saved with new trunk liner material and another 1.1 pounds (0.5 kg) was shaved with new, proprietary interior carpet material that also is more durable than the current model.
A lighter engine. The 2016 Malibu’s all-new, standard 1.5L turbo engine is 86 pounds (39 kg) lighter than the current model’s standard 2.5L engine, while delivering comparable performance. Its lighter weight also enhances the Malibu’s front-to-rear weight balance—another contributor of the car’s more responsive driving experience.
The 2016 Malibu goes on sale in the fourth quarter of 2015. It will be offered in L, LS, LT and Premier trims, as well as a Hybrid model, which leverages Chevrolet Volt technology to offer segment-best estimated efficiency of 48 mpg city, 45 mpg highway and 47 mpg combined.