Part of the midcycle refresh for the 2019 Chevy Malibu includes the addition of the sporty RS trim. RS stands for "rally sport," and it has traditionally been an appearance package that suggests performance, but doesn’t actually have any performance upgrades — or, at least, not significant ones. That’s what it is for the Cruze — and that’s what it is now for the Malibu.
I had a chance to drive the new Malibu RS, and I can confirm that this car is absolutely not a sport sedan. It’s just a regular Malibu with a different grille, different wheels, a spoiler and dual-exit exhaust. It looks pretty sporty on the outside, but that is strictly where the sportiness ends.
Chevy is trying something a little different with this RS. Rather than making it an optional package on the higher trims, they made "RS" its own trim on the lower end. It’s basically just a Malibu LS with an exterior appearance package and not much else.
To Chevrolet’s credit, they priced the Malibu RS right. It starts at just $24,120, which I think is a good number when you consider the competition. This is a pretty nice-looking midsize sedan for less than $25,000 — and if exterior touches like big, pretty wheels and a dark chrome grille are important to you, then this car is a good value. Chevy also did a nice job making all of the RS upgrades look like they belong there and ensuring that they don’t seem like tacked-on afterthoughts.
Still, what bothers me about the Malibu RS is the fact that, from behind the wheel, you would have no idea you’re driving anything other than a normal Malibu. From the rather bland interior to the ho-hum drivetrain, there just isn’t that much that’s special about it. Even if they dressed up the interior a little with some seat bolstering or even some of that fake carbon fiber trim, it would’ve been a welcome change.
But most disappointing is the fact that they didn’t even put the good engine in the Malibu RS! Every Malibu other than the range-topping Premier comes with Chevy’s turbocharged 1.5-liter inline four which is a fine, efficient engine with reasonably good performance for this class — but the Premier gets a 2.0-liter turbo four that provides a decent bump in performance. That engine would make sense in a Malibu that’s supposed to be sporty, but it isn’t even an option in the RS.
So this might not be a big surprise, and there probably aren’t many of you enthusiasts itching to get behind the wheel of a Chevy Malibu RS, but I’m here to confirm that it is, indeed, not a sport sedan. It’s the Diet Coke of sport sedans. It looks like a sport sedan, and its badging suggests sportiness, but that’s as far as it goes. If you want a truly sporty sedan from GM, you’ll have to upgrade to a Cadillac.