Chevrolet recently unveiled a facelifted 2019 Malibu sedan — and, along with it, the addition of an RS trim. In usual RS fashion, it’s not a performance upgrade, but rather, a sporty appearance package. In this case, it means a black grille, unique 18-inch wheels, and a dual exhaust.
But it wasn’t long ago that Chevy offered a Malibu SS — and it was actually a pretty significant performance upgrade over the standard, milquetoast Malibu. It was powered by a 3.9-liter V6 that made 240 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque. Sure, it wasn’t the Chevelle-based muscle car of the old days, but the sixth-gen Malibu SS from 2006 to 2007 was a decent mid-size performance car from pre-bailout GM.
The coolest thing about the most recent Chevy Malibu SS is that it could be had as a wagon in the form of the consonant-laden Malibu Maxx SS. That’s right, Chevy made a high-performance mid-size wagon, and just about everyone has forgotten about it. It even had trick back seats that could slide and recline.
The current Malibu can beat the performance numbers of its old SS counterpart with almost half the engine displacement, but what if Chevy took another shot at a mid-size performance wagon? I’ll tell you what would happen: enthusiasts would freak out, and suddenly Chevy would be a lot more attractive to drivers looking for a car that’s affordable, practical, and fun.
Car enthusiasts are always itching for wagons — and especially performance wagons. Sadly, there is no wagon version of the current Chevy Malibu, presumably because of a low take rate for the old Malibu Maxx. But if there was, it would be a more affordable, more reliable alternative to sporty luxury wagons like the Jaguar XF Sportbrake S and the Mercedes-AMG E63 S Wagon.
GM even has a perfect engine for a new Malibu SS: the 3.6-liter LGX V6. Right now, that engine is being used in the Chevy Camaro, various Cadillacs, and the Buick Regal GS, among others. In the Regal GS, a similarly-sized sedan, this V6 makes 310 horsepower and 282 pound-feet of torque. That’s not exactly a fire-breathing AMG killer, but it’s a decent improvement over the hottest engine available in the Malibu, which is a 2.0-liter turbo four that makes 250 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque.
In the form of a wagon, a new Malibu Maxx SS would be the stylish, practical, affordable car that enthusiasts crave. It would be a larger, more family-friendly alternative to hot hatches like the Volkswagen GTI. With a fresh crop of performance crossovers on the horizon, like the Ford Edge ST, a proper performance wagon from a volume brand would be embraced by enthusiasts and bring more weirdos like us into Chevy dealers.
But nobody would buy it, you might think. Sales numbers for the old Malibu Maxx SS were probably in the dozens, and that’s why they don’t make it anymore. Yes, I know a new Malibu SS wagon probably wouldn’t be a huge seller, but you know what it would have? Precious market share. There’s nothing else quite like that on the market right now for a price that Chevy could offer.
Even GM’s own Buick Regal TourX wagon doesn’t have a sporty GS variant (although it does in Europe in the form of an Opel). With Ford’s new plan to phase out all of its passenger cars in the U.S. except the Mustang and with Dodge becoming a muscle car brand, a mid-size performance wagon from an American brand would stand alone.
But the real reason I want a new Malibu Maxx SS to happen is so I can buy a cheap used one in five years. Unfortunately, most people in the market for a car like this probably feel the same way — which is exactly why it can’t happen.
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