Find of the Week: 2006 Chevrolet Malibu Maxx SS

This time, the autoTRADER.ca Find of the Week is something a little more unusual. A pair of classic nameplates linked to a car that you probably don't remember. Even though it's just from the last decade. It's a performance wagon from just before the crossover took over the entire market. And it's got more rear-seat room than just about anything we've ever sat in. It's a 2006 Chevrolet Malibu Maxx. SS.

The Super Sport badge first appeared in 1961. For about $55, you could get a whole host of upgrades to your Impala: stiffer suspension, chassis reinforcement, power brakes, whitewall tires, a special dash, and a tachometer. They sold about 450.

But it was the launch of a badge that would quickly become a performance icon. If it was fast and from Chevrolet, it got an SS badge in the 1960s. But into the 1970s, as performance dwindled while automakers grappled with emissions changes, the SS badge disappeared. It would come back from time to time, on the Monte Carlo in the 1980s, on the 454SS pickup in the early 1990s, and a couple of other places.

In the 2000s, Chevrolet went on the offensive with the SS. Suddenly, it was popping up everywhere. On the Silverado, the Trailblazer, the Cobalt, the Impala, and even on the HHR.

Of course, Chevy's midsize offering, the Malibu, wasn't left out of the SS party.

The standard Malibu came with a 2.2 L four-cylinder or a 3.5L V6. The former came with 144 hp and the latter 200. Hardly high-performance figures, even back in 2006. And while the sixth-generation Malibu wasn't exactly bristling with excitement, it had some impressive bones.

Hidden under the odd chrome grille was GM's Epsilon platform designed for the Opel Vectra. A proper German autobahn-ready chassis, those European roots are apparent once you get in the Malibu. It doesn't feel much like anything else GM was offering at the time.

The original SS might have been about handling, but it wasn't long before the badge meant more power, too. And that's what it means in the Malibu SS. The venerable 3.5 L 60-degree V6 is booted for one that displaces 3.9 L. Chevy's performance folks also fitted ith with a variable-length intake plenum to offer better airflow. It even came with variable valve timing for both the intake and exhaust valves. Something GM said at the time was a first for a cam-in-block engine.

It was an engine that could rev quickly and sounded like no other GM pushrod V6 of the time. And while the redline was only 6,200 rpm, the engine was happy to pull to that figure.

It made 240 hp and 240 lb-ft. More impressively, 90 percent of that torque was on tap from 1,500 to 5,000 rpm.

It wasn't a rocket ship, but 6.9 seconds to 100 km/h wasn't bad for the time.

There were some other performance changes: new springs with specially valved struts, along with larger anti-roll bars to improve the drive. The electronic power steering was ditched for a conventional hydraulic rack that was supposed to offer improved steering feel.

Inside, the SS got special trim including a handsome three-spoke steering wheel.

Then there was the styling. Say goodbye to the ungainly Malibu grille in favour of a much smaller, much better-looking version. With a new bumper too. And those chunky 18-inch alloys.

And since the Malibu came as sedan and wagon, so did the SS. That's right, GM put the performance pack on the Malibu Maxx. Or MAXX as Chevrolet shouted it.

That gave the performance sedan space. Loads of space. 646 L with the seats up and 1,161 with the rear seats folded. Thanks to a wheelbase 152 mm longer than the sedan Chevrolet could make the rear seats slide fore and aft. With nearly 170 mm of travel. You could give rear seat passengers more than a metre of knee room. That's more than most business class airline seats. It's more than Chevrolet offers today in the gargantuan Suburban. More relevantly, at least to my family (which owned two non-SS versions in the 2000s), a six-foot-seven passenger could sit behind a six-foot-four driver. Comfortably. Try that in your modern crossover.

The SS Maxx was only built for a couple of years, which means that it wasn't exactly common. But they're out there, like this one for sale in Winnipeg. Just 148,000 km on the odometer, this is a very clean-looking example. Though the white paint stands out less than the laser blue that GM used for all of its media shots when the cars launched. What it does have is a rear-seat DVD player, which was far from common back in 2006.

So if you're looking for a quick wagon that you won't end up parked next to every time you're at the grocery store or the car show, then this 2006 Chevrolet Malibu Maxx SS might be exactly what you're looking for.

Maxx Power? 6/19/2019 12:42:11 PM