Cruising the Death Valley

Recently, XY tested the 2008 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid in Death Valley, California with Guinness Record holding speedster, Garry Sowerby. It proved how important the suspension is to your car’s handling and performance.

Death Valley is an easy and stunning 2.5-hour drive from that ADHD-unfriendly frenzy, Las Vegas. Minutes out of Sin City, you’re amidst tawny mountains and desert. The drive through Death Valley is an ongoing series of surprises. Describing places of such impossible natural beauty beggars the imagination. Hence the clumsily obvious names of wonders like Badwater and Echo Canyon. What you’re seeing is so unrealistic (remember those rock formations in the Roadrunner cartoons?) the literal labels are grounding. Amidst this delicate environmental balance, it felt virtuous driving the hybrid but, more practically, let’s discuss its suspension.

Deserts are bumpy. Bumps are fun.

One and a half miles from the highway, the trail begins for the (again obviously named) Natural Bridge Canyon. The “road” between them was pockmarked like Swiss cheese, more suitable for an Apollo landing than a sedan. Imagine your town’s worst potholes five years after the rapture. It would have been as fast to walk as to not test the 4-wheel independent suspension.

But this was the 2008 North American Car of the Year. So we tested the suspension. Hard.

It regularly felt like there was spread of over a foot between the heights of different wheels. It rattled like hell but the Malibu remained surprisingly stable. You heard the dropping but rarely really felt it. After three miles of bump and grind, we were back on the highway to Vegas which bends, dips and flows; yes, there was still much testing to do! The car still gripped the curves like a randy teenager during a slow dance. Two thumbs and one spine up.

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