Saturday 10 June 2006

2008 Chevrolet Malibu Underway To Production

A new, never-before-seen prototype has just broken cover on GM's testing circuit, providing what appears to be our first glimpse of the 2008 Chevy Impala (or a 2008 Malibu - see the note below). We snapped this minimally disguised prototype traversing a distant road deep within one of GM's U.S. Proving Grounds. The great distance between car and camera has made the checkerboard camouflage tape a little more effective, obscuring some of this prototype's more minute details.

Therefore, there is admittedly some degree of speculation involved in calling this the next-generation Impala, but we are confident this is a Chevrolet. The prototype's grille is divided by a Chevy-like crossbar, in the center of which lies a taped-over badge that looks suspiciously like the size and shape of the Chevrolet bow tie.

Searching GM's recent design exercises for similar styling cues brought us to the 2003 Chevrolet SS concept. Although there isn't much synergy between that voluptuous show car sedan and this real-world prototype, it's immediately apparent that the shape of their grilles are nearly identical - suggesting that Chevrolet designers may have been looking to their recent past for detail inspiration. The prototype also appears to have round taillamps - a key design trait of Impalas from 2001-05 and the classic Impalas of the late '50s and early '60s. The rest of the car looks clean and modern, with sharp creases and a strong stance aided by its long wheelbase and relatively short front and rear overhangs.

Since early this year, GM has been finalizing its plans on the next Impala, struggling with a key decision between front- and rear-wheel drive. The leading proposal would have GM utilizing its Global RWD Architecture (formerly known as Zeta), which will spawn its first model later this year as the replacement for the Australian Holden Commodore. According to an article by Rick Kranz in the February 6,
2006 issue of Automotive News: "Within four or five months, GM will determine which U.S. brands will be tagged for RWD and which RWD model or models those brands will receive. The first car is expected to go on sale in late 2007 or early 2008....As for the Impala, GM's design studio is prepared for the decision - both RWD and FWD versions of the next-generation Impala have been finalized. All that remains is the decision."

Well, it's four months later and a this prototype has appeared, its proportions looking very close to a prototype for the Zeta-based Holden Commodore we shot in this same GM test track last November. It's not iron-clad proof, but it looks to us that the next Impala may have gone rear-wheel drive to gain some performance-car credibility, and to do battle with Chrysler's popular 300C.

UPDATE: Several sources have written to TheCarConnection, reporting that this vehicle is the 2008 Chevrolet Malibu. There remains some disagreement over whether the Impala will be replaced in 2008 or 2010; stay tuned for more information as we uncover more about this new GM vehicle.

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