2020 Acura TLX vs. 2019 Chevrolet Malibu

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

The TLX V6’s optional pre-crash front seatbelts will tighten automatically in the event the vehicle detects an impending crash, improving protection against injury significantly. The Malibu doesn’t offer pre-crash pretensioners.

For enhanced safety, the front seat shoulder belts of the Acura TLX are height-adjustable to accommodate a wide variety of driver and passenger heights. A better fit can prevent injuries and the increased comfort also encourages passengers to buckle up. The Chevrolet Malibu doesn’t offer height-adjustable seat belts.

The TLX offers all-wheel drive to maximize traction under poor conditions, especially in ice and snow. The Malibu doesn’t offer all-wheel drive.

The TLX V6 offers an optional Surround View Camera System to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The Malibu only offers a rear monitor and front and rear parking sensors that beep or flash a light. That doesn’t help with obstacles to the sides.

Both the TLX and the Malibu have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, front wheel drive, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights, available blind spot warning systems and rear cross-path warning.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the Acura TLX is safer than the Chevrolet Malibu:

TLX

Malibu

Passenger

STARS

5 Stars

4 Stars

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does side impact tests on new vehicles. In this test, which crashes the vehicle into a flat barrier at 38.5 MPH, results indicate that the Acura TLX is safer than the Chevrolet Malibu:

TLX

Malibu

Front Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Chest Movement

.8 inches

1.1 inches

Abdominal Force

179 G’s

239 G’s

Rear Seat

STARS

5 Stars

4 Stars

HIC

229

460

Spine Acceleration

57 G’s

57 G’s

Hip Force

483 lbs.

809 lbs.

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

Warranty

The TLX comes with a full 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, which covers the entire car and includes 24-hour roadside assistance. The Malibu’s 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty expires 1 year and 14,000 miles sooner.

Acura’s powertrain warranty covers the TLX 1 year and 10,000 miles longer than Chevrolet covers the Malibu. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 6 years or 70,000 miles. Coverage on the Malibu ends after only 5 years or 60,000 miles.

The TLX’s corrosion warranty is unlimited miles longer than the Malibu’s (unlimited vs. 100,000 miles).

Reliability

A reliable vehicle saves its owner time, money and trouble. Nobody wants to be stranded or have to be without a vehicle while it’s being repaired. Consumer Reports rates the TLX’s reliability 20 points higher than the Malibu.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Acura vehicles are more reliable than Chevrolet vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Acura 10 places higher in reliability than Chevrolet.

Engine

The TLX’s standard 2.4 DOHC 4-cyl. produces 46 more horsepower (206 vs. 160) than the Malibu’s standard 1.5 turbo 4-cyl. The TLX’s optional 3.5 SOHC V6 produces 40 more horsepower (290 vs. 250) and 7 lbs.-ft. more torque (267 vs. 260) than the Malibu Premier’s standard 2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

As tested in Motor Trend the Acura TLX 4-cyl. is faster than the Chevrolet Malibu 1.5 turbo 4-cyl.:

TLX

Malibu

Zero to 60 MPH

7.2 sec

8.5 sec

Quarter Mile

15.6 sec

16.5 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

91.1 MPH

84.6 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

An engine control system that can shut down half of the engine’s cylinders helps improve the TLX V6’s fuel efficiency. The Malibu doesn’t offer a system that can shut down part of the engine.

The TLX has 1.4 gallons more fuel capacity than the Malibu (17.2 vs. 15.8 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.

Transmission

The TLX offers a standard sequential manual gearbox (SMG). With no clutch pedal to worry about and a fully automatic mode, an SMG is much more efficient than a conventional automatic but just as easy to drive. The Malibu doesn’t offer an SMG or a conventional manual transmission.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the TLX’s brake rotors are larger than those on the Malibu:

TLX

Malibu

Front Rotors

12.6 inches

11.8 inches

Rear Rotors

12.2 inches

11.3 inches

The TLX stops shorter than the Malibu:

TLX

Malibu

60 to 0 MPH

122 feet

127 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the TLX has larger standard tires than the Malibu (225/55R17 vs. 205/60R16).

The TLX’s standard tires provide better handling because they have a lower 55 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Malibu L/LS’ standard 60 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the TLX has standard 17-inch wheels. Smaller 16-inch wheels are standard on the Malibu L/LS.

The TLX has a standard easy tire fill system. When inflating the tires, the vehicle’s integrated tire pressure sensors keep track of the pressure as the tires fill and tell the driver when the tires are inflated to the proper pressure. The Malibu doesn’t offer vehicle monitored tire inflation.

Suspension and Handling

The TLX has vehicle speed sensitive variable-assist power steering, for low-effort parking, better control at highway speeds and during hard cornering, and a better feel of the road. The Malibu doesn’t offer variable-assist power steering.

The TLX V6 SH-AWD executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver quicker than the Malibu LT (26.7 seconds @ .76 average G’s vs. 27.4 seconds @ .63 average G’s).

Chassis

The TLX is 3.5 inches shorter than the Malibu, making the TLX easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

The TLX uses computer-generated active noise cancellation to help remove annoying noise and vibration from the passenger compartment, especially at low frequencies. The Malibu doesn’t offer active noise cancellation.

As tested by Car and Driver while at idle, the interior of the TLX V6 SH-AWD is quieter than the Malibu LT (39 vs. 42 dB).

Passenger Space

The TLX has 1.1 inches more front legroom, 1.2 inches more front hip room and 1.5 inches more rear hip room than the Malibu.

Cargo Capacity

A low lift-over trunk design makes loading and unloading the TLX easier. The TLX’s trunk lift-over height is 27.5 inches, while the Malibu’s liftover is 30.5 inches.

To allow full utilization of available cargo room, the TLX’s trunk lid uses concealed beam hinges that don’t intrude into the trunk. Its intrusive beam hinge reduces the Malibu’s useful trunk space.

With its sedan body style, valet key, locking rear seatbacks and remote trunk release lockout, the TLX offers cargo security. The Malibu’s non-lockable remote release defeats cargo security.

A standard locking glovebox (which can’t be accessed with the valet key) keeps your small valuables safer in the TLX. The Malibu doesn’t offer locking storage for small valuables.

Servicing Ease

The TLX uses gas struts to support the hood for easier service access. The Malibu uses a prop rod to support its heavy hood. It takes two hands to open the hood and set the prop rod, the prop rod gets in the way during maintenance and service, and the prop rod could be knocked out, causing the heavy hood to fall on the person maintaining or servicing the car.

J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that Acura service is better than Chevrolet. J.D. Power ranks Acura 6th in service department satisfaction (above the industry average). With a 21% lower rating, Chevrolet is ranked 13th.

Ergonomics

The TLX’s front and rear power windows all open or close with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside of the car. The Malibu’s standard power window switches have to be held the entire time to close them fully. The Malibu LT/Premier’s passenger windows don’t close automatically.

If the windows are left open on the TLX the driver can close them all at the outside door handle. On a hot day the driver can lower the windows at the outside door handle or from a distance using the keyless remote. The driver of the Malibu can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

The TLX has a standard locking fuel door with a remote release located convenient to the driver. A locking fuel door helps prevent vandalism, such as sugar in the tank and fuel theft. The Malibu doesn’t offer a locking fuel door.

The TLX’s standard speed-sensitive wipers speed up when the vehicle does, so that the driver doesn’t have to continually adjust the speed of the wipers. The Malibu’s manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted. The TLX’s optional wipers adjust their speed and turn on and off automatically according to the amount of rainfall on the windshield.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducts detailed tests on headlights for their range both straight ahead and in curves and to be certain they don’t exceed acceptable amounts of glare to oncoming drivers. The TLX’s headlights were rated “Acceptable” by the IIHS, while the Malibu’s headlights are rated “Poor.”

The TLX’s standard outside mirrors include heating elements to clear off the mirrors for better visibility. Chevrolet only offers heated mirrors on the Malibu LT/Premier.

The TLX V6 offers optional automatic dimming rear and side view mirrors which automatically darken quickly when headlights shine on them, keeping following vehicles from blinding or distracting the driver. The Malibu offers an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.

The TLX has a standard dual zone air conditioning allows the driver and front passenger to choose two completely different temperatures so people with different temperature preferences won’t have to compromise. This makes both the driver and front passenger as comfortable as possible. Dual zone air conditioning is only available on the Malibu LT/Premier.

Both the TLX and the Malibu offer rear vents. For greater rear passenger comfort, the TLX has standard rear air conditioning vents to keep rear occupants cool in summer or warm in winter. The Malibu L/LS/RS doesn’t offer rear air conditioning vents, only heat vents.

Bluetooth wireless connectivity is standard on the TLX, connecting the driver and passenger’s cell phones to the vehicle systems. This allows them to use the vehicle’s stereo and hand controls to place calls safely and easily. Chevrolet only offers wireless connectivity on the Malibu LS/LT/Premier.

Economic Advantages

The TLX will cost the buyer less in the long run because of its superior resale value. The IntelliChoice estimates that the TLX will retain 48.4% to 50.83% of its original price after five years, while the Malibu only retains 40.6% to 42.37%.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the TLX is less expensive to operate than the Malibu because typical repairs cost less on the TLX than the Malibu, including $186 less for a water pump, $103 less for front brake pads and $116 less for a timing belt/chain.

Recommendations

The Car Book by Jack Gillis recommends the Acura TLX, based on economy, maintenance, safety and complaint levels. The Chevrolet Malibu isn't recommended.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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