2016 HSV Maloo R8 SV Black review

$47,270 $56,210 Dealer
  • Fuel Economy
    12.6L
  • Engine Power
    340kW
  • CO2 Emissions
    300g
  • ANCAP Rating
    5Stars

HSV's limited-edition Maloo R8 SV Black is a final fling for the LS3 engine, and it's a fitting farewell for one of the best naturally aspirated Yankee V8 engines of all time.

The 2016 HSV Maloo R8 SV Black, which is yet another head-kicking V8 product we’ll sadly miss when the Commodore takes its final bow in 2017, has only two issues. Funnily enough, both come from within the greater Holden stable.

The first is the Holden Commodore SS V Redline, which sits directly below it (but atop the Holden utility range) in price, power and specification. The second is the HSV Maloo GTS, which sits above it in the HSV portfolio and delivers a knockout blow in terms of power and torque.

You see, the SS V Redline is such compelling value for money it’s almost impossible to argue that it isn’t a properly smart buying proposition, while the Maloo GTS is such a potent weapon with the addition of LSA power, it’s the ultimate ‘HSV two-door with a big boot’ for those desiring of such folly.

The Maloo R8 SV Black (let’s hitherto refer to it as SV Black for your sanity and mine), sits somewhere in the no man’s land in between those two vehicles. While it is indeed an exceptional utility with more than enough power, I can’t help but think the advice I’d be giving buyers is as follows. If you have the readies, dig a little deeper and get the Maloo GTS. If money is a consideration, maybe save some and get the SS V Redline, because it will certainly put a smile on your face and deliver everything we love about the V8 engine.

Having said all that, the SV Black is a limited edition, which is going to be one of the last of its kind, and you know how Australians feel about a limited edition muscle car. With Euro V emissions regulations coming into play, the LS3 is taking it’s final Euro IV-compliant bow.

So, with those gripes out of the way, let’s take a look at why you would buy the 2016 HSV Maloo R8 SV Black – and it almost certainly doesn’t involve the potential to use it for work purposes. You should definitely think of the Maloo as a two-door sports car with a huge boot, rather than a beefed-up work hack. In fact, it could be one of the cheapest ways into the V8-powered sports car sphere, even if it isn’t quite as refined as some.

Pricing for this limited edition model starts from $62,990 plus the usual raft of on-road costs and our test example is bog, stock standard. Under the bonnet, there is therefore, a 6.2-litre petrol V8 LS3 engine, which pounds out 340kW at 6000rpm and 570Nm at 4600rpm while using an ADR-claimed 12.6L/100km.

On test, we used an indicated 15.8L/100km, which, given the amount of grunt on offer, is impressive to say the least. We managed to keep that number down with a few days of restrained city cruising. Get too enthusiastic with the throttle pedal though, and that number will start to climb. The engine note means you’ll be tempted, don’t worry about that.

Importantly, this is the first time the LS3 engine has been available in the GEN-F2 R8 range. If you love a fast, powerful Australian utility vehicle that looks as tough as it sounds, this limited edition special should be high on your list of considerations. Even if there are other options – as mentioned above – that might make more sense or cost less money. There’s a 60kW and 101Nm deficit to the mountainous power and torque outputs of the LSA for starters, so there’s no doubt this is the ‘little’ brother. It sounds like a little brother too, in fact we’d like the SV Black to be significantly louder.

Outside, the SV Black is distinctive thanks to its satin black 20-inch alloy wheels, forged black AP Racing four-piston calipers, black door surrounds and lower door accents, shadow chrome exhaust caps, and black badging. The front quarter vents and mirror caps are also black.

Inside the cabin, the SV Black doesn’t feel quite as bespoke as the Maloo GTS because it isn’t fitted with HSV’s excellent seats. Rather, it gets the same pews as the lesser SS V Redline, but with HSV embroidery, and there are also special side sills with numbered plaques.

Despite missing out on the quality HSV seats, the SV Black’s cabin is still a comfortable place to park your backside and there’s more useful storage than you might think, too. There’s even room for backpacks and small bags behind the seats, which is a little bonus.

While the infotainment system is no technological tour de force, it does work well and SV Black gets satellite navigation, a rear-view camera, dual-zone air conditioning and a more than adequate six-speaker BOSE audio system. There’s also a head-up display, which is clear in all lighting conditions.

Notable safety inclusions cover forward collision warning, lane-keep assist and blind-spot monitoring as well as the other usual electronics like traction/stability control and ABS. One area the Maloo continues to confound us is visibility. Specifically, rearward viability and by that I mean it is bloody horrible. The haunches of the Maloo are already quite tall, so when you add the large humps of the hard lid into the equation, things just get worse. At low speed, when you're trying to park and manoeuvre, it's almost a deal breaker for us. Nearly every CarAdvice tester who spent time behind the wheel took issue with it.

Given the standard manual gearbox, it’s important to get into the perfect driving position, unlike an auto, which affords you the opportunity to be a little lazier with the way you position yourself in the driver’s seat. We liked the adjustability of the seat and steering column and found it easy to get comfortable, while still being positioned right where we needed to be to best operate the clutch pedal.

Speaking of which, the clutch pedal is meaty in its operation, which is exactly what we’d like and expect from a transmission backing a beefy V8 engine. The physical gearshift action is likewise solid and heavy duty without being ridiculously heavy. Again, it might not be as slick as the best shift in the business – something like an MX-5 – but it’s got the tough, hewn-from-teak feel we expect from a muscle car.

The torque the LS3 generates and the way in which it comes into its peak is such that you can roll along lazily without requiring much in the way of throttle input – if you want to. The reality though is dictated by the shriek of the bent eight as it approaches its redline, which is both intoxicating and hard to resist. This is another instance where the manual sets itself apart from the auto. It might just be me, but I’m more inclined to nudge the redline when I’ve got a manual gearbox to manipulate. An auto seems so much more conducive to cruising, so this Maloo experienced a reasonably solid working over.

While the engine isn’t the match of the downright nasty LSA (as you’d expect), it is still worthy of its place among GM’s finest. It is smooth and effortless in the way it revs out to that 6000rpm redline, piling on speed, encouraging you to keep making it work for a living, yet never feeling strained or under the pump. The V8 engine remains a true epic in so many ways, and there’s no doubt Holden fans are going to miss these HSVs when they are no more to be had.

The Maloo might be more prone to putting on smoke shows in a – largely – straight line than carving through corners at warp speed, but it can nonetheless tackle a twisty road with composure. While it's not as nimble on its feet as an outright sports car, it can be hustled along rapidly and safely. The steering retains the same weighty heft of the gearshift, but is positive and never too heavy.

We were surprised by how adept the SV Black is even without weight in the tray, but the usual proviso of a high-powered RWD V8 remains. It has a tendency to want to light the rear tyres up at will and will step out of line if you push too hard. Grip is assured up to that point though, meaning you can have plenty of fun safely.

Four piston calipers with 367mm rotors front and rear ensure the braking ability is up to the task of hauling the SV Black back down from speed too, a feature not always worth noting in regard to Australian cars of old. What the brakes do deliver is that duality between high-speed certainty and low speed comfort that makes tooling around town pleasurable for both driver and passenger.

The ride is impressive too, especially given the 20-inch wheels and low profile rubber. The old adage ‘Australian-built for Australian roads’ certainly rings true here, with the suspension tune being intrinsically well suited to our fairly average roads. The Maloo never thumps or bottoms out when you’re tackling poor surfaces either – it feels comfortable and solid.

Returning to my original point then, would I buy an SV Black? The answer is slightly confusing given the explanation I gave at the outset. I’d definitely stump up the cash needed to secure an LSA-powered GTS if money wasn’t my main concern. There’s no doubt the LSA is a weapon, one of the great V8 engines, and there’s simply no replacement for brute power and force.

However, the limited nature of the SV Black means it is sure to be a smart buy for those already attracted to the Maloo platform. The days of the Aussie V8 are drawing to a close and HSV continues to ensure it goes out with a bang.

Click on the Photos take for more images by Sam Venn.