The HSV GTSR Maloo is the best version ever of the company's all-conquering V8 ute. But is it really worth 97 grand?
This is the latest, and definitely the greatest, HSV Maloo GTSR you will ever see and it is a little deceiving at first – just when I thought this new iteration wasn’t going to get any more potent than the last Maloo I drove, I was hit with a sudden belt of power after knocking it down a cog and sinking the boot in. This thing is quick. I mean, properly quick.
In came the supercharger loud and clear, as well as one hell-of-a-shove in the back, as the sticky Continental tyres buried themselves into the bitumen and catapulted this Sting Red beast towards the horizon.
Of course, it’s all down to some serious mechanical fury lurking under the bonnet. Engine bays aren’t something you tend to ogle these days, mostly because you can’t see anything, but for the plastic cover on top screening any semblance of metal and manifolds.
But this is different. It’s the last of the breed and it’s not going quietly, not by a long shot. And you’ll definitely want to pop the bonnet to have a look.
HSV’s engineers have extracted every ounce of power and torque possible from the 6.2-litre supercharged V8, which powers both the GTSR sedan and ute. Developing 435kW and 740Nm of torque, it’s also the most powerful LSA V8 ever built by HSV, trumped only by the T-Rex-size LS9 version in the GTSR W1, which makes a stratospheric 474kW and 815Nm.
It’s also the most expensive ute ever, with an eye-popping price tag of $96,990 plus on-roads for the six-speed manual, even more for the auto ($99,490). That’s big bucks, given you can have an R8 LSA 30 Years Maloo from $79,990 with the same supercharged V8, but making a slightly less 410kW and 691Nm.
And for that kind of money there’s also a wide and varied line-up of fast-car options available; many of which are quicker, less expensive and even more spacious than the GTSR Maloo.
What about the new second-generation Audi SQ5? It’s plenty quick and arrives next month for a tad less than $100K with heaps of luggage space. Or for something more focused, an Alfa Romeo 4C coupe for $89,000, or there’s a new Audi RS3 arriving shortly for around $85,000 and it’s as quick as the latest Porsche 911.
The choices don’t stop there, either. You can also get a Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG for just over $78,000, or the monster-powered Grand Cherokee SRT (just updated) with a 6.4-litre V8 for less than $92K. And that’s just a taste of what’s on offer.
However, lush Euro rides probably aren’t the look and feel you want at building sites, bar a top-spec Volkswagen Amarok. They’re just not an acceptable image for cashed-up tradies or pool company bosses. But a hundred-grand’s worth of Aussie performance ute, well, that’s different. It’s not only acceptable, it’s the Holy Grail.
Thankfully, that level of investment also buys you an inherent level of exclusivity, at least in this segment, given it’s the final iteration of the iconic coupe utility that Australia effectively brought to market way back in the 1930s.
While HSV will build around 1300 GTSR sedans (15 of those will be rebadged as Vauxhall VXR8 GTS-Rs), only 670 GTSR Maloos will roll out of the company's Clayton factory this year, effectively guaranteeing its collectable status.
There are three new colours marking the final iterations of the last Holden Special Vehicles range – Spitfire, a vibrant green; Son of a Gun, a gunmetal grey and Light My Fire, a metallic, burnt orange.
But our Sting Red GTSR Maloo tester also shouts from almost any angle, especially front-on. There’s simply no mistaking it for anything but the ‘full noise’ HSV ute. From its impossibly deep front bumper and even lower front splitter, to some of the biggest brake rotors on the planet, this is one ute that demands attention.
And that front bumper isn’t all show, either. Close inspection reveals three tiers of heat extraction vents, excluding those additional outlets behind the daytime running lights.
All the badges are blacked out – front and back, but it’s the 20-inch forged alloys finished in Hyper Dark Stainless, and exposing huge six-piston calipers by AP Racing, which are most impressive. That said, I can’t help wish they were shod with wider 305mm section tyres rather than 275s fitted – for no other reason than looks, and possibly better traction.
Not that this mega ute struggles for grip, mind. If you’ve never driven a current-generation HSV, then you’ll be blown away by what the engineers have created with the final version of the Gen-F chassis, particularly with regard to HSV’s GTSR models.
It might look intimidating, but believe me, this giant of utes is actually an easy car to drive, even in manual guise. Sure, the clutch is heavier than your average car, and the shift action is a bit notchy and needs a bit of a shove, sometimes. But it feels robust and more than able to handle the 740Nm of bitumen-bashing torque on offer.
And don’t panic if you end up stopped on Sydney’s ultra-steep Awaba Road, modern technology such as hill-hold assist prevents the car from rolling back, as soon as you engage the clutch pedal. It simply removes the panic that was once the bane of manual transmissions.
The steering is reasonably weighted, but not too much, as to be classed as heavy, so parking is easy enough, though you’ll need to rely solely on parking sensors and the rear-view camera. Why? Because you can’t see shit out of the rear screen, due to the twin aero-friendly bumps obscuring clear vision out back.
Back to that engine. Hit the starter button and after a few turns of the crank the 6.2-litre V8 fires to life with bark before settling down to a lazy 600rpm idle. Give it a decent prod (as you do) and there’s some crackle and pop as you come off the throttle, too. It’s a deeper, more involving tone than you get with those German super hatches from Mercedes-Benz and Audi.
There’s no actual loud button, either, the GTSR gets a hi-flow exhaust system with bi-modal mufflers, so that engine note is on tap 24/7, rain, hail or shine.
Get some clear road, wind it up, and you’ve got seemingly limitless levels of shove available. But to get the best out of the this super Maloo, you’ll need to keep the throttle pinned, because only then does it really come alive with all 740Nm.
Peak torque only comes on-song from 3850rpm, and that’s also when this forced-fed monster starts to sing its most sonorous tune. Seriously, it’s one of the world’s great mechanical symphonies – up there with the best from Europe – supercars included.
It’s one of those things you never seem to tire of, either, no matter how many times you hear it. It’s the epitome of muscle car heaven, at least in this country. Too bad this is the last iteration of it.
Even so, it’s an engine that never sounds like its working that hard, even when pushed. Even then it still feels like it’s got so much more to give.
While the steering rack itself could be a tad quicker and with less arm twirling required at roundabouts, the chassis itself is truly excellent. Ride comfort is outstanding in this class, much like every other Holden built on the Zeta Platform.
Unlike previous generations that were downright uncomfortable, even a motorway, and unbearable around suburbia (particularly without any weight in the tray), the GTSR Maloo simply dismisses bumps and broken road, as well as many luxury Euro models. We even found ourselves seeking out damaged roadside edges to test it further, and again, there’s enough pliancy built in to HSV’s Performance suspension to deal with it in exactly the same fashion.
Cornering prowess is good, too, with the Maloo more than able to handle chicanes and bends with a fair degree of enthusiasm, without ever feeling unsettled. Prod the throttle hard enough, though, from standstill and the rear tyres will relent under the load. But even then, it still feels sorted and entirely manageable when it does let go.
Equipped with monster-size 410mm brake rotors up front and 372mm down back, stopping power isn’t something you’ll ever need to worry about. The fronts alone are larger than those on the original Bugatti Veyron. It’s a comforting thought when you’re barrelling into a corner looking to wipe off lots of speed – quickly.
Also comforting are the ridiculously luxurious sports seats. They’re wrapped in a combination of stitched leather and quilted Alcantara with enough bolster and cushioning to provide hours of armchair comfort and torso-gripping support for those occasional track days.
There’s no shortage of standard kit on board including a decent size touchscreen, dual-zone climate control, power-adjustable front seat, satellite navigation and one of the best examples of a full-colour head-up display in the business – the clarity is exceptional, even compared to the best German brands.
That said, equipment levels still fall seriously short for a vehicle wearing a $97,000 price tag. For example, the power driver’s seat is only four-way, while the passenger seat is manually operated. There’s no Bose audio either, that’s reserved for the GTSR sedan and GTSR W1 version. The Maloo settles for a non-branded six-speaker unit, instead.
Thankfully, HSV hasn't skimped on safety, with the GTSR Maloo gaining a full suite of active and passive crash avoidance systems including six airbags, automatic park assist with front and rear parking sensors and rear-view camera, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, side blind zone alert and reverse traffic alert.
It’s all very well to call this an overpriced Holden ute, certainly that’s an impression some might make, at least, initially. But, at the end of the day, you’re buying an exclusive piece of history, the last of its kind and the best iteration ever of HSV’s all-conquering V8 ute.
Add to that a seriously quick car with one of the world’s most intoxicating engine notes, as well as an excellent chassis delivering good ride comfort and enough space in the tray for a 7ft surfboard, and it all starts to make sense.