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For those interested in such things, there's delicious irony in my long weekend behind the wheel of the limited edition HSV GTS Maloo – which HSV refers to as 'arguably the most powerful ute in the world'.
First, consider some tasty specification morsels I have at my beck and call: a 6.2-litre supercharged LSA V8 engine; heavy-duty six-speed automatic (which has a new feature); 430kW at 6150rpm; and 740Nm at 3850rpm. And I’ve got the keys over a double-demerit point long weekend…
On the positive side of the equation, HSV has pulled some strings so that CarAdvice can be among the first testers anywhere to drive the new GTS Maloo. HSV dealers haven’t even seen the car I’m driving.
HSV hasn’t released an official 0-100km/h figure as yet, but the GTS sedan covers the sprint in 4.4 seconds and the kerb weight of the sedan and Maloo ute are within 30kg of each other. Safe to assume then that this HSV GTS Maloo is plenty fast enough, and it might also be the fastest ute in the world too.
Unlike Ford, which seems to be slinking into production obscurity with barely a whimper, Holden (and subsidiary HSV) is intent on going out with a sonic boom. It’s not cheap at $87,990 for the manual, but if you can afford an HSV GTS Maloo and you’re into hot Holdens, I’d recommend buying one. A production run of only 250 (ten will go to New Zealand) almost certainly ensures this vehicle is set to become a future collector’s classic.
There’s one other thing related to the new feature the gearbox has. Paddle shifters. Yep, this GTS Maloo is the first HSV to wear them – sedans will follow. So for the duration of my test, every time I park the Maloo, I have to cloak the steering wheel in a special cover. Makes me feel like a clandestine test and evaluation driver knowing I’m driving something dealers haven’t even laid eyes on. The auto 'box adds $2500 to the price.
I won’t go for the easy win and lament what we’ll be losing when Holden stops building the Commodore in 2017, rather I’ll rejoice in what we have now. Sure, it’s the end of an era for Australian manufacturing and that’s genuinely sad, but this current crop of HSVs is the very best the company has ever built.
If you’re familiar with the GTS sedan, the GTS Maloo has two key differences. First there’s obviously no second row seating, and there’s also no magnetised damper system. HSV tells us the exotic suspension has been overlooked to keep costs somewhat manageable. The sedan became the fastest production car built in Australia, now the GTS Maloo joins the stable.
HSV has been working on this for some time too. It’s not a simple plug and play affair, with some genuine engineering required to shoehorn the supercharged bent eight into the (slightly different) Maloo architecture.
The first thing that grabs your attention is the styling. Resplendent in all-new ‘Jungle Green’ our test Maloo looks aggressive and purposeful from every angle. It’s low too, you’ll need to watch that front lip when you approach those annoying carpark tyre stops. Around town though, crawling in and out of driveways and over speed humps, the GTS Maloo is never so low that it’s annoying.
The only challenge the styling throws up is rear, three-quarter visibility. The high-haunched tray cover, which looks sensational side on, can limit rearward visibility a little. The reverse camera helps and if you use the side mirrors carefully, it’s less of an issue. On the plus side for the tray cover, there’s a remote popper on the key fob.
The LED daytime running lights add a premium touch and the 20-inch ‘Blade’-design forged alloy wheels look sensational in a subtle, darker finish. Yellow GTS badging and the LSA badge indicates the driver has serious weaponry at their disposal.
Inside the cabin, there are beautifully sculpted sports seats and tastefully finished leather trim. There’s plenty of room too, storage areas behind the seats mean there’s plenty of track movement to get the seat far enough away from the wheel for tall drivers.
The Holden MyLink system is great. It’s so easy to use, pairing your mobile is simple and fast, the sat nav is clear and easy to decipher and the screen is angled perfectly to be visible in almost every lighting situation.
I loved the head-up display, which can be customised through a range of different screens to suit your preference. My favourite was the display that had tacho, speed limit and actual road speed visible. I also liked the ease with which you can select different drive modes via the ‘Driver Preference Dial’ mounted on the centre console behind the shifter. Switch between Touring, Sport and Performance depending on your mood.
A word of warning though, toggle around to Performance and the bi-modal exhaust system opens to ‘full noise’. The V8 bellow is as intoxicating as you’d hope, and you’ll almost certainly select Performance most of the time.
I tested the paddle shifters both under load and around town and they work seamlessly. The heavy-duty gearbox, which needs to be able to cope with redline shifting stupidity and day-to-day cruising is smooth at any speed. It shifts quickly without labouring and is rapid enough when you opt to self-shift to justify the addition of the paddle-shift system. You can still opt for a conventional six-speed manual, but the auto is so seamless and the engine generates so much torque, that I can’t see why you’d want the manual.
HSV’s premium brake package is impressive. At any speed, stopping is confidence inspiring and fade free. Lightweight AP Racing forged six-piston calipers and whopping 390mm rotors lurk behind the front wheels. Out back, the GTS Maloo wears 372mm rotors.
The GTS Maloo is far more capable than a ute has any right to be when it comes to handling. Launch hard in Performance mode and the rear end squats a little as the torque is transferred, then the GTS Maloo rockets forward with relentless urge. It keeps piling on power too, a subtle whine from the supercharger teaming with the engine’s thunderous note as the revs climb.
The GTS Maloo gets HSV’s clever torque vectoring system, which claims to help reduce understeer. I didn’t get the chance to test that on the street, but we’ll be sure to punt the Maloo on track when we next get one into the CarAdvice garage to see how much the system helps keep the front end pointed where you want it to go.
The HSV GTS Maloo is not perfect. Despite careful use of the throttle pedal for my 200km-plus city run, I couldn’t get the fuel consumption to dip below 20L/100km, which isn’t pretty in this age of decreasing fuel usage. My measured return was 20.6L/100km over nearly 300km. That limited rear visibility I mentioned could be a bugbear for some too. Whip the dial around to Performance mode though and any negatives fade into obscurity, overshadowed by the deafening bellow of that old-school V8 engine.
On the subject of fuel consumption, I’m not sure it’s the issue we might think it is if you dig a little deeper . I had lengthy conversations with five different current HSV Maloo owners around the traps when I had the GTS Maloo on test. “Couldn’t care less how much fuel it uses mate!” was the response to my query about whether fuel consumption was an issue.
If you measure the success of an automotive release by street presence and the reaction of other motorists, the GTS Maloo is going to be a rip-roaring win for HSV. Just about everyone loved this ute. Our photo shoot in a new housing estate was like a celebrity door stop once the tradies heard the GTS Maloo prowling around and in traffic, everyone was taking a look.
The 2015 HSV GTS Maloo is a typically riotous, slightly insane, performance utility that is in reality a blue-collar vehicle under the skin. However, it has premium touches, higher build quality than ever before and serious, world-class power under the bonnet.
There’s nothing sensible or understated about the GTS Maloo, especially if you see one in Jungle Green. The great Aussie V8 has never been about sensibility and refinement though. It’s always been brash, noisy, a little intimidating and muscular. This might be the last of the breed, but it’s very much synonymous with its history.
Do you need this much power and performance in a utility? No. Would I own one? Absolutely.