There aren’t many unique cars in the homogenised world of modern motoring, but the HSV (Holden Special Vehicles) Maloo R8 LSA is surely an exception that proves the rule.
The doomed Holden Ute already has a place in the annals of Aussie motoring. But the final hardcore road-going versions? They're going to roll right off the HSV factory floor and into folklore.
Really, what could be more defiantly anachronistic than a two-door ute with a supercharged V8, sending torque to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox?
This green dragon represents the culmination of 30 years of HSV tuning in Australia, turning Holden cars both good and bad into fire-breathing beasts, true performance cars without pretension, muscle cars defying modernity.
The $79,990 (plus on-roads) HSV Maloo R8 LSA serves as the entry point to the 2017 HSV 30 Years family, the final range to be built off the locally manufactured ‘Zeta’ platform before Holden’s plant near Adelaide shutters in October, and the brand turns fully to imports.
In a film tracking Australian motoring, the final run of Australian-made Holdens with HSV handiwork would be a perfect denouement, with the MY17 Maloo in a leading role.
Enough floweriness. The R8 LSA will actually be the tier-two HSV ute below the even more potent $96,990 GTSR Maloo, but can still comfortably claim to be Australia's ultimate workhorse. Or perhaps show-pony, given the LED daytime running lights, quad pipes, hard tonneau with sail plane and lurid paint.
Under the bonnet of the Maloo R8 LSA is the familiar 6.2 Litre supercharged LSA Generation IV Alloy V8 engine massaged to 410kW and 691Nm (up 10kW and 20Nm over the MY16 iteration through a calibration upgrade).
Peak power doesn’t hit until you’re beyond 6000rpm, and peak torque (pulling power) clocks on at 4200rpm according to HSV’s dyno testing, meaning this is an engine happy to carry high revolutions that bely its displacement.
It’s incredibly muscular and aural, especially at the sportier end of the spectrum on the Driver Preference Dial, muttering ferociously around town and grumbling like a grieving Tom Waits under firmer working of the right foot, with the hint of supercharger whine overlaid.
Have a listen to the exhaust note, below.
In our tester, this was matched to a TR6060 Tremec six-speed manual gearbox with twin-plate clutch, sending torque to the rear wheels. The clutch is heavy, but the shift action is mechanical and direct, and the engagement factor high.
For those reluctant to use a third (alloy) pedal, there's a $2500 more expensive six-speed automatic with paddle shifters.
To make the 2017 Maloo R8 LSA just that little bit more antisocial, HSV has also tweaked its bi-modal exhaust, re-calibrating the exhaust valve control so it can open earlier in the rev range, meaning less throttle pressure is required to hear the American Iron sing.
You know, just in case a bright Spitfire green ute with a bodykit didn’t attract enough attention already…
True to the wisdom of Dylan Thomas, HSV has raged against the dying of the light. But just like the wild Welsh (correction) poet, it also has a bit of a drinking problem. Keeping fuel use below 20L/100km in the city is a fair achievement.
Dynamically, the 30 Years range of HSV product all get brake torque vectoring (previously the domain of the flagship GTS) with the intention of reducing understeer by generating rotational moment in the rear axle when the vehicle is under power.
Basically, the ESC detects when the front wheels are pushing, then applies braking to the inside rear wheel and transfers torque to the outside rear wheel to rotate the car around. We’re not sure how you’d manage to understeer a RWD V8, but still…
Hauling all this in (stopping the music, in HSV parlance) are AP Racing radical forged four-piston brake calipers with rotors that measure 367mm up front and 372mm at the rear. Under the body are MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link setup at the rear.
Based on all this data, you’d be forgiven for thinking the HSV Maloo R8 LSA would be the automotive equivalent of riding a bucking bull. But in actuality, it’s only a monster that needs taming if you want it to be. Corner-carving is surprisingly achievable.
The torque vectoring system helps the 1825kg behemoth feel light on its feet and much more nimble than you’d think. You don’t wrestle it through corners — you just adjust the well-weighted electro-assisted steering and control the body with footwork.
Don’t let anyone tell you this is a straight-line specialist, even if those bloody massive A-pillars make seeing through corners more difficult than it should be.
On a side note, the GVM of just over 2400kg means the loading capacity in the tray is minimal, though the hard tonneau will protect your tools. Think of the Maloo instead as a coupe with a really big boot.
The HSV Performance suspension is firm, and there’s not a lot of ContiSportContact rubber on those 20-inch wheels, but the body control is suitably disciplined against lateral forces, and mid-corner grip quite good.
There’s some of that signature rear-end ‘skippiness’ if you hit a corrugation mid-corner, but HSV has tamed the beast remarkably well. It’s never comfortable exactly, but you’ll chew up B-roads and even ungraded gravel better than almost anything European.
The HSV Performance seats trimmed in Onyx leather and featuring four-way electric adjustment are the antithesis of mean-bolstered racing buckets, though their width and plushness is not mutually exclusive to supportiveness.
Other standard fare includes potent dual-zone climate control (summer ain't no thing), nifty leather wheel with the HSV badge, alloy pedals, HSV gauges and drive mode dial, and gear shifter and satellite-navigation.
Have a listen to our Bluetooth audio test, below.
There's also front/side/curtain airbags, park assist, a head-up display, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring (good, because rear visibility is the worst of any car on sale, bar none), reversing camera and rear cross-traffic alert.
The 30 Years range also gets unique floor mats, fender badges, a rear window sticker and a unique engine build plate.
There's no shortage of options, including the GTS's Enhanced Driver Interface (displays performance related data including vehicle dynamics, engine rpm, G-forces and brake/throttle pressure) for $1095, six-piston GTS brakes ($550), and various different wheel and fender packages.
Honestly, what else is there to say about the MY17 Maloo R8 LSA? If you just want one, you'll have one.
If there's one take-away here, it's just how good HSV has become at sharpening the cars it fettles. The fact that this razor-like load-lugger will never be the tip of the spear in an attack on the global car market, and will instead settle for relative obscurity, is more than a crying shame.
On the other hand, HSV is going nowhere. It'll likely rework Holden's new imported European Commodore (an AWD V6 turbo, perhaps) and probably the Colorado, given dual-cabs are the new lifestyle vehicle of choice for cashed-up tradies.
And if the final run of models from its 30 Years family (and the GTSR and W1) tell us anything, it's that this is one company committed to our market, and capable of fast-tracking coal to diamonds.
Handing back the keys to this beast was hard, mostly because the mist in my eyes made the door handle at HSV headquarters hard to locate. Bye bye, you magnificent beast, and good luck to whichever enthusiast makes their garage your home.
Click the Photos tab for more images by Tom Fraser