2008 HSV Maloo Road Test
Recommended Retail Price: $59,990 (6sp Manual), $61,990 (6sp Auto).
Options Fitted: Performance Pack ($3,750).
- by Paul Maric
Dinner with a lady friend and then back to my place for...drinks. That was the plan anyway. As simple as it had seemed at the time, I wasn’t prepared for the Maloo intervention. Dinner was said, done and paid for, so it was onward to my place. As we reached the Maloo – parked in rock star position out front of the swanky restaurant – three burly gentlemen were hunkered over the car, observing every minor detail from the badges, right through to the faux air vents on the side skirts.
After a passing “Sick car, bro” comment, the biggest of the three men walked over to my lady friend and started talking – seemingly like they had known each other forever. It didn’t take long for me to realise that it was in fact her over protective brother that she was speaking to – about me. He didn’t seem all too impressed with my several attempts at wit, so as a last resort, I offered to take him for a spin around the block.
We climbed inside and I turned the key, bringing the 6.0-litre V8 behemoth to life. The number plates summed things up pretty nicely – “UTE307” – that’d be 307kWs...in a ute. It’s a recipe for opposite locking and plenty of tyre smoke in the regular HSV sedans, let alone in a ute with barely any weight over the rear treads!
After driving both the SS and Omega utes, I was very impressed with the compromise Holden had struck between practicality and driveability. The new range of Holden utes is literally sedan-like when it comes to handling, negating any shonky and abrupt chassis scuttle over rough surfaces and sub-par handling often associated with work utes.
The Maloo is much the same as Holden’s range of utes, except it further concentrates on the handling portion of things, bringing with it a firmer ride, bigger wheels and tyres, along with more horses under the bonnet.
The first thing that hit me – and something I wasn’t expecting to be so bad – was the absolutely appalling rearward vision. The previous VE Holden utes I had driven were pretty average with regards to rearward vision, but the Maloo was just a whole other kettle of fish.
Thankfully it was equipped with rear parking sensors, but the combination of high waistline and massive gills on the Maloo's exclusive hardtop meant that reversing was an extremely trivial and often dangerous task, as it was nigh on impossible to see anything out the rear window.
From the exterior, it’s hard not to like what HSV has done. Ford fans who tell you the Maloo looks crap are lying – they secretly love it too. If the optional 20” wheels don’t grab your attention, the sculpted side skirts and HSV front end surely will. At the rear, quad pipes and a unique Maloo rear end provide automotive erotica for those following.
The hardtop was built specifically for the HSV Maloo and uses an electronic release mechanism to lock and unlock the hardtop. It’s a great idea – especially when you store valuable items in the tray. The electronic release on the test vehicle broke after the second day though. The problem seemed to arise after the vehicle was washed with a high pressure hose. After pressing the release button on the key, it would make an awful electronic buzzing noise. It would only sometimes lock correctly and then only unlock on other such rare occasions.
I was also often fearful of the external Maloo badges being stolen by thoughtless morons had they had the opportunity. The badges seemed quite cheap and easy to tear off given a little bit of effort.
Badges and trivial hardtop locking mechanisms aside, the Maloo is an absolute rocket! No matter which gear you’re in, the hulking 6.0-litre V8 pulls effortlessly. During testing on an open stretch of country road, a fierce high-rpm gear change from second to third made the car feel like it was about to take off, such is the raw and relentless power delivery on offer.
Measuring – or attempting to measure – naught to one-hundred times became a non-event pretty quickly. Not so much because of a lack of power or anything to do with the mechanics, it was simply due to the impossibility of getting the power to the ground. Launch the car from any higher than 2300RPM and the rears instantly light up, shaving precious tread off the 275mm wide rear Bridgestones. The end result was a moderate stab of the throttle right after launch and pinpoint alterations in throttle pressure to control the rears. In the end, a mid 5-second 0-100km/h run was recorded – very impressive for a work horse.
Steering is taken care of by a HSV styled steering wheel, not dissimilar to the one used in the Clubsport R8 and GTS. Steering response and feel is also on par with its sedan siblings, a light feel to the steering along with decent accuracy are impressive traits the Maloo boasts.
A 6-speed manual gearbox and an optional 6-speed automatic gearbox are available to send power through. The test vehicle was fitted with the slick shifting 6-speed manual gearbox. Shifts from first to second require a hearty slam, while the transition through the rest of the cogs is more seamless. The pedals are adequately spaced for heel-toeing, catering for the enthusiastic driver.
Holden’s ESP system does a brilliant job when put to use throughout HSV’s range – including the Maloo. The ESP light often flashes in the background when giving the Maloo the beans, generally just limiting torque slightly, instead of stopping all power to the wheels. When the back end steps out, the system allows some foreplay before it steps in again to bring things under control.
Interior build quality is nothing to write home about. Much like most other VE Commodores I’ve driven, the handbrake fails to sit flush with the console when released and the glovebox randomly releases when there is a little too much weight in there. The quality of materials is good though, helping the interior feel quite sturdy and firm.
The sound system is another gripe I continuously have with Holden’s VE range. Even in higher models like the Maloo, the sound system fails to offer any great deal of bass and begins distorting before reaching attentive levels. It’s an easy to use system though, the large LCD screen allows the customisation of the equaliser, along with easy transition through tracks and radio stations.
The Maloo is more of a show-pony than a work horse though. A payload of just 500kg means that carting an extensive load is best left to your work mates.
Thankfully, turning corners isn’t a lost cause for this endeavouring brute. The sport tuned suspension allows the car to sit flat through a corner and track much like its sedan counterparts. Piling on power mid-corner doesn’t result in loads of oversteer – which is very good news for a performance ute. If you are liberal with the throttle and don’t get over-enthusiastic, the Maloo can be quite a rewarding drive, not often associated with a utility.
Under the bonnet, HSV’s 6.0-litre V8 LS2 engine produces 307kW and 550Nm of torque. Fuel consumption on test was 15.9L/100km, which isn’t too bad when you consider the lack of highway driving and the aggressive driving style exhibited during the test.
Priced from $59,990 for the 6-speed manual and $61,990 for the 6-speed automatic, an optional ‘performance pack’ can be had for an additional $3,750 – which includes leather/suede Onyx performance seats and 20” wheels.
Despite its shortcomings the Maloo is an absolute hoot to drive. It’s the type of car that seeks attention anywhere it goes. Although it’s nigh on impossible to reverse, it makes up for it with absolutely stellar performance and enough space in the rear for a dirt bike weekend away. It’s the cheapest way to get into a V8 HSV – and in my opinion, it’s the best looking one in their range. Just wait ‘til the Yanks get hold of this.
Now, back to my story. I ended up winning over the brother, but the girl ended up being a waste of time. Suffice to say, he absolutely loved the ute – as did his mates. He does have another sister though...so not all hope is lost.
Top speed: N/A
Safety: Electronic stability control- front air bags - front seatbelt pre-tensioners and load limiters.
NCAP rating: N/A
Turning circle: 11.4m
Fuel tank: 73-litres
Fuel consumption : 14.9L litres/100km (auto), 15.8 litres/100km (manual)
Fuel type: 98RON premium unleaded