HSV has produced what must surely be the world’s best Ute in their 20 Years of Maloo R8.
MODEL REVIEWED: HSV 20 Years of Maloo R8: 6.2-litre LS3 V8, six-speed manual transmission - $67,900 (MLP)
Even when you stomp on the throttle from a standing start, and unleash the full force of 317 kW and 550 Nm, the new HSV Maloo R8 manages to put all that power down without any silly messing about. Clearly, HSV has come a long way in 20 years.
HSV is credited with creating the performance Ute segment with the original VG Maloo in 1990, which developed 180 kW and 400 Nm – strong performance for its day. Over the ensuing years, the model has evolved from generation to generation, but this E3 HSV Maloo is a big jump forward in every way.
I’ve never owned a Ute, but every time I book one for review, I never want to hand the keys back, and always end up moaning to the wife that we need one of these in the garage, such is their versatility and general usefulness. It’s a lot easier to throw those broken pedestal fans and other useless rubbish into the back of a Ute for a weekend run to the tip, rather than have to re-configure the seating and dirty up the family SUV unnecessarily.
The HSV Maloo R8 is the top of the line Ute for Holden Special Vehicles, but this test car is something special again. You’re looking at the E3 anniversary model that pays homage to 20 years of Maloo production, from when it was first shown at the Sydney Motor Show in October 1990.
I was quietly hoping for the auto transmission, given our base is in traffic-congested Sydney, and the peak hour crawl in a high-powered car with a manual box can be a torturous affair. Despite my preference, that’s exactly what I’ve ended up with, the standard fit six-speed manual transmission, and after only a few shifts, I’m grateful for my perceived misfortune, as this is just too much fun.
Don’t expect to see too many of these anniversary editions of the HSV Maloo around either, as HSV are only making 100 of them, so exclusivity is guaranteed.
From it’s Daytime Running Lamps and technology package that includes HSV’s Enhanced Driver Interface (EDI), Side Blind Zone Alert (SBZA), Rear Park Assist and Satellite Navigation, the HSV Maloo R8 is now an excellent blend of performance and technology, something that was sadly lacking in older generations of this model.
The additional $3,300 premium for this special edition HSV Maloo seems like a bargain, when you consider the extra kit involved. The 20-inch GTS wheels in black highlight alone would set you back more than that alone. HSV has also added “Vector” E-vents on the side and hood scoops and they set the car off nicely, given the model’s performance pedigree.
HSV’s bi-modal exhaust system is another added feature, but I’m still trying to understand what exactly that is. Not so with the Enhanced Driver Interface, which streams real-time vehicle dynamics and performance data to a touch screen in the centre console. It’s a great bit of technology that can measure everything from lap times to g-forces, as well as functioning as a large face stopwatch and various other data gauges.
The Side Blind Zone is another welcome piece of technology that is still only found on premium marques, but almost mandatory when you consider the accident avoidance potential of such a device when travelling on busy multi-lane roads.
HSV’s sports leather seats will fit a wide range of body shapes, due to the shape of the substantial side bolster. Even when corning hard through the twisty bits, the driver remains well supported without any compromise to comfort.
There’s also been a big re-think when it comes to the interior treatment and quality of interior trim with the Series 3 HSV Maloo. I particularly like the premium look of the piano black trim throughout the console, and the stainless steel model nameplate below the 6.5-inch touchscreen.
Although the screen and rear camera function are a welcome addition to the HSV Maloo, the fairly average resolution isn’t quite up to par, nor is one particular plastic, which is used liberally in across the trim.
It’s a great look too with the two iconic speedster-like sails behind the rear window, and the various aerodynamic aids around the car, which are as much about the styling as they are about functionality.
The remote-locking hard tonneau cover is a treat when it comes to swallowing loads of work gear or recreational stuff, and has the added benefit of being alarmed. It’s a pleasant change from the last HSV Maloo I had, which proved difficult when trying to open the hard cover.
As far as storage goes, I easily managed to load four large surfboards and a heap of other beach gear into the rear tray, with room to spare.
There’s also quite a lot of storage room behind the seats that is easily accessed and quite handy for backpacks and the like.
For all its practicality though, you’re probably not going to buy a HSV Maloo R8 unless you enjoy the occasional punt of spirited driving on some decent stretch of road.
Fire up the 6.2-litre LS3 Generation 4 V8 and the quad exhaust pipes make you well aware that this isn’t you’re average vee-eight. The initial burble as the engine fires is louder than what I expected (I’m not complaining mind you) before settling down to a deep idle note. It’s been too long since I last drove a HSV and I’ve missed this sound.
You still need to be gentle when exiting deep-lipped driveways, as the front splitter hangs relatively low, although the suspension set up is stiff enough to avoid any nasty contact with the road surface.
With so much grunt under the bonnet (425 hp in the old school) and a truck load of torque, it’s hard not to want to give it a quick squirt, just to see what it’s got, despite the fact that I’ve just collected the car for a photo shoot.
It’s bloody quick and the subsequent exhaust note (make that engine roar) sounds something akin to a V8 Supercar. Leave your right foot flat for a few seconds in second through third, and there is huge in-gear acceleration available.
The stubby short-throw shifter is a treat to use too with what is a relatively light clutch, which makes for fast shifts, although going from first to second is a touch notchy.
That said there’s absolutely no loss of traction or grip from the rear tyres when you drill the throttle, and that’s a surprise from a performance Ute with this much juice on tap. There’s also a launch control system, which is now standard kit on the HSV Maloo for those occasional track days.
You can certainly feel the 275/30’s at the rear of the car biting down hard on the tarmac, and as a result there’s nothing silly happening back there. Rather, it’s utterly composed, and confidence inspiring for those behind the wheel.
Naturally, there’s a limited slip diff on board the Maloo, but HSV has obviously put a lot of effort into their active safety systems, as it doesn’t seem to matter how hard you push the car, it’s consistently well behaved, and refuses to get out of shape.
Turn in hard, and get on the throttle early, and it’s the same composed story. HSV has done wonders for the performance Ute format as far as handling goes, and I can’t say that loud enough.
Similar praise can be afforded to the Maloo’s suspension package too, as I wasn't expecting the ride quality/handling ratio to be so well matched. This is getting close to European standards given the car is well planted while at the same time provides a firm but relatively supple ride over course surfaces.
There’s a solid feel to the steering too, with good weight from dead-centre, although I’ve never been a fan of the overly thick-rimmed steering wheel, which HSV seems sold on. It’s just too wide for my hands and has some awkward contours built into it that won't suit all drivers.
The latest Maloo always feels like a well-balanced machine on road. Not once, did the car feel too light at the rear end, and that included time on a variety of different road surfaces and with a number of different driving styles applied.
You won't go wanting for brakes either, no matter how spirited the driving gets. There’s plenty of heavy duty stopping power with 365mm slotted rotors and 4-pot stoppers up front, and similarly sized 350mm 4-pots down the back, for fade free braking.
Safety on board the Maloo is well catered for too, with a full suite of electronic nannies and six airbags to boot.
While there are a few niggling issues with the interior trim, HSV has produced what must surely be the world’s best Ute in their 20 Years of Maloo R8.
Not sure how the exports are going, but I can’t help think that they’d sell truck loads of these to those ‘good ole boys’ from the deep south in the US of A – Chevy badge of course.