by Samantha Stevens - 24/10/12
Arguably the first true performance ute, the Maloo has been refined and honed over two decades to its current iteration, the E Series 3.
As the cheapest HSV you can buy at $64,990, what it lacks in seating it makes up for in tray-backed practicality and performance, with handling that would put some sedans to shame.
The eight-cylinder LS3 engine develops 325kW at 6000rpm and 550Nm at 4200rpm from 6.2 litres of displacement. It’s more than enough power, but carries a fuel penalty of 13.5L/100km, which can only go up with weight in the tray and some hits of the throttle (and the latter is more frequently found than the former).
As an aside, you can dual-fuel the Maloo with an LPI-LPG upgrade, which costs $6390, but the savings at the bowser (about 50 per cent, along with a 15 per cent cut in nasty emissions) would take a long time to work past the initial outlay.
Transmissions are a six-speed manual, or a six-speed auto with sportshift costs an additional $2000.
The two-berth cabin is relatively basic in entry-level R8 spec; the Commodore interior tarted up with some brushed aluminium, bulkier cloth sports seats, pressure dials atop the centre stack, and a chubby sports steering wheel.
The wheel has volume and trip controls with soft-touch dials, while the centre stack features a colour multimedia screen, dubbed the Enhanced Driver Interface (EDI), for car and trip info, tyre pressure monitors, reversing camera, multimedia and sat-nav, and performance data such as lap times and G-forces.
The door locks, side mirror adjustment and window controls are located in the centre below the shifter, which takes some getting used to for the uninitiated (non-Holden Commodore) driver.
And the Maloo also suffers from its siblings’ chunky A-pillars that hide the airbags. Vision is reduced further by the ‘speed humps’ in the hard tonneau which take up a third of the rear screen – thankfully the reversing camera is standard – and the interior is generally a bit dark and unspectacular.
The driver’s seat is electric, but lumbar adjustment is manual on both seats, and leather is only available as part of a glitter pack with different 20-inch alloys, costing $3990.
The Maloo’s integrated sports bar, hard tonneau with speed humps aping a Le Mans car, and HSV family grille offer an aggressive and windswept stance.
The aero bodykit of a low splitter and side skirts is punctuated at the rear by quad exhaust pipes, while the big 20-inch rims cover big four-piston fronts and twin rear brakes.
The colour palette is loud and lairy, with the more traditional hues of red, black, gunmetal and silver through to metallic blues and greens, and solid yellow, red and white options.
Despite its reputation as a tail-happy oversteerer, the Maloo is quite neutral in its handling. Add a well-calibrated stability control system and some rather enormous brakes to the mix, and the result is quite a confident, polished ride.
The back-end fidgeting of high-powered, empty-trayed utes seems a thing of the past – until you get feisty with the right foot or drop the clutch quickly, then you may as well be on a burnout pad.
The noise is orchestral, with a throaty thrum from both the front and rear of the car, which of course sounds best on full noise in the lower gears. A bigger bi-modal exhaust, which dampens the noise while cruising and opens the pipes further under throttle, is a $2290 option.
The steering is quite impressive, with excellent feel and front-end grip, while the large rims and skinnier rubber take in corrugated surfaces without causing the unweighted back to buck around.
It’s not really a workhorse, of course – more a show pony. The payload of the tray is reduced by the rear independent multi-link suspension setup (500kg), and possibly further by the wheel and tyre package you select. The hard tonneau is great for keeping your gear safe, but limits the bulkier items you can carry in the tray. Then there’s the front splitter, which is quite low and can be easily damaged. Its strengths are on the road, not the work site.
The LS3 is not the most innovative piece of tech around, though this doesn’t make it any less enjoyable particularly in a lighter ute bodystyle. But a pushrod V8 with a thirsty best of 13.5L/100km claimed may seem a bit too old-school for some. And it may soon be superseded, with a General Motors family small-block engine lurking in the wings when the next HSV range is released.
A blue-collar boss’s dream ride.
The obvious competition comes from Holden’s oldest foe, Ford. The GS ute has a newer but smaller 5.0-litre block is supercharged to produce 315kW and 545Nm in a deliberately flat line from 2000rpm to 5500rpm – a bonus of forced induction. In comparison, the nat-atmo HSV V8 hits its peaks higher and later. However, the GS claims a slightly higher fuel use at 14L/100km.
The real kicker is the Ford F6 ute. Though V8 lovers will baulk at its turbocharged six, it is still a potent drivetrain with 310kW and max torque of 565Nm from a low 1950rpm right through to 5200rpm, and is best matched to the ZF 6-speed auto, which unlike the HSVs is a no-cost option.
However, the FPVs are arguably plainer, and appear more closely related to their Ford counterparts, while the Maloo with its integrated sports bar, hard tonneau and wilder bodykit stands further apart from the Holden utes.
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