Car reviews - HSV - GTS - Maloo
Brutal supercharged V8 performance, surprisingly comfortable ride, high levels of standard gear, screaming bi-modal exhaust, head-turning looks
Room for improvement
Poor visibility, interior is too close to Commodore for a sub-$90,000 car, HSV has only made 250 of them, marks the end of an era
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13 Nov 2014
SOME people might find the idea of a brutish, epically powerful utility that is faster than many premium sportscars completely unnecessary, and perhaps a little uncouth.
And while we might agree that HSV didn’t need to build the GTS Maloo, we’re sure glad they did and so, it seems, are a couple of hundred of Aussies who have put their hard-earned down for one.
Just 250 examples of the ferocious ute will be produced, which is almost double the original allocation of 165 units.
The Clayton-based tuning outfit increased production significantly after HSV fans clamoured to dealerships and put down cash to reserve their piece of history, and that was before the GTS Maloo was even confirmed.
And now the fastest ute ever produced in this country is here and for a cool $87,990, plus on-road costs, it could be yours. That’s if there are any left, of course.
That price tag is $6500 less than the identically powered GTS sedan, which is on offer in model year 2015 guise from $94,490 for the manual, but for the extra dollars you obviously get a couple of extra doors and seats.
But who needs space when you can have a Maloo?It’s about this time in a review where we look at a vehicle’s rivals and compare pricing and specification, however, there is nothing on the market that comes close to competing with the performance and price of the GTS Maloo so let’s just move right along.
The cabin is virtually identical to the front half of the sedan, with the Maloo featuring black leather performance seats – a Red Hot leather trim is optional – lane departure warning, forward collision warning, rain-sensing wipers, a head-up display and Holden’s MyLink infotainment system.
It also features HSV’s Enhanced Driver Interface (EDI), which calculates, displays and saves performance data and figures and it includes data from most race tracks in Australia, just in case you were planning on cutting some laps.
The pre-production GTS Maloo we tested featured the sexy, red leather trim and we reckon it’s worth the extra dollars if you like a splash of colour, because everywhere else the cabin is pure Commodore.
A high-end Commodore mind, but Commodore all the same. Not that that is a bad thing, thanks to the giant leap forward the VF range made in terms of interior quality and comfort over the VE.
The sports seats are seriously snug, but never uncomfortably so and they offer excellent levels of comfort. No back-breaking performance seats here, thankfully.
Elsewhere in the cabin there is carbon-fibre look paneling, a chunky steering wheel and a series of gauges that show boost and oil pressure. Oh and there is a GTS Maloo plaque sitting just behind the gear shifter to remind you what you’ve purchased.
On the less positive side, there are some impracticalities around visibility in the Maloo, due to the massive hard tonneau cover on the back that impedes rear vision greatly.
The inclusion of a reversing camera, rear parking sensors and a blind-spot warning made manoeuvring in and out of tight spots easier, as looking over your shoulder to navigate where the big brute was going proved to be a completely useless exercise.
Forward visibility is mostly fine but we must add ourselves to the chorus of complaints about that massive A-pillar.
While these things caused mild irritation, the fact is that the GTS Maloo is not a city runabout. It is built to go fast and that is evident the second you press the start button.
The roar of the 430kW/740Nm 6.2-litre supercharged US-built LSA V8 engine is something to behold and actually a bit addictive. We sat in the driver’s seat for a good five minutes tickling the throttle before we have even released the park brake and put it into gear. So shouty!The version HSV loaned us for a couple of nights was matched with a six-speed manual gearbox, but a self shifter with the same number of gears is available for an extra $2500, and for the first time, it comes with paddle shifters.
Back to that soundtrack, though. You don’t have to hammer the accelerator to get that throaty, sexy sound from the bi-model exhaust, which opens up and pours noise into the cabin, but in a glorious way.
Forget about the high-quality six-speaker audio system, this is all the aural pleasure we need.
Taking off from a standing start highlights how shockingly powerful the GTS Maloo is.
The naturally aspirated V8 sends power to the rear wheels and after a millisecond of hesitation, torque and power are delivered so intensely that the GTS feels like a weapon.
Under heavy acceleration, the force pushed us back in our very comfy seats, but delivered a smile at the same time.
The clutch is mighty heavy and the six-speed box isn’t the smoothest unit we have experienced, but it offers relatively short throws and matches beautifully with the engine.
The weighting of the steering was, unsurprisingly for a performance car, on the heavy side, but it offers superbly sharp turn-in.
We suspect it wouldn't take a great deal of effort to get the GTS’s tail out, but the big ute feels surprisingly planted when corning, not only at speed but also in the more sedate urban environment. ESC and the like kept it in check for the most part.
The GTS will never feel as planted as an all-wheel drive performance car, but that would kind of defeat the purpose.
Our drive route was conducted on a particularly rainy Melbourne afternoon, and there was a decent amount of water on some of the quieter roads we took.
Given the slippery conditions we were impressed with how composed the GTS was, thanks to the Continental Sport Contact 5P tyres (255/25 R20 at the front with 275/30 R20 on the rears), but there was the odd hairy moment where there was simply too much water and we had to maintain a sensible driving style to avoid any dramas.
The three driving modes selectable on the Driver Preference Dial – Tour, Sport and Performance – offer a very different driving experience, with Tour best for around town and when you are in less of a hurry.
Sport sets off the torque-vectoring differential and adds weight to the steering, and Performance mode opens up the bi-modal exhaust for an even shoutier experience.
While the GTS feels flat and offers no hint of roll, we were surprised at how assured the ride was. Some go-fast versions of passenger cars have had the suspension set-up tweaked so much that it is jarring and can be unpleasant over a longer haul.
The GTS offers a comfortable enough ride to ensure that if it was your daily drive, you might not need to tick the physio box on your private health insurance.
Also impressive are the brakes – 390x36mm front and 372x28mm rear cross-drilled rotors, six-piston front and four-piston rear racing callipers. Testing an emergency stop highlighted the power of the HSV’s anchors and left us even more in awe of its abilities.
Fuel consumption? Does it even matter? Well in case you were wondering we recorded a figure of 17.4 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, which won’t win the GTS any green car awards, but it could have been worse.
So we didn’t have a lot of time to get to know the GTS Maloo, but our brief fling with the big Aussie beauty went from lust to love very quickly.
In the Some Like It Hot red colour of our test car, the Maloo turned more heads – mainly tradies – than any other vehicle we have had in our garage in a long time.
The GTS Maloo is brutish, uncouth, a bugger to park, cumbersome and heavy and even a little bit annoying around town, but who cares?There is nothing like it on the road, and it will be the last of its kind to be built in Australia and that fills us with sadness.
This is one of the most enjoyable, smile-inducing vehicles we have driven and its impracticalities and flaws disappear the second you hit the accelerator.
It is a credit to HSV and Holden that the GTS Maloo was designed, engineered, and built in Australia and we think it is already a modern-day classic.
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