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Brute ute in a sleek suit

Thunderous: HSV refers to its tarmac-tearing new Maloo Ute as a "coupe with a big boot".

HSV's new Maloo ute is arguably the quickest load-lugger sold anywhere

26 Mar 2001

PRODUCTION of HSV's first all-new utility in 11 years begins today, with retail deliveries of the new Maloo - the Clayton outfit's second oldest nameplate and also the aboriginal word for "thunder" - starting in April.

Based on the VU ute, which Holden claims is the only vehicle of its type to employ independent rear suspension, the Maloo is also the first HSV car to be styled by Neil Simpson, who replaces Ian Callum - now at Jaguar - as TWR's chief designer.

Although styled by Simpson, the Maloo retains Callum's aggressive VX design, which firmly stamps it as part of the current HSV family, particularly up front where Calais headlights are used to differentiate it from the teardrop-lamped Holden utes, and from the side where extensions have been added to ClubSport side skirts to account for the longer wheelbase.

Simpson's work is evident in the rear-end's simple but effectively sculpted bumper and trademark tailgate-mounted licence plate surround.

Essential to HSV's transformation of the VU ute is a 15mm lower ride height than Holden's SS ute, but of course Maloo's biggest news lies under its bonnet.

The first HSV utility to produce more than 195 kW, the significantly heavier Maloo makes good use of Chevrolet's alloy Gen III V8.

With a six-speed manual transmission and a claimed kerb weight of 1648kg (around 20kg less than the volume selling ClubSport), the 255kW 5.7-litre bent eight is said to propel Maloo to 100km/h in just 5.6 seconds and over the quarter-mile in 13.7, which makes it HSV's quickest sub-300kW car.

Like ClubSport, HSV's "coupe-with-a-big-boot" will be available in two specification levels, Maloo and Maloo R8.

The base vehicle, which retails for $47,995, gets a handy standard equipment list including driving lights, HSV sports seats with cloth trim, dual front airbags, power windows, cruise control, air-conditioning, a single-CD player, fire extinguisher and the usual HSV extras like a build number badge and owner's compartment.

Performance-spec brakes ($2700), premium brakes ($5350) and a $1950 rigid tonneau cover (without the R8's integrated "sail plane" spoiler) are optional on the base Maloo.

Buyers of the $54,950 Maloo R8 get performance brakes, performance-spec seats and an HSV cargo liner as standard equipment, and there's the option of paying more for pewter leather trim ($1925) and premium brakes ($2600).

Both cars employ 18x8.0-inch alloys with 235/40 ZR18 Bridgestone S-02 rubber, though limited demand has prevented suspension options other than the standard touring spec becoming available.

HSV expects to sell around 50 Maloos per month, with the predicted 2001 build of around 420 units including a small number for New Zealand during May and later 10 for the UK, where it's likely to be called the Brute.

Some 75 per cent of all Maloos sold are expected to be R8 versions and, unlike its sedan clientele, HSV says Maloo will appeal to young, self-made Aussie males with an annual income of at least $120,000. With a forward order bank of around 100 buyers, it seems there's no shortage of them.

Drive impressions: A lower kerb weight and 255kW of Chevrolet firepower combine to bless Maloo with the greatest power to weight ratio of any car in HSV's range barring the Callaway-fettled 300kW GTS and limited edition Senator 300.

At $48K for the entry-level version, this makes Maloo perhaps the bargain of the HSV range. That's if you can make do with just two seats.

Maloo is certainly a quick, stylish vehicle that commands an on-road presence few others can out-do, and the inclusion for the first time in an HSV ute of Chev horsepower, a six-speed transmission and IRS also makes it a highly civilised one.

But the fact is that from behind the wheel it's difficult to tell Maloo apart from any of its HSV-bred sedan siblings.

Super-comfy sports buckets cosset the Maloo driver in a familiar, albeit well laid out Commodore cabin, and excellent noise suppression and a level of ride comfort further belie its utility bodyshell.

As with HSV's sedans there's an amazing amount of in-gear flexibility and the Gen III V8's blistering top-end performance is kept well in check by impressively high levels of grip from the 235/40 ZR18 Bridgestone S-02s.

If anything, as the only long-wheelbase HSV with a manual transmission, Maloo exhibits a level of mid-corner grip and stability that even its stablemate sports sedans can't muster.

However, while turn-in is crisp and the extra wheelbase gives Maloo its driver plenty of mid-corner confidence, it's on the way out of turns that its less ideal weight distribution conspires to make Maloo a little flightier than its sedan siblings during hard acceleration.

VX changes have improved Commodore's steering marginally, but a lack of precision and slightly wooden feedback don't help the cause of the Maloo driver who finds himself in a power oversteer situation.

Which is only the stab of the throttle away in a Maloo. And there's no traction control to rely on either.

But it's HSV's standard brake package - which improves on Holden's twin-piston set-up only with the use of softer, police-spec pads - that remains an achilles heel.

Lacking in feel and initial bite, its strength wanes after only a few hard stops.

Performance and premium brake packages are available but, inexplicably, HSV claims Maloo sales volumes don't justify the availability of more serious suspension options.

Still, as a trend-setting performance utility aimed at self-made Aussie males, Maloo is right on target.

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