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First drive: Maloo R8 breaks the 300kW barrier
HSV introduces the most powerful Australian ute ever
24 Oct 2007
WITH Holden Special Vehicles celebrating its 20th anniversary with record sales, the company yesterday formally launched the latest version of one of its longest-running brand names – the Maloo – claiming it to be the first ute built in Australia with more than 300kW.
Maloo first joined HSV’s line-up in 1990, when the company was only three years old, and has been one of the company’s mainstays, being the cheapest V8-powered model offered by Holden’s special vehicles arm.
The new E Series Maloo is the most powerful local ute ever made and, as revealed at the recent Australian International Motor Show in Sydney, the R8 version launched this week is priced from $59,990, which is $1860 less than the outgoing model.
It is powered by the same 6.0-litre Chevy LS2 Gen 4 engine as the rest of HSV’s sedan range (ClubSport R8, GTS, Senator Signature and Grange), which means it has 307kW at 6000rpm and 550Nm at 5100rpm, provided you fill it with premium unleaded petrol.
A sheet-moulded compound (SMC) tailgate that contributes to the Maloo’s eye-catching looks is also said to be a first for an Australian-made car.
Other ute firsts for the Maloo are reverse parking sensors (appropriate, given the restricted rear vision) and a power-operated hard tonneau that can be opened or closed via the key remote control, allowing easier access to the rear tray.
Although HSV’s E Series sedan range was launched a year ago, chief engineer John Clark said that work on the Maloo Ute began at the same time as the rest of the range.
Design manager Julian Quincey added that he and his team spent two years working on the program, making the Maloo look distinct from the already sporty donor VE Ute.
“We spent many months sketching differing alternatives at the rear,” Mr Quincey told the media yesterday. “Even with different tail-lamp graphics, by initially carrying over the Holden tailgate we still looked very similar to the SS.
“We really needed much greater freedom to change the rear end’s graphics, and when we learnt that there was a possibility to use an SMC tailgate we knew that we could use this to visually stretch the appearance of our Ute.
“This really was the key to the new visual identity of the Maloo rear. We were able to create a unique tailgate that stretched a number of strong horizontal lines across the car and this, in combination with the tail-light extensions, could make the rear look wider and lower.”
The SMC tailgate, which is made from a combination of plastic and fibreglass, was extensively tested for durability, including 10,000 slams of the tailgate to ensure there was no deformation or damage.
Calibration of the electronic stability control system (which is fitted standard on the Maloo) took 14 months and included the notorious ‘moose test’ as part of ice and snow testing in Sweden.
Riding on a 94mm-longer wheelbase than the sedan, the Maloo has the same 1600kg towing capacity but the cargo volume expands from 496 litres in the sedan’s boot to 1208 litres under the ute’s tonneau cover.
In terms of specifications, the Maloo R8 is almost identical to the HSV ClubSport R8 sedan (which costs about $1000 more), including the standard rear park assist.
Apart from the obvious lack of a rear seat and a few audio speakers, the most significant difference is in the area of safety – like the regular VE Commodore Ute, the Maloo misses out on side and side curtain airbags.
Otherwise, it is all familiar HSV stuff – 307kW engine, six-speed manual gearbox, progressive rate suspension, AP brakes with four-piston callipers and interior goodies like sports seats (with suede bolsters) and instrument cluster, leather steering wheel and gearknob, and alloy-faced pedals and kick panels.
However, Mr Clark said the suspension settings are “vastly different” to the sedans, with front spring rates increased by 40 per cent while the rears are 50 per cent stiffer.
Wheels are 8.0 inches wide at the front (with 245/40-section tyres) and 9.5-inch at the rear (275/35 tyres), with a full-size spare front wheel mounted under the tray in a special container designed to protect the wheel from stone damage.
Despite being designed by an Englishman (nothing much new there for HSV), the Maloo R8 presses all the right buttons and certainly has the presence to stand apart from the already eye-catching donor car.
The wild bodykit includes overlapping tail-lights and distinctive side skirt “intakes” inspired by the car that started it all for HSV back in 1987, the Group A Walkinshaw Commodore.
A “performance pack” consisting of full leather Performance seats and 20-inch alloy wheels (instead of the Maloo R8’s standard 19-inch items) will be a $3750 option.
However, HSV’s innovative Australian-developed Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) suspension system seen on the GTS, Senator and Grange is not available on the ute.
And the six-speed automatic transmission, which was a no-cost option on the outgoing Maloo R8, now costs an extra $2000 (as with the sedans), but has been revised to enable sport mode to be selected with the gearlever rather than by a separate button.
HSV has sold a total of 5462 vehicles in the past year, having just posted its 12th successive month of record year-on-year sales, despite not having a Maloo in the line-up for much of that time.
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