The queue for a new Maloo is out to May. The five-month wait reflects the instant success of Holden Special Vehicles' new load carrier.

Not that anyone who buys a Maloo R8 is likely to be carrying much beyond their toys and a big, big smile.

It is all about sports truck performance and enjoyment, with a 307kW V8 engine and the sort of brakes and suspension you expect to find on a top-drawer car.

Holden has been pushing the two-door sportscar line for the ute since it unveiled the VE earlier this year and its sales figures reflect the popularity of the new pickup.

More than 60 per cent of utes going out the door at Holden dealerships are V8-powered SS models, and when you add the hottie SV6 the figure rises to more than 70 per cent.

So you are unlikely to see any bricks, barrows, glass or plumbing pipes in the back of a HSV ute.

But you are also unlikely to see a Maloo because demand for regular utes has choked supplies from GM Holden's factory in Elizabeth to the HSV production line at Clayton.

Things should ease sometime next year, but the waiting time is unlikely to shrink to anything less than three months.

The Maloo goes all the way for Holden and, like other E-Series Commodore models, it is further away from the regular ute than previous models.

The tail-end treatment is unique — even if some of the lamps look stuck-on — the nose is all new, the cabin is more upmarket and even the lift-up load cover has unique HSV power bulges and a different but not as effective locking system.

The result is a ute that turns heads with a supercar-style 0-100km/h sprint time, and a relative bargain at $59,990.

It costs more than the turbo six from Ford Performance Vehicles and is above the basic 5.4 V8 ute, but matches the Super Pursuit on the bottom line.

The HSV machine gets its edge with a full 6.0-litre LS2 V8 that does big kilowatt numbers but, more importantly, makes 550Nm.

It is a little hidden up beyond 4000 revs, but dominates the character for the car.

HSV is doing plenty of Maloos with the six-speed automatic gearbox, a surprising but effective choice, and the rest of the package includes monster brakes with 365 millimetre discs on the nose, electronic stability control, fully independent suspension, giant wheels and tyres and the same red-lit instrument cluster used in HSV's R8 and GTS sedans.

The seats and wheel in the cabin are the same, with smooth leather trimming, and the safety gear includes front and side airbags, and anti-skid brakes with brake assist.

It is an impressive package and one HSV is proud to tout.

“It's a hot sexy product. We think we've absolutely nailed it,” the new HSV managing director, Scott Grant, says.

“Maloo is our newest model and so the waiting time is the longest. But the Clubsport is about two months at the moment and the Grange is still selling at more than 20 cars a month, against our forecast of 10 a month.”

He says HSV will easily set a sales record at the end of the month, up more than 1000 cars over its previous mark in 2005, with Maloo contributing about 600 sales a year.

 

On the road

The Maloo is a terrific drive. It is sharp, responsive and very, very quick.

Most people would find it impossible to pick it from a HSV sedan, without looking over their shoulder, which is about as good as it gets in uteland.

FPV does a similar job in upgrading Falcon utes, but even theirs are not as refined or car-like as the new Maloo.

If you try a similar comparison with any of the imported Japanese one-tonners, even the benchmark Toyota HiLux, you come up with working-class vehicles that are much more work than play.

I have already run the regular SS ute through the test program and it came out with classy marks, but the Maloo goes a significant step further. And it's not just a hot-rod.

It is smoother and more refined than the SS, thanks to a compliant suspension that is surprisingly good.

I did not try the Maloo with much of a load, but most owners want them as sports cars and they will get a winner.

It turns like a sedan, rides like a sedan and grips like a sedan, even when you push hard. That's when most utes turn into sliding, wheel-spinning monsters.

The Maloo tester had an automatic gearbox and it would be our choice. That's partly because it smooths the engine response and partly because it has the excellent manual shift system, but mostly because it damps out the violence of gearshifts, which can often be a problem in utes. (Holden does not have paddles on the steering column).

So the Maloo is quick and responsive, and only a little dull against the R8 sedan. As well, it has a classy and comfortable cabin.

There is plenty of legroom, with reasonable storage space behind the seats, which can be tricky to tilt, and the sound system is good.

But parking and lane changing are awful. The shape of the cabin restricts over-the-shoulder vision and the lumpy luggage cover takes a huge chunk out of the rear view. Thank goodness for parking radar. But vision is the only niggle and the HSV Maloo is one of my favourite drives of the year.

  

The bottom line

An all-Aussie success, and a genuine sports truck. 81/100

 

 


Snapshot

HSV Maloo

Price: $61,990 as tested

Engine: 6.0-litre V8

Power: 307kW at 6000 revs

Torque: 550Nm at 5100 revs

Transmission: six-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive.

Body: Two-door utility

Dimensions: Length 5040mm, width 1899mm, height 1481mm, wheelbase 3009mm, tracks 1952/1590mm front/rear

Steering: Power-assisted rack-and-pinion

Fuel tank: 73 litres

Fuel consumption: 14.9 litres/100km (claimed, combined)

Weight: 1852kg

Spare tyre: Full-size

Brakes: Anti-skid four-wheel disc with brake assist

Wheels: 19x8 front, 19x8.5 rear

Tyres: 245/40 R19 front, 275/35 R19 rear

Safety gear: Front airbags, electronic stability control, anti-skid brakes, traction control, brake assist with brake-force distribution.

Warranty: Three years/100,000km

 

Features

Airconditioning 4

Cruise control 4

Alloy wheels 4

Climate control 4

Leather seats 4

Heated seats 8

Parking sensors 4

Automatic wipers 4

4 standard equipment

8 nonstandard equipment


How it compares

Holden Commodore Ute SS: 80/100 (from $39,990)

FPV F6 Tornado: 78/100 (from $54,670)

 

Fast fact

Maloo is an Aboriginal word meaning thunder.