My first drive of the new VF and it's everyone's favourite: the Maloo ute. And not just any Maloo, but the top of the whiz R8 SV Enhanced version with 340kW underfoot --  more than the old GTS. From the outset it was apparent this was a much more refined, sophisticated beast. It's not just about cranking it over, revving it up and listening to the roar from the V8.<

VALUE

Pricing for the Maloo remains unchanged at $58,990 for the manual while the R8 manual is priced at $68,290. The R8 adds leather, machined faced alloys, BOSE audio, bi-modal exhaust, HSV's Enhanced Driver Interface and plenty of other tech along with a hard tonneau for the tub.

An auto adds $2000 to the price and the SV Enhanced upgrade, available only with the R8  is another $4995.  This includes a power and torque upgrade to 340kW/570Nm, lighter 20 inch SV Performance forged alloys and black accents for the fender vents and mirrors.

ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION

You've probably heard about the supercharged 430kW LSA in the GTS. The rest get the naturally aspirated 6.2-litre LS3 with 317kW and 550Nm of torque as standard, while the R8 boasts 325kW/550Nm and the SV Enhanced version has been lifted to 340kW/570Nm.

A six-speed manual is standard while a six-speed automatic with active select is optional. The good thing about the manual is that it comes with launch control  the bad bit is the cramp you'll get pushing the clutch in and out in heavy traffic.

FEATURES

Twenty inch wheels are standard, along with AP four piston brakes and performance suspension. The R8 gets some other stuff too like driver preference dial and heads up display that projects an image of the car's speed and other useful info on to the lower section of the windscreen.

The Enhanced Driver Interface (EDI) system provides the driver with a variety of info like fuel efficiency, vehicle dynamics and performance related information.  Automatic reverse parking, a reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors are also standard.

DESIGN

Don't be fooled. It's the same car underneath as the VE. But the Gen-F Maloo receives an all-new interior incorporating new seats, fabrics, instrument cluster, gauges, centre console, trims and finishes.

The gauges have been moved from the top to the bottom of the instrument stack and instead of three there's two displaying oil pressure and battery voltage.

But the satnav system no longer provides speed camera or school zone warnings. This feature has been lost with the move from iQ to the new American Mylink entertainment system  thanks for nothing.

SAFETY

Five stars. Comes with all the usual array of safety systems, with the addition of forward collision alert, blind spot awareness and lane departure warning.

DRIVING

No suprises. It goes hard and stops hard too, but the exhaust note is a bit muted for our tastes -- even with the bi-modal exhaust flaps. Ride and handling are excellent even on the potholed strips of bitumen that pass for country roads, although it's best to keep things tidy. Full auto is disappointing but driven manually it is more exciting, though we still miss not having change paddles.

It'll take 91, 95 or 98 RON fuel but the first two incur a power penalty. The auto is supposed to get 12.9 litres/100km for fuel consumption. We were getting around 14.0 litres/100km. More if you put the boot in, less if you keep it steady.

Holden recently shipped an SS ute to the famous Nurburgring circuit in Germany where it set a lap record for a "commercial" vehicle, much to the amazement of the Germans and everybody else in attendance. That was a 270kW car. As I started the Maloo for the first time I wondered what sort of time the 340kW Maloo would post?

VERDICT

If it wasn't one before the Maloo is now a fully fledged two-seat sports car. Blokes will love it, their girlfriends will hate the competition because it's the ute that will win the argument every time.

HSV Maloo R8 SV
Price: from $68,290 (manual)
Engine: 6.2-litre V8 petrol 325kW/550Nm 
Transmission: 6-sp manual
Thirst: 12.6L/100km; 300g/km CO2