Holden Commodore SV6 ute 2011 review
Being acknowledged as the country that invented the ute is like being lauded for being the first...
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It speaks volumes for the HSV brand image and appeal that it can sell $125 million worth of merchandise — clothes and caps, not cars — in its 20 years of existence.
The company also manages to retail around 4700 cars annually in recent years and is now riding a wave of 12 consecutive record sales months.
HSV managing director Scott Grant said business was booming on the back of the VE/WM-based E-Series.
“We've now had 12 very strong months with the sedan range and we think the Maloo will add yet another strong pillar to our sales potential,” he says.
The Maloo R8's appeal is strong if the reaction from primary school kids at the fence is any indication — and that was just idling by.
The VE-based range has the Clayton factory punching out 30 cars a day — it was around six a day when the company started 20 years ago — and the Maloo R8, pictured right, won't make life any less busy for the HSV staff.
The ute product is the company's second-biggest seller behind the Clubsport sedan and the new model has the visual appeal to keep its numbers healthy.
The new Maloo R8 gets a sleeker profile using a broader “HSV Performance sail plane” on the B-pillar which, when combined with the HSV hard tonneau, gives the ute a coupe-like look. The tonneau even now operates like a very big boot for a two-door sportscar — the new SMC tailgate now holds the locking mechanism that can be remotely operated from the key fob.
The Maloo R8 gets a different tailgate to the VE Ute, with HSV claiming a 10-15 per cent weight saving from the new version — made from a sheet-moulded polyester resin compound.
It also gets an extended tail-light motif that looks more like decals and a little underdone.
The side-skirts get an extra vent that HSV says takes its inspiration from the Walkinshaw Commodore but also looks a little Lamborghini-esque as well.
Apart from the odd tail-light set-up, the rear end gets quad exhausts within a diffuser.
Under the skin the Maloo R8 now has stiffer spring rates over the R8 and GTS sedan models — the figures are 40 per cent at the front and 50 per cent at the rear — but it retains the same brake package.
There's plenty of gear in this ute that rams home the message this is anything but a tradie's ute — a chunky leather-wrapped sports steering wheel with audio and cruise control switchgear, trip computer, Bluetooth phone connection, alloy faced pedals and a leather-wrapped gear shift.
The rear vision is restricted by the hard tonneau, which has made the rear parking sensors a must-have for parallel parking and general safety.
The Maloo R8 also gets automatic headlights, HSV sports instrument cluster, an upgraded Blaupunkt 6CD MP3-compatible five-speaker sound system, suede/cloth trimmed sports seats (with leather option), dual zone climate control and only dual front airbags, no side airbags.
The engine is the now-familiar six-litre alloy V8, offering 307kW and 550Nm of torque with either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission (a $2000 option).
The automatic has been given a make-over by the electronic boffins to get rid of the awkward Sport button. The lever flicks to the left for Sport mode.
The manual change function is also now accessed on the left but the new Sport mode complete, with downshift throttle blip, does a more-than adequate job.
The rear wheels put those considerable outputs to ground via a limited-slip differential and stability control (which can be switched off).
HSV says the ute offers 0-100km/h in 5sec and a top speed limited to 250km/h, but that's only half the story.
The Holden VE Ute provides plenty of rear-end grip and HSV have built upon that excellent base.
The HSV suspension tweaks don't include the sedan's Magnetic Ride Control. Chief engineer John Clark would have liked to put it on but says that the extra cost was a large chunk of money.
“Some of the hardware would have carried over, the front would have but the rear dampers would have been different, then the calibration to do it all adds up to a significant cost,” he says.
The tauter springs do detract from the ride quality a little, but body control and grip (thanks in part to a bigger rear tyre) in the corners puts many passenger cars to shame.
One disappointment in the Maloo was the change from the VE Ute's easy-to-use seat-flip lever to a system that is more difficult to reach and harder to use.
At a tickle under $60,000, the Maloo R8 is a couple of grand cheaper than its predecessor and offers serious performance.
But only time will tell if the HSV badge, the extra gear and some extra grunt is worth the $13,000 jump from an SSV.
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