Vauxhall VXR8 Maloo: First Drive review
Fancy less seats in your VXR8? Or being part of an Australian Ute revolution in the UK? Well now you can, as Vauxhall is offering the rebadged Holden Maloo pick-up to British buyers.
The name Maloo comes from the Aboriginal word for thunder and it is the only performance pick-up sold officially in the UK. Priced at an eye-watering £51,500 in latest E3 form, it includes all the changes to the interior and exterior styling made to the revised VXR8 last year.
So, is the VXR8 Maloo an oddball for those with more money than sense, or will it tempt buyers out of super saloons or coupes? We took what's probably the hottest pick-up down the Route Napoléon to find out.
The VXR8 Maloo looks like the face-lifted saloon from the front. Highlights include a new, 'Shockwave' grille, the almost mandatory LED daytime running lights and sleek new wing-vents.
At the side of the VXR8 Maloo, there are unique side skirts and Maloo badging.
However, no VXR8 has ever looked like the Maloo does from the back. Bizzarely called 'Sailplane' styling, there's a solid but curvy hard tonneau which protects the 1208 litre load area, new large rear light clusters that stretch across the pick-up tailgate and an agressive diffuser with quad exhausts.
Inside, anyone who has driven or owned a VXR8 will feel at home, as apart the lack of seats, a metal plaque on the centre console and the cosier cabin, the VXR8 Maloo is exactly the same. It might be a pick-up, but there's still standard full leather trim, HSV Performance seats, plus iPod and Bluetooth connectivity.
The EDI or Enhanced Driver Interface, that was a new feature for the VXR8, is also available for the Maloo. Basically, it streams real-time vehicle dynamics such as vehicle G-forces, power, torque and lap times to the car's main 5-inch monitor. It's a shame then, that this seems to be at the expense of other useful features such as satellite navigation.
Sadly, like the saloon, we remain unconvinced by the interior quality of the Maloo, especailly considering the £50,000+ price. It's not that the VXR8 feels badly made, but the quality of the trim and switchgear isn't in line with the price.
Despite being 50kg lighter and stiffer than the saloon, the VXR8 Maloo drives in the same way. The MacPherson struts/progressive rate coil springs at the front and the multi-link independent set up at the rear, thankfully keep the 431 PS, 6.2-litre V8 under control, as long the traction control remains switched on.
The VXR8 Maloo never felt particularly nimble on the small mountain roads and on first acquaintance, the steering seems over-light and the ride uncompromisingly firm.
However, work this performance pick-up harder and the steering improves, plus there's plenty of grip from the 20-inch alloy wheels and virtually no body roll. These combine to offer a package that allows you to drive this big pick-up much harder than you might expect.
However, turn the traction control off, prod the throttle at the wrong time and the VXR8 Maloo is very happy to wag its tail. When this does happen, thankfully it is progressive and not at all scary. Also, the standard six-speed manual transmission is heavy, making smooth changes difficult. Automatic transmission is available as an option.
The 6.2-litre V8 is surprisingly refined in the cabin, but with the windows down there's that charismatic V8 soundtrack urging you on, with fantastic crackling and popping on the overrun.
The only other annoyance apart from the feel of the cabin, is that the indicator stalk is still on the right-hand side of the steering wheel. This meant that we spent more time flicking the windscreen wipers at junctions than using the indicators!
So, would we recommend the latest VXR8 Maloo, or is it just a unique oddball for the rich? In reality, it is possibly the most pointless vehicle ever, as the hard tonneau cover limits its practicality as a pick-up. Plus, when has anyone needed a 155mph super truck that gets to 60mph in 4.9 seconds?
You'll need a fat wallet to run the VXR8 Maloo too, as the Combined fuel consumption struggles to break the 20mpg barrier.
There are probably safer places to spend £50,000, but you've got to admire Vauxhall for importing it and it certainly put a smile on our face every time we drove it. Vauxhall have already sold 4 too, so there would appear to be a market for it.
So, if you're after old-school driving thrills, exclusivity and a big load area, then the VXR8 Maloo might just be what you need. If not there's also an estate or the already established saloon version available too.