WHEN IT COMES TO AUTOMOTIVE DINOSAURS, FEW ARE AS POSITIVELY PALEOLITHIC AS THIS HSV MALOO R8 SV BLACK.
It’s an Australian-built car, for starters, and we all know that particular branch of Australian industry is currently circling the plug hole. It’s a car-based ute too - another endangered species - with a naturally aspirated 6.2 litre petrol V8 engine when the bulk of performance cars are making the transition to downsized turbo motors.
And as for its manual transmission? Most would regard a three-pedal trans as being quaintly - and unnecessarily - old-fashioned.
Odds are we’ll never see anything like this ever again, but let’s give some credit to HSV for giving this dinosaur one last chance to roar before the asteroid hits.
Vehicle Style: Performance utility
Price: $62,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 340kW/570Nm petrol 8cyl | 6sp manual
Fuel Economy claimed: 12.6 l/100km | tested: 14.8 l/100km
This is no ordinary Maloo R8. In fact, ordinary Maloo R8s no longer exist: since September last year, the entire HSV range moved to the supercharged 6.2 litre LSA engine, leaving the naturally-aspirated LS3 V8 on the shelf.
But as one last hurrah for the atmo 6.2, HSV will release a number of LS3-powered special edition models, starting with the Maloo R8 SV Black and the Clubsport R8 SV Black.
Just 100 Maloo R8 SV Blacks are being built for Australia (with an extra two for New Zealand), but despite its special-edition status it will, for a short time at least, be the most affordable way to get a brand-new HSV into your driveway at $62,990.
That’s cheap considering the package on offer. While 340kW may be a long way from the Maloo R8 LSA’s 400kW output, it’s no less impressive. A BMW M3 makes 331kW, but costs over double the Maloo’s asking price.
And that’s just the engine bay. At each corner you’ll find track-grade AP Racing brake calipers, forged alloy wheels and one of the best suspensions on the planet. This may be the entrypoint to the house of HSV, but there’s plenty on offer.
Standard equipment: Dual-zone climate control, active cruise control, trip computer, electronic parking brake, lockable fibreglass tonneau cover, rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing headlamps.
Infotainment: Head-up display with navigation/audio/cruise control information, satellite navigation with 8-inch colour touchscreen, AM/FM/CD/USB audio, Bluetooth phone and audio integration
Car-based utes are great. What else will give you the carrying capacity of a truck with the cabin comfort of a large sedan? Nothing, that’s what.
And utes don’t come any better than the Commodore ute that is the Maloo’s basis.
Decked out with features like a head-up display and blind spot monitoring (which helps compensate for the Maloo’s huge blind spots and terrible over-the-shoulder vision), not to mention satellite navigation, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry/ignition and plenty of other goodies, the Maloo R8 SV Black is extraordinarily civilised on the inside.
The chunky gear knob of this manual-equipped Maloo (a six-speed auto is available) feels substantial and solid, if a touch oversized for smaller hands.
The footwell is roomy with good pedal spacing that also facilitates heel-toeing, and the seating position puts you low in the cabin.
Complaints: the steering wheel is functional, but a little bigger than is desirable for a sporty ute. The seats are borrowed from the Commodore SS and could benefit from some additional side bolstering too, but they’re supportive and comfortable for long stints.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 340kW/570Nm 6.2 litre naturally aspirated petrol V8
- Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
- Brakes: AP Racing fixed calipers with ventilated rotors
- Steering: Electric power steering
- Towing capacity: 1600kg braked, 750kg unbraked
From November this year, Euro 5 emissions standards will apply to all new cars sold in Australia. The LS3 in HSV’s 340kW trim won’t comply with Euro 5, and the company doesn’t intend to adapt that particular motor to conform to the new rules.
So, after November the LS3 will be gone from HSV-land, and that’s a shame.
It’s a shame because though it may be the cheapest and least powerful model in the HSV family right now, with 340kW and 570Nm the LS3 is still a powerhouse in its own right.
Let’s not forget, just three years ago the top-tier HSV GTS used the same LS3 engine but produced 15kW less power.
And compared to the more sophisticated supercharged LSA engines that power the rest of the HSV range, this LS3 is so delightfully old-school. It’s a big engine that really doesn’t need many revs on the clock to perform, yet it’ll whip right past 6000rpm if you ask it to. For want of a better word, its power delivery is “flexible”.
Torque down low, power up high. Take your pick of which you’d rather exploit.
Regardless of which one you choose, you get to experience one of the best-sounding engine notes around. Thanks to some new plumbing that directs the V8’s induction noise directly into the firewall, the SV Black has a bassy rumble low in the rev range that transitions into a high-pitched wail at the top end.
Couple that sound with the decibels unleashed by the LS3’s bi-modal intake and exhaust, and it makes for an intoxicating soundtrack.
It drives like a sports car, but one with heavy controls and a whole heap of mass.
You have to wrestle with it at times, but when you depress the (surprisingly light) clutch, slot it into first and grab the Maloo by the scruff of its neck, it leaps forward and surges down the blacktop like a cheetah.
The electrically-assisted power steering is one of the better electrified racks around, with both response and feedback in equal measure. The steering wheel it’s attached to is a bit big for our liking, but its accuracy and meaty weighting is welcome in a performance car.
And the way it handles is entirely unexpected. Far from being a nose-heavy block splitter, the Maloo’s handling is just as good as the Clubsport R8 sedan and remarkably close to neutral in its balance.
It turns in well at the front end, possesses heaps of grip yet can be gently coaxed into oversteer with just a tickle of the throttle pedal. It’s chassis is plenty adjustable within the limits of the stability control program (especially in the more permissive Performance drive mode) and rewards keen drivers.
There’s no disguising its 1.7-tonne mass, but the Maloo R8 SV Black is more agile and alive than you might expect.
ANCAP rating: 5/5 Stars - this model scored 34.06 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: ABS, EBD, brake assist, traction control (switchable), stability control (switchable), blind spot monitoring, anti-collision warning, active cruise control
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
A V8-powered performance ute hasn’t been offered by Ford or FPV since 2014 when Ford Performance Vehicles shut down its operation and took the 5.0 litre supercharged Pursuit and GS utes with it.
That leaves the HSV Maloo all by its lonesome. So if you’re lusting after a brand-new fast utility there’s really only one choice - HSV
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Maloo R8 SV Black wears high-vis on the outside with activewear underneath, and it’s a cool combo. As far as bastard lovechildren go, the genetic mashup of sports sedan and commercial ute has yielded a terrifically well-resolved performance car.
It’s a real shame that this car in particular - a manual-equipped, naturally-aspirated, V8-powered, car-based utility - is not long for this world.
Yes, it's a dinosaur and there are a multitude of sound reasons for why it's about to become extinct, but as far as dinosaurs are concerned the Maloo R8 SV Black is a goddamned Tyrannosaurus Rex.