Vauxhall Maloo E3 review
by David Finlay (15 July 2012)
There is an impressively international - one might even say global - aspect to the Vauxhall Maloo. Its Britishness can be dismissed quickly, since it applies only to the badge; what has happened here is that the UK arm of General Motors has simply imported the Maloo from its Australian equivalent, Holden, and performed the mildest possible piece of rebranding.
High-speed pickups are almost unknown over here (the only non-Maloo one I've ever driven was a thing called the Verté Tempest, a rebadged Ford which wasn't sold in this country for long) but they are hugely popular in Australia, to the extent that there's even an important race series for them, supporting the wonderful V8 Supercars.
But it would be a mistake to regard the Maloo as all-Australian, since it also has a lot of American heritage. Its 6.2-litre V8 engine is from Chevrolet, and in fact the whole device is very closely related to the Camaro we tested recently (though that car had less power and an automatic gearbox rather than the manual fitted to the car reviewed here), as indeed it is to the Vauxhall-badged VXR8 which, like the Maloo, is an imported Holden.
I was looking forward to driving the Maloo - why would I not look forward to spending time with something that has a 425bhp V8 under the bonnet? - but I was also prepared to be disappointed. In 2011 I found that the VXR8, while certainly entertaining in a straight line, was a lumbering beast through the corners, and I quickly lost patience with it.
Not so with the Maloo. It's a big old thing with not particularly sophisticated suspension, and you have to be careful with it, but it danced where the VXR8 would have stumbled. I couldn't work out why this should be until the Man From Vauxhall, who seemed frankly appalled by my description of the VXR8 though he tried not to let it show, pointed out that that car has trick adaptive damping, while the Maloo doesn't.
Well, in that case, poo to trick adaptive damping, I say, and give me the more straightforward set-up. It's not the first time I've thought this. Ages ago, when Jaguar first started making cars available with clever CATS suspension it was almost apologetic about continuing to produce other cars that didn't have it, but the latter were, at the time, far superior in terms of both ride and handling. The same applies here.
The E3 version of the Maloo isn't technically much different from previous ones, but it has had some restyling work, and the interior - with full leather upholstery, very supportive race-style HSV Performance seats and new instruments and switchgear - has also been revised.
Another new feature is something called 3EDI, the letters standing for Enhanced Driver Interface. Based on a central touchscreen, this gives a phenomenal amount of information about fuel usage, g-forces, lap times, the amount of power and torque being produced and even whether the Maloo is understeering or oversteering, and if so by how much.
It's all tremendously clever, and a real talking point if you're the only person at your local pub who owns a Maloo, which you almost certainly will be. At the same time, I can't help thinking that if you are actually in an understeer or oversteer situation you could be doing better things than staring at a screen telling you about it.
The cabin is strictly a two-seater, and there's not much point in looking over your right shoulder to see if anything is approaching in, say, the next lane of a motorway, because all that will happen is you get a face full of central pillar. This is another new feature, described as "sailplane styling", and it's very much a case of form over function. Setting up the mirrors to reduce the blind spot it creates is absolutely crucial.
Other than that, the Maloo is a fine car to drive, not least because it rides and handles so much better than you think it's going to, but also because of that fantastic - though admittedly very thirsty - engine, which is a thing of wonder at both ends of the rev range. Taken to its limit it sounds simply wonderful, and it will accept bootfuls of throttle from as little as 500rpm. Yes, five hundred. No, I wouldn't have believed it either. But it's true.
It's probably fair to say that this is not the most practical pickup on the market (I don't imagine it's much good off-road, for example), but it does have a 1208 litre load bay, so it could be put to reasonably serious work if that's what you wanted. The cover, though very light in itself, has a phenomenal amount of bracing which comes into view when you open it, and the hydraulic rams which dampen its movement are so stiff that you might briefly convince yourself it's made of iron.
There is almost no excuse for buying a Maloo, but it's great fun, possibly my favourite of the very few muscle cars on sale today, and one I could almost see myself owning. And that's another thing I really didn't expect to say before I sat in it.