Vauxhall Maloo VXR8 LSA review - Tiff Needell drives the brute ute

Watch our video review of the 537bhp as Tiff Needell takes it to a track day at Silverstone

Evo rating
Price
from £54,520
  • Rampant urge and surprising all-round excellence
  • Raging thirst

This is the end of the road for the Holden Maloo – a pickup that’s been in production since 1990. If you baulk at the asking price of the Vauxhall-badged version you see here, the Maloo VXR8 LSA, perhaps remembering its significance as one of the last of a line will go some way towards justifying the figure. That and the fact you can buy it as a commercial vehicle and reclaim the VAT…

Engine, transmission and 0-60mph time

The VXR8 Maloo LSA has quite a bit more power than the outgoing model. It’s up from 425bhp to 537bhp, with torque rising from 420lb ft to 495lb ft, thanks to what is essentially the same engine fitted to the Camaro ZL1. It features an Eaton four-lobe supercharger, water-to-air chargecooling and a high-flow exhaust system. 

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This is a joyous engine. The noise, response and even the vibration have a texture to them that make every rev a delight to experience. With big cubes, and a supercharger at work, it blends torque into horsepower and throws in an afterburner for good measure. This VXR8 positively rips towards the red line. And fuel consumption? Yes. Lots of it.

Technical highlights

The increase in power has necessitated modifications to the Maloo’s chassis. The springs and dampers have been stiffened, with reduced body roll, improved turn-in and greater stability under braking the stated aims. Oh, and here’s an important point: this is no clumsy truck. It has MacPherson struts and an anti-roll bar at the front, and fully independent multi-link rear suspension. There’s also a proper limited-slip differential, electronic stability control, launch control (for the manual) and three driver modes (Comfort, Sport, and Performance).

What's it like to drive?

Within about, oh, ten yards of driving this Maloo you find yourself laughing at the absurdity of piloting a supercharged V8 Aussie ute on British roads. The car, and the feelings it elicits, are nothing short of riotous. 

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Then you drive more miles, you scratch the surface a little more, you carry out more (manual) gearchanges and you sift through the driver modes. Hell, you might even take it on a trackday at the full Silverstone Grand Prix circuit like we did. Then, then you will be shocked. Why? Because underneath the exaggerated ridiculousness of the Vauxhall VXR8 Maloo LSA you’ll find a damned good drivers’ car. Seriously.

Sure it’s big, but there’s a gristly connection with the road surface that allows you to place the Maloo with precision. Everything feels organic, rather than ancient, and despite its size you always feel ready to indulge. Of course, with so little weight over the rear and so much power, the potential for oversteer is huge. However, it gives you understeer first, safely cautioning that you’ve exceeded grip levels, then falls into graceful oversteer should you drive through it.

It does this nicely in Performance mode too – allowing you to trim your line and slither safely out of junctions at sane road speeds. I can’t emphasise this point enough. The Maloo makes you laugh when stationary, and then at every increment all the way to top speed.

Price and rivals

If it sounds like the £54,520 Maloo VXR8 LSA is a five-star car, you’re right. I’ve wrestled with this rating for a few days and every fibre of my being says it’s a five-star car – not just for what it represents (an admirable collective lunacy from the Aussies for building it and Vauxhall for importing it), but also for its objective excellence.

Is it as good as other five-star cars such as a 911 GT3 RS or a Ferrari 458 Speciale? No. Of course not. But is it as much fun? Absolutely. So there you have it. Five stars. Bloody well done Holden and Vauxhall.

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