What is it? Over 5-metres of wonderful irrelevance. Vauxhall won’t be selling many of these V8-powered utes in the UK but we love them for offering it at all. Technical highlights? The Maloo VXR8 shares much with the saloon version – same 6.2-litre V8 with 425bhp and 406lb ft and heavy duty six-speed manual ‘box, same fully independent rear suspension and the same slightly-too-high driving position. In fact it only lacks the saloon’s magnetic dampers, making do with fixed rate conventional items. And the rear seats, of course.
It’s a huge car, measuring over 5-metres long and with a wheelbase of 3009mm. That means it always feels a size too big for most UK roads but also gives the Maloo its rare sense of occasion. It might have a pretty utilitarian interior (especially at £51,500), but from the moment you fire up that big V8 the Maloo feels unique and pretty extraordinary.
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Vauxhall claim that the Maloo is capable of 0-60mph in 4.9-seconds and 155mph, which isn’t bad for an enormous hunk of pick-up weighing in at over 1800kg. Many owners think of this as just a strong base on which to build, with most Maloos in the UK modified to a certain extent and there are supercharged and twin-turbocharged conversions running around with up to 1000bhp. Well if you’re going to be silly… What’s it like to drive? Fun. Huge, laugh-out-loud fun. That might sound flippant, but it best sums-up the experience. The performance doesn’t feel quite as strong as the on-paper stats suggest, the steering is quite slow, the ‘box a bit clunky and the body control isn’t in the same league as other £50,000 performance cars. But the Maloo is an absolute hoot, driven slow or fast.
The V8 perhaps needs a sports exhaust to find its best bassy voice, but it does deliver loads of lovely torque and actually revs-out pretty cleanly, too. The delivery ramps up and up and really gets going above 5500rpm. Surprisingly the chassis copes well, finding good traction even in the damp in 2nd and 3rd gears. I suspect that’s because the set-up is quite soft – and that gives other advantages, too. You’ll have to go a long way to find a car that feels so progressive as it arcs into oversteer and then swings gracefully back into line. The body roll gives you all the clues you need as to when you’re approaching the limits and the long wheelbase means everything seems to happen in slow motion. It sounds absurd but if you want to learn about rear-drive handling, the Maloo is a great place to start (shame there aren’t load of old ones knocking around for peanuts, as I suspect there are in Oz).
Of course it’s far from perfect and the huge steering wheel, the hefty action of the ‘box and the oddly high driving position at first make the Maloo feel a bit intimidating. Really try to use all of the V8’s power on a bumpy B-road and you do start to feel the weight and to miss those magnetic dampers, but I think we’ll excuse the Maloo for not being an M3 rival for now. Instead it’s a great curiosity, a real novelty and a surprisingly well executed barrel of laughs. How does it compare? Erm, with what? An M3? Well, it’s hopelessly outclassed: Not as fast, nowhere near as agile or controlled, it hasn’t got any rear seats… although it is good for trips to the garden centre. It also kicks-out a heroically dastardly 320g/km. No sensible person would ever consider a Maloo. But we hope a few enthusiasts do. Anything else I need to know? The phone number of a good tyre fitter could come in handy. Oh, and you don’t have to spec it in yellow.
|Max power||425bhp @ 6000rpm|
|Max torque||406lb ft|