From £51,500
Completely barking, but hugely desirable for any petrolhead.

Our Verdict

Vauxhall VXR8 Maloo 2011-2013
The Vauxhall Maloo is rather wonderful, but we're still not sure what it's for

The Vauxhall Maloo is the best two-seat pick-up £50,000 will buy you

  • First Drive

    Vauxhall VXR Maloo

    Impossible to justify, but brilliantly entertaining anyway
  • First Drive

    Holden Maloo R8

    Completely barking, but hugely desirable for any petrolhead.
21 November 2005

This is a Holden Maloo, and its native habitat is Surfer’s Paradise on Australia’s Gold Coast.

You’ll also find Maloos in other Australian surfing hot spots, at motocross meetings and anywhere else where being 10 degrees cooler than the next man is more important than life itself. As you can see, the Maloo is a pick-up truck, or what the Aussie’s call a ute – as in utility. And the ute is as deeply embedded in Australian culture as Ned Kelly, Victoria Bitter and giving the poms a whacking at sport.

Most utes spend their time lugging building materials or carrying out important tasks such as transporting the weekend’s supply of tinnies back from the bottle shop. The Maloo R8 can do all these useful chores but at 160mph, for under its bonnet sits the same Chevrolet LS2 motor that’s fitted to the soon-to-die Monaro VXR and to the Chevrolet Corvette.

It’s odd that the Aussies use such a dispassionate unit as kilowatts when any nation with petrol in its veins (of which Australia is one of the foremost) knows that kilowatts is for electricity meters and horsepower is for engines. On Holden’s HSV (Holden Special Vehicles) website, you’ll learn that the Maloo R8’s small block has 297kw – or, to us, a hoof short of 400bhp.

Vauxhall’s VXR brand manager had this Maloo shipped up from Under to officially use as a marketing ‘tool’ but more likely because he rather fancied the idea of carting his supermoto racing motorcycle around in the back of it. This explains why the Maloo is covered in garish branding and why Vauxhall badges live where Holden badges once did.

There’s not even a badge to tell you that it’s a Maloo. In Australia, a Maloo R8 the same as this one costs about £26,000. Import one and you’ll have to add to that duty and VAT (which you could claim back if you’re a business) and, of course, shipping costs.

Before you ask, Vauxhall will never import the Maloo, or any of its less muscular brothers because apparently Holden’s utes have very little underseal or corrosion protection. That shouldn’t put you or me off personally importing one, however, because unless they’re built using metal from recycled Fiat Stradas keeping one in good shape should require little more than religious jet washing and a coating of Waxoyle once in a while.

Mechanically, the Maloo is almost identical to the HSV version of the Commodore and the Monaro. It’s built on the Commodore estate’s chassis, but uses all the good stuff from the hot Holdens. Unlike its rival from Ford, the wonderfully named Super Pursuit, the Maloo has independent rear suspension. It’s a six-speeder and the brakes are the same red-painted four-pot calipers from the Monaro VXR.Inside, the cabin is exactly the same as the Monaro’s. Same layout with the same quality. Unlike muscle pick-ups such as America’s Ford Lightning and Dodge Ram SRT10, the Maloo doesn’t feel at all outsized for our streets. Being right-hand-drive is a huge help, of course.

In particular, a huge help when you’ve just laid 50 yards of rubber onto the carriageway. Yes, younger readers, you’ll be relieved to hear that even when one is grown up with a family and a mortgage, smoking the rears through third gear is just as funny as it was when a teenager. And lighting up the back tyres in this thing is very easy indeed, even if smoking in public places is now a political hot potato.

From rest the Maloo will hit 60mph in under 5.5sec and will crack off the quarter mile in 13.8sec. And in doing so it will sound fantastic. It could do with slightly rortier exhausts for the full effect, but it sounds pretty amazing from the outside.

At 1696kg, the Maloo R8 is almost exactly the same weight as the Monaro, albeit with a slightly different weight distribution. Not that it feels particularly light at the back end. I doubt that around a circuit the Maloo would lose much ground to the Monaro VXR, and that means this builders’ express would also give stuff like V8 M5s a worrying time. And that would be very funny indeed.

Maloos are raced in Australia’s Brute championship that supports the V8 Supercar series, and several people with satellite television have told me that they’re a hoot to watch. I can believe it. There are plenty of options available to make a Maloo R8 even more of a giant-killer. Expensive AP Racing brakes are available along with several stages of HSV-supplied tuning packages.

In truth, it’s fast enough and able enough as it is. The ride is even supple enough to disgrace a few luxury saloons. The bit that doesn’t need any improving is the engine. The 6.0-litre LS2 small-block is smoother than any recent modern Chevy small-block, yet has masses of V8 character. The six-speed gearbox is a bit slow, but you don’t need to use all the gears if you don’t want to. Three will do.

The beauty of a hot pick-up truck like the Maloo is not that it is extremely practical and useful, but that you can kid yourself that it is. In practice, there’s a security issue with the open rear – even if it does have a tonneau cover. For carrying jetskis and motorbikes, though, it is perfect.

Holden wraps up the whole argument in its HSV advertising slogan: 'I just want one'. 

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