The Vauxhall VXR Maloo is the only performance pick up sold officially in the UK, and it's now available in latest E3 guise, with heavily revised front- and rear-end styling, a new cabin and a raft of new technology to enhance its appeal to drivers in search of a load-carrier like no other.
Priced at £51,500, the new Maloo packs the VXR8 super-saloon's 431PS V8 engine up front, with drive being sent through a six-speed manual gearbox to the rear wheels. And yes, there's a mechanical limited-slip differential to ensure that no ounce of power is lost in smoke.
A new, 'Shockwave' grille, LED daytime running lights and sleek new wing-vents mark the new car out from the front, while the rear features new 'sailplane' styling behind the cab, sloping down to the hard tonneau, which protects the 1208-litre deck from prying eyes. One thing that hasn't changed, though, is the Maloo's road presence: no other load carrier in the UK looks like it or sounds like it.
As before, the new Maloo's race-bred chassis uses MacPherson struts/progressive rate coil springs at the front and a multi-link independent set-up at the rear. But for the first time on a Maloo, Vauxhall has employed Launch Control, which helps drivers make best use of the pick-up's huge torque during brisk acceleration without unnecessary wheelspin.
Of course, no Maloo would be complete without a large-capacity V8, and this latest version doesn't disappoint. The fourth generation 6.2-litre LS3 unit produces 431PS and a massive 550Nm of torque, enough to propel the Maloo from 0-60mph in 4.9 seconds and on to a governed top speed of 155mph. Drive is delivered to the rear axle via either a new MM10 six-speed manual gearbox with uprated LS7 clutch, or a six-speed auto 'box. Both work through a mechanical limited slip differential.
2012 Vauxhall VXR Maloo
Inside, the new Maloo has undergone a transformation. Full leather trim is standard, and front occupants are cocooned in special HSV Performance Seats with four-way driver and two-way passenger adjustability. A new instrument cluster and surround, centre stack and switchgear provide a cleaner and more integrated look, while standard equipment also includes Aux-in/USB inputs, iPod support and Bluetooth with phone book display and touch-screen dialling.
But for drivers who want to engage with their Maloo like never before, Vauxhall has introduced 3EDI, or Enhanced Driver Interface. 3EDI connects with the on-board computer to constantly stream real-time vehicle dynamics and performance to the car's main 5-inch monitor. At the touch of the screen, drivers can access a variety of data such as vehicle G-forces, power and torque and lap times - even the degree to which their Maloo is drifting. Completing the clever package is the ability for drivers to download data, such as track day performance, and analyse it using the MOTEC i2 software provided.
Befitting its exclusivity, the Maloo is now available through just five highly specialist VXR dealers in the UK, though a total of 30 VXR outlets will be authorised to maintain the model.
Like all Vauxhall cars, the Maloo will be covered by Vauxhall Lifetime Warranty, which means that the first owner of the car has a comprehensive warranty that lasts for the life of the car, or 100,000 miles, whichever arrives first.
Anyone who's driven the previous generation Maloo will know that it blends exceptional body control with the kind of pliant ride quality which is becoming so important on British roads. For 2012, the Maloo gets revised spring and damper settings across both axles, and as before, the Maloo's race-bred chassis uses MacPherson struts/progressive rate coil springs at the front and a multi-link independent set-up at the rear.
Complementing this revised set-up is Launch Control, which is engaged when drivers select the ESC's (Electronic Stability Control) Competition Mode. Standard on models fitted with manual transmission, the system dictates the level of torque delivered to the rear wheels for maximum acceleration, according to surface conditions. All the driver has to do is floor the throttle and let the car do the rest. Extensive testing has proved that LC results in acceleration runs no more than 0.1 second apart.
Completing the chassis package are the largest brakes ever fitted to a Vauxhall. At the front, 365mm diameter ventilated and grooved discs take pride of place, mated to race-bred four-piston callipers providing exceptional stopping power. The same hardware is fitted at the rear with 350mm diameter rotors.
Making a welcome return to the new Maloo is GM's 6.2-litre 'LS3' engine, a modern interpretation of the legendary small block motor which has powered millions of vehicles for more than fifty years and currently sees service in the Australian V8 Supercar Series and also the mighty, supercharged Corvette ZR1.
Even with 431PS of power at 6000rpm and 550Nm of torque at 4600rpm, the LS3 is unstressed and tractable enough to deal with a wide spread of driving needs, whether it's burbling through towns and cities or exercising its full potential on drivers' favourite A- or B-roads. And as Vauxhall proved with the Bathurst S version from the last generation VXR8, the LS3 unit is eminently capable of being tuned to accept more than 600PS, such is its strength and placidity.
Race-bred features abound, such as an exhaust manifold which splits from four into two into one to minimise power loss, while the large diameter stainless steel exhaust offers the kind of aural accompaniment you'd expect from a super-saloon, and exits the rear with four separate tailpipes.
The result is the sort of performance you'd only get from large saloons costing considerably more than the Maloo: 0-60mph in 4.9 seconds and a limited top speed of 155mph.
As before, the Maloo is available with either a new six-speed manual MM10 gearbox with uprated LS7 clutch, or a six-speed auto transmission with selectable ratios, both of which deliver drive to the rear wheels through a mechanical limited-slip differential.
Designed with the enthusiast driver in mind, and adding something unique in this class, is the Maloo's new Enhanced Driver Interface (EDI).
EDI constantly streams real-time vehicle and performance data to a touch-screen located on the upper centre console. The intuitive system was developed with industry specialist, MOTEC, while all the graphics and display pages were designed in-house at HSV's styling department.
The multi-faceted system provides the following functions:
HSV's Chief of Design, Julian Quincey, expects this type of EDI system to evolve further still. "One of the challenges with designing the graphics is in making the data accessible to the driver," he said. "For instance, it's not terribly engaging to get a whole stream of data in the form of numbers or a line graph. If you're a race driver you get used to that, but in a road car it needs to be more intuitive. Making the display easy to read was the most important thing during development and it required a whole new level of integration between design and engineering."
The Maloo's never been a shrinking violet on UK roads, and for the latest 2012 Model Year, key external changes have freshened the car's appearance still further.
A new, 'Shockwave' grille, LED daytime running lights and sleek new wing-vents mark the new car out from the front, while the rear features no less than four tailpipes that mimic the shape of the grille..
A unique 'sailplane' design arcs from the rear of the cabin down to a remote locking hard tonneau, with illumination, tray security and alarm protection for the 1208-litre cargo deck.
Inside, the new Maloo has undergone a transformation. Full leather trim is now standard on the GTS, and front occupants are cocooned in special VXR Performance Seats with eight-way adjustability. Complementing this is a new instrument binnacle which encases the gauges on top of the dash, while new appliqués are splashed across the width of the dashboard and on the steering wheel spokes..
In other areas, piano-black trim surrounds the touch screen, the air conditioning controls, the gear lever, some centre console switches and the steering wheel buttons.
Standard equipment on the Maloo includes Aux-in/USB inputs, iPod support and Bluetooth with phone book display and touch-screen dialling.