First Drive : Vauxhall VXR8 Maloo

Over the past ten years, the VXR brand has slowly established itself as the bad-boy performance badge for people who are looking for something a little ragged than the usual European opposition. Of course, this reputation for wildness has been ably assisted by the addition of the Monaro in 2004 – a badge-engineered Holden that ticked all the muscle car boxes, but without the annoyance of LHD and awkward servicing.

Since then, the Monaro established itself as an old-school hotrod, honest and capable of running with cars double its price. Since 2007, when the coupe became a four-door saloon (and dropped its Monaro nameplate), it’s offered more bangs for your buck than anything remotely comparable produced in Europe. A new addition to the VXR range is the Maloo (so-called after the Aboriginal word for thunder), a two-door pick-up that combines the front end of the saloon with the capacious loading bay of established Australian ‘Utes’. These muscle-utes prove distinctly popular in their homeland – so much so that there’s a race series for them, but as a concept in the UK, the Maloo is a unique proposition. So Vauxhall’s hope that it’s going to sell 50 in total really is a shot in the dark. We shall see.

For £51,000 you’re basically paying for a 425bhp 6.2-litre V8 strapped into a pick-up that’s 50kg lighter than the saloon it’s based on. Performance is predictably rapid, with a 0-60mph time of 4.9 seconds and a top speed of 155mph. Is there any other pick-up that comes close? But then, this isn’t what the aggressively styled Maloo is all about – it’s an attention grabber. And a ‘car’ not for the faint hearted, as everywhere you take it, you’re going to get stared and pointed at.

On the road, it’ll capture your attention, too. When stoked into life, there’s a bass soundtrack that is capable of rattling crockery in the next village, and blipping the throttle just encourages the boisterous. Once underway, it’s as playful as you want it to be. Yes, if you’re aggressive with the throttle, it will kick out its (lighter) back-end, but as it’s such a responsive control, it’ll be up to you when that happens. And as for outright acceleration, your senses will be dominated by noise and deliberate gearchanges you’ll make. Yes, the six-speeder is weighty in both its clutch and change, but it’s accurate, and you’ll never wrong slot.

Otherwise, it’s a balanced handler, with accurate steering and tidy turn-in. It’s joggly at the rear when unloaded, and that’s through necessity, but we’ll forgive it this for the sheer fun of driving the thing. Inside, it’s what you’d expect – well screwed together, but hardly a quality item. But, again, does it need to be? This is not what the Maloo is all about.

It is practical, and for those in the outback, there’s plenty of room for sheep or barrels in that 1208-litre load bay. There’s a lockable cover, too – and a rip-chord inside just in case anyone gets trapped inside. Although we can’t imagine many hi-jackers using such an outrageous machine… The attention from the rear diffuser and quad chrome tailpipes, as well as those 20in wheels make keeping a low profile absolutely impossible.

Do we like the Maloo? How could we not. It’s packed full of the character of the country of its origin, and it’s an absolute hoot to drive. Would you choose it over a similarly priced Jaguar XF or Land Rover Evoque? Of course not on any rational grounds. But then, the Maloo is wonderfully, totally irrational – and in a world that’s becoming ever more straitened, it’s a joy to see that at least one manufacturer is still raging against the man.

[Source: Octane magazine]


Keith Adams


  1. I like the nose and frontal design but the pick up style is not for me. Still prefer the original Monaro and VXR8. The power output is great though – a real muscle car!

  2. I Used to have a Monaro.A truely great car. I hope next year to be able to buy a 3 or 4 year old VXR8.
    One memory of the car always raises a smile was when I was in line at the ferry teminal at Caen. This chap pulled up next to us in a scruffy Mercedes estate. He came out and started chatting, he had a Monaro. He had it tuned at a specialist. He went on to say in order to pay for the super charger conversion, he had sold his wife’s G-Wiz! 🙂

  3. Would you choose it over a similarly priced Jaguar XF or Land Rover Evoque?

    Over the Jag never, but I’ll pick this pickup over that extremely overpriced Evoque for sure. For 51000 pounds, I bet I can even found a Disco or Range Sport! At least, here I can…

    Besides an aussie machine like this it’s waaaay too cool!

  4. Errr – No. If I want a pick up i’d buy a Hilux, if I want a sports car i’d by a Porshce. What’s the point? The flatbed is too small for business use, and the fuel usage would cripple any one who would use it. The only person who would want of these is Richard Branson so he can do his bootsale.

  5. this current range from Holden 🙂 is a great looking bunch of cars, great to see them mentioned here. I have in the past commented, that I cant helping thinking Holden grabed some of the tyling ques from the MGSV (re:the Holden model prior to this range)…. And interestingly one of the Other MG concepts (perhaps a left field one not a genuine concept) also looks like these holdens. they look great in real life, beleive me, this is the sort of stlying that MG of today are missing. and time for an Aussie Joke…”got a new Ute for me Mrs…fair swap I’d say” alex (kiwi not aussie)

  6. Why do they not offer the Commodore in the UK (upon which the VXR8 is based) but with European-style engine range – a couple of diesels, 4/6 cylinder petrol, perhaps even get GM to shoehorn a hybrid drivetrain in?
    Would be the true successor to the Omega (ignoring the Vectra based Signum).

  7. @Mike Humble
    “Not a bad looking pick up… but it’s no Peugeot 504D is it folks?”

    Nor is it a P100 Californian either. And you thought that the Maloo was noticeable!

  8. I think it looks stupid. Why would you pay £51000 to drive a pickup? Doesn’t even look good. 🙁

  9. Here in Aus, the Maloo & the lesser Holden utes, along with their Ford Falcon competition have a poor image. The image is that they tend to be bought by hoon tradesmen that like to do drive ineptly & aggressively.

    Hence why the traditional Aussie car is dying a slow death. Nothing wrong with the cars, just the image. Australia is going through a gentrification process & this type of car doesn’t fit in anymore. Maybe, with the high levels of immigration, the drivers of the Aussie cars feel a need to fly the flag. Alas, the more they try to impress, the less positive impact they have.

    Their displays fail to register in the brave new world of ‘branding’. Sure, it was always this way to a degree, but when a working class VW is somehow seen as an upmarket conveyance of extreme uber cool by the latte set, yet the honest Holden is demonised by being seen as being boorish & crude, I see the world going mad.

    I have been very close to buying a used version myself a couple of times, but have been stopped by a lack of seats as I already have my MR2. I’ve always thought buying ANYTHING based on what others may think of you, rather than what you want, is a poor way to live life.

    Maybe if some of the latte set actually drove a Holden, they’d spend less time on Twitter & coffee & spend more time exploring interesting places.

    Sideways at times!

  10. Rather have a Porsche? Rather have a Jaguar?

    This is a device which screams “LOOK AT ME!!! I’m bonkers!” not “I follow the crowd. Call me Mr Predictable.”

    The comparison to a Porsche is like comparing Lady Gaga’s fashion sense to that of Ms Middleton. You’re missing the point.

    On the plus side, if you don’t see that then it doesn’t matter because you’re not the target demographic and probably never will be!

  11. I know of one company I do work for that have 2 of these in Holden form, they would definitely buy the UK version, they have to wait nearly 9 months to get the Holdens road legal in the UK from point of order.

    I can’ see selling 50 being too much of a problem, there is a lot of self employed or self made company owners who still need the pickup for odd day onsite but also want a performance car for the rest of the time.

  12. I’d have it, but I’d like the 4×4 Estate version more. Adventra. It did have a V8 option, IIRC.

  13. @Richard Kilpatrick you might be pleased to know that the adeventra(AWD) and the ute variant(AWD) DOES have fuel consumption comarable to a Range Rover ie 15MPG, while the 2WD V8 ute and the HSV cars, do still manage to provide a reasonable return to the gallon(very reasonable ive been told upto 35 MPG if carefull ), these cars are quite popular here in NZ and Australia and I know people who have them). but the adventra im not sure they still make it i think ive only ever seen one or two…and interesting point, there are probably more new XJs in town here that Adeventra or the Cross8(ute). also notes about about the Hilux versus Holden ute, the Holden is a nicer car / ute and they handle better by a long way. alex

  14. It’s a fantastic thing. It’s not a rival to the XF or Evoque – or 911. It has no rivals, but it has attitude, big-style.

  15. ill just have the normal four door saloon thank you,im not doug willis.Its a answe to a question no one asked in the UK.Why not try landing concord at full speed instead?

  16. I highly attractive & practical proposition. However the hybrid Volvo V60 springs to mind regarding the excessive price although Vauxhall aren’t daft; they’d still sell 50 at this price.

    Mind you at £30k they’d probably sell a lot more & make more money out of it. It’s hardly surprising that GM are going to the wall!

    Regarding Holdens attractiveness as a range, excellent Commodore aside, they’re just Chevrolets these days instead of Vauxhalls. Or perhaps that just tells you about what sells over in Australia.

  17. i dont think theres a lot in common with the chevys. before GM went bust, the holdens were exported to the US and sold as Saturns. also the Holdens went to south america and were sold as Chevys but were made in Aussie. probably swapped cars for woolen rugs and drugs or something. a bit like NZ swapped butter for Ladas in the 80s….perhaps NZ thought the ladas would be useful for storing butter in. they were not good for much else. but I would like a new holden. as for Holden VS a Jaguar…completely different price range in NZ for a well speced Holden you could buy an entry level Jag, so i think I would go for the Holden straight out of the box very respectable performance and handling….or maybe buy a second hand Jag….oh darnnn alex

  18. Check out the Holden website:-

    Their vehicles are either Korean or American Chevrolets depending on how far up the range you go. (Korean upto the Cruze, American from the Captiva upwards.)

    The only GM Europe vehicle they offer now is the Combo which is of course the old model Corsa based van.

  19. @ Richard K – yeh, but if you had the estate, everyone would take you for a cop, mate 😉 The cops use Holden sedans for patrol cars and station wagons for dog handlers and traffic.

    @ alex s – my ex-boss (in NZ) had an AWD Adventra, so they must have been making them up to a year or two back. To get 35mpg tho, they must have been careful not to take it out the garage 🙂 My Montego struggled to crack better than 35mpg when I drove it like granny…

    @ Stuart R – sadly an incredibly accurate summary of trends down under 🙁 Anything German or Japanese is nearly worshipped for reliability and fashion stakes, despite the number of broke-down Subarus by the side of the motorway 😉 Interesting to note, you Ozzy taxpayers are now stumping up for Holden’s continued production in Australia – imagine if Blair & Brown had given bridge-funding for MG-Rover to dig out of its troubles last decade. Longbridge could still be in production…

  20. I must be one of the few people in Britain who really likes Australian cars(and have done since 1979). Unlike SAABs, Volvos, Hondas and most German cars, Australian cars are stylish and interesting. Most Volvo/Honda owners clearly have very poor taste… Unfortunately, high import duties and shipping costs prevent most people in Britain from owning an Aussie car.

  21. Oh my gawd!!!

    I think Magoo would be a better name for it- clearly it’s designer must have been severely myopic- those are surely the ugliest alloys since the original XR3 ‘runny poached egg’ ones.

    Painting the thing Conjunctivitis Yellow does it no favours either. Its not remotely possible that this abomination would look discrete if it was painted in gunmetal grey. A dinosaur.

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