Catch me if you can

Be­hind the wheel of the world’s fastest ute

Herald Sun - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - JOSHUA DOWLING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING ED­I­TOR joshua. dowling@news.com.au

THERE’S just one thing more mind-bog­gling than putting a race-ready su­per­charged V8 in a hum­ble work­horse ute — and that’s the ef­fect the bru­tal ac­cel­er­a­tion has on your skull.

The HSV GTS Maloo is the world’s fastest ute. Even when you have an idea what to ex­pect, noth­ing truly pre­pares you for full thrust.

It is so quick my brain can barely com­pre­hend what’s hap­pen­ing. It is fast-for­ward in real life, with a V8 Su­per­car sound­track.

Each gear change brings another shove in the back, the rapid ac­cel­er­a­tion not ceas­ing un­til I dip the clutch to grab another gear. And then it hap­pens all over again.

Meet the Fer­rari of utes, brought to us by Holden Spe­cial Ve­hi­cles, the same

per­for­mance car di­vi­sion that looks after Holden’s flag­ship V8 Su­per­car team.

HSV has in­stalled the su­per­charged V8 it fit­ted to the GTS sedan a year ago in a limited run of cargo car­ri­ers. Be­cause it can, and be­cause it wanted to leave a last­ing im­pres­sion when the Aus­tralian car in­dus­try closes its doors in 2017. After all, could there be any­thing more Aus­tralian than a ute (which, in­ci­den­tally, we in­vented in 1933 when a Ford en­gi­neer’s wife wanted a car that could be used on a farm then driven to church) with a bloody big V8?

De­trac­tors may ask why the world needs such a car. But there are plenty of other ve­hi­cles in this per­for­mance league. And HSV has loaded the GTS Maloo with ev­ery piece of safety tech­nol­ogy avail­able on an Aus­tralian­made car.

There is, after all, a speed limit — but there’s no re­stric­tion on how quickly you can reach it. The su­per­charged Maloo can com­plete the in­dus­try-stan­dard 0-100km/h feat in a handy 4.5 seconds. That’s as quick as a Porsche 911.

To keep it in check, HSV also added the big­gest brakes fit­ted to a ute any­where in the world. The bright yel­low calipers and shiny discs the size of pizza trays are big­ger than those fit­ted to a V8 Su­per­car.

There are also three lev­els of sta­bil­ity con­trol — to help pre­vent a skid in a cor­ner —

plus wider tyres on the rear than at the front to im­prove rear-end grip and a crash warn­ing sys­tem if you’re too close to the car in front.

It also has a “torque

vec­tor­ing” setup sim­i­lar to that used by Porsche to con­trol rear grip in sweep­ing cor­ners.

Any­one con­cerned about the abil­ity of the ute chas­sis to han­dle so much power should fear not. A Toy­ota HiLux is more slip­pery in the wet. Trust me, thanks to ve­hi­cle book­ings and tor­ren­tial weather co­in­cid­ing, we drove both utes back to back in the worst con­di­tions Mother Na­ture could muster.

Once you get to the speed limit, there’s no ex­cuse for ex­ceed­ing it. The GTS Maloo also has a dig­i­tal speed read­out that re­flects on to the wind­screen in the driver’s line of sight. Just like a BMW.

If the worst should hap­pen there are six airbags and a fives­tar safety rat­ing to pro­tect you. Just like a Volvo.

But all I can think about right now is the sound. I’ve trav­elled to Bathurst and back for The Great Race the long way, on bumpy pot­holed roads bet­ter suited to work­horses than show­ponies.

De­spite rid­ing on mas­sive 20-inch wheels (also the big­gest ever fit­ted on an Aus­tralian-made car) and low­pro­file Euro­pean tyres de­signed for Ger­man au­to­bahns (Con­ti­nen­tal rub­ber orig­i­nally made for MercedesBenz), it rides as if it’s on magic car­pet.

It’s quite the op­po­site of a brutish Holden ute. It’s far more civilised than any Cashed Up Bo­gan (that’s a mar­ket­ing term and, as an owner of five V8 utes in 10 years, I count my­self among them — ex­cept for the Cashed Up bit) could ever imag­ine.

Faux suede trim on the dash, al­loy-look bright­work around the air vents, pi­ano black fin­ish near the in­stru­ments ... all go some way to jus­ti­fy­ing the $90,000 price tag. Well, that and the mas­sive en­gine, heavy-duty gear­box and race car-style dif­fer­en­tial with spe­cial cool­ing vanes.

With­out doubt the GTS Maloo is yet another ex­cla­ma­tion point for the Aus­tralian car in­dus­try. Any­one ex­pect­ing Ar­maged­don on the roads, need not worry.

Most of th­ese utes will never be driven as their maker in­tended. With just 250 to be made (240 for Aus­tralia and 10 for New Zealand) most will end up locked away as col­lec­tor pieces.

And that’s a tragedy akin to keep­ing Black Caviar as a pony for the kids.

VER­DICT

The HSV GTS Maloo is a mon­u­ment for Aus­tralia, that hap­pens to be on four wheels.

Util­ity bel­ter: HSV’s GTS Maloo can match Europe’s bahn-storm­ers for per­for­mance, power and grip

Pic­tures: Joshua Dowling

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