IT wouldn't be a very correct analogy to say the HSV Maloo R8 LSA is the food equivalent of a good, old-fashioned Aussie meat pie.
Sure, it might look that way from the outside, but peel back the Australian pastry and you'll find American beef (that 400kW 6.2-litre supercharged LSA V8) and some added spice thanks to not pepper, not chilli, but jalapenos.
Hanging off the back of that big slab of donk is a Mexican six-speed manual gearbox. And Ford fans, you might want to check the ingredients on the back of the Falcon's label before chuckling at Clayton's own odd recipe. You've got jalapenos, too.
Our Green Hulk is a fitting ambassador to manual, modern muscle simply because it has the Tremec six-speed TR6060 gearbox. It seems to be the go-to 'box, not just for HSVs, and Holden's LS3-powered SS, but it's in the FG X Falcon XR8, Dodge Challenger, Cadillac CTS-V, Chevy Corvette, Camaro ZL1, V10 Dodge Viper, and more we don't need to name.
Rated to as high as 950Nm it's not hard to see why. Plus, it's not a bad jigger. We've as many memories as this thing has synchros of clunky, cranky TR6060s. Its shift action has been compared to stirring a bucket of gravel with half a broomhandle but it's come a long way; in fact for apparently inexplicable reasons it seems a much sweeter thing in VFII than VF.
In "MG9" spec, the Maloo R8 LSA's TR6060 is rated to 747Nm, bolts to a twin-plate clutch and comes with its own oil cooler. And in Gen-F2 guise the heavy-ish clutch feels to bite a little less abruptly than Gen-F, the shift feels like it's been regreased and banging up the gears is just a bit nicer than it was before.
There are also very Australian reasons for getting a manual V8. Part of what made the Australian Touring Car Championship great was the fact that, in its glory days, you needed to know your way around an H-pattern. Dick Johnson, Peter Brock, Allan Moffat and even Mark Skaife (and all those less famous) wrestled animals with enormous horsepower around racetracks like The Mount, deftly slotting fifth to third or fourth to second, whereas these days Supercars are full of sequential sooks who wouldn't know the expression 'to miss a gear'. And would be liable to pull the gearknob in the Maloo down to fourth thinking they're grabbing first.
Not that we tried, but it could probably still pull from a standstill, though. Unsurprisingly, the Maloo R8 LSA is the 'torquiest' car here, its 671Nm more than the Polo and Peugeot put together. Enough to pull even the biggest dill's head in.
And lord is it fast. There's grunt a-plenty, such that the gear ratios feel just right – a tad tall, but in a way that feels bang-on in a car like this. And it's not like the Maloo R8 LSA is all engine, either. It absolutely has the chassis to match the power, cornering confidently and never getting scrappy, the tyres giving up the ghost before the chassis does – which is how it should be. The rest of the car absolutely keeps up with the engine to the extent that you need to remind yourself what it is you're actually driving – an 1887kg ute with a three-metre wheelbase.
You'd even take the Maloo R8 LSA for a drive for no other reason than fun. There's lots of grip, front and rear, from the soft Continental tyres (even if the Maloo's appetite for front tyres is just as ferocious as rears). Yet the ESP calibration is spot-on, permitting you a quarter turn corrective lock on the throttle out of second-gear corners. In this sense it's a total hoot.
Extra points for the brilliant brake pedal feel, and for being easy to heel-toe. But minus points for at times simply being unable to conceal its bulk and an exhaust that sounds better outside the car than in. Oh, and the thirst. You'll be treated like royalty at the local servo.
But the most impressive part is, you forget you're in a ute. It drives better than it should. And you would absolutely take the manual over the GM-supplied six-speed 6L90E auto (which merely does the job).
The good news, too, is so long as the Americans keep buying "stick", and there are enough cashed-up Australians who want their cars, the manual, modern muscle car doesn't appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. And while from the outside it'll look different, to Aussies the flavours will be very familiar – owing to, of course, the same ingredients.
YES, you would absolutely grab any HSV in manual over auto in Gen-F2 guise. It wasn't always this way, the manual formerly just a little too heavy and clunky. But these days the clutch is friendlier, the gearchange slicker and the enjoyment higher.
2-door, 2-seat ute
6162cc V8, OHV, 16v, supercharger
103.3 x 92.0mm
400kW @ 6150rpm
671Nm @ 4200rpm
struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar
multi-links, coil springs, anti-roll bar
367mm ventilated discs, 4-piston calipers
372mm ventilated discs, 4-piston calipers
20.0 x 8.5-inch, 20.0 x 9.5-inch (f/r)
255/35 ZR20 (f);
275/35 ZR20 (r)
Supercharged grunt; practicality; handling balance
Fuel thirst; tyre wear; rear vision