Worth the wait

Graham Lloyd | VOLUME 26, ISSUE 6

Malibu’s stylish new Wakesetter VTX ticks a lot of boxes in terms of an all-round watersports platform.

A real bonus whilst reviewing this Malibu Wakesetter VTX was having onboard its owner Phil Crowe, who kindly made the boat available within a few days of accepting delivery from GRE Marine in Sydney. Phil had taken a very considered decision in purchasing his Wakesetter. Recognising it was a major investment for his family, he had researched for over a year to carefully evaluate alternative boats – a timeframe he reckoned to be “worth the wait”. It was most interesting to hear comments on the factors that influenced his final decision.

Phil, his wife Pat, and family had enjoyed boating for five years in an ‘all-round’ boat with the usual mix of cruising, fishing, skiing and watersports. As time went by, they were increasingly enthusiastic about wakeboarding and skiing, and that, plus an expanding family, led to a decision to upgrade to a larger and more dedicated watersports boat.

Phil started to investigate the market for a boat that had all the attributes he wanted – excellent build quality and finish, versatility and with the right level of customer service from both the dealer and manufacturer.

Phil received a recommendation about Malibu boats and went along to an open day, where he was impressed with both the boats and the way everything was very open, with no pressure and friendly, professional assistance. Phil also travelled to Albury for a visit to the Malibu factory. “That was outstanding. Very clean and tidy, everything ran smoothly, it was really well worth it.”

From there, Phil and his family narrowed the list down to two boats and arranged a back-to-back test, but the difference was so marked that the final decision to buy the Wakesetter was quickly reached. Both boats were brand new and being put in the water for the first time, but Phil found that the Malibu was noticeably better set up.

Phil said: “The two best things I did were the factory tour and the back-to-back test. When you look at the finish quality, other boats just don’t come anywhere near it.”

Although the Wakesetter already had an extensive list of included features, he was happy to increase his budget and add quite a number of options. Just some he chose were an upgraded engine (the 350hp Indmar Monsoon EFI V8 – a 330hp V8 is standard), polished stainless Hydroquiet down-turned exhaust tips, Malibu’s unique Power Wedge, LED docking lights, transom walkover, a painted galvanized trailer, pull-up cleats and the impressive MaliView multi-function dash computer, with 6.5in colour LCD screen.

Malibu denotes the Wakesetter as a “3D” design for waterskiing, wakeboarding and wake surfing, as well as being most applicable for family cruising and more relaxed fun with tubes and kneeboards.

SUPERB SEAT

The skipper has a superb seat, with excellent support, lumbar adjustment, a fore-aft slide and a swivel. On the left of the dash is an analogue speedo, with inset digital read-outs for depth, water and air temperatures, while to the right is an analogue tachometer also with digital displays such as oil pressure, volts and hour meter. Between the two dials is the large colour MaliView display, which has selectable pages with multiple read-outs or graphics on each for fuel level, wake size, speed and depth. Even on a bright sunny day, the display was easily read and the range of information available is most comprehensive.

The whole dash area is a great example of good design and top-class workmanship. The French-stitching seams add an extra touch of class, and the choice of a dark colour for the tops of the dash consoles prevents any glare or reflections in the screen. The leather-wrapped Isotta sports wheel is a delight to hold, while the gauges and MaliView display were above the rim of the wheel and in clear sight. The height of the screen was just right for me, with a perfect view under the screen frame of the river ahead.

Also on the dash is a control panel for the Rockford Fosgate stereo system and another touch-screen digital display for control of various functions, including the three sub-floor ballast tanks – one amidships that adds about 200kg of water and two either side aft for a further 80kgs each. Phil liked the fact these were true inbuilt tanks rather than bags as on some of the other craft he looked at. Malibu offers a fourth bow ballast tank (140kg) as an option, and provides a digital ballast monitoring system. As well, there is the Precision Pro speed (cruise) control and custom pre-sets so that the ballast, speed and Power Wedge can be co-ordinated to best suit the requirements of individual riders.

In previous reviews of Malibu boats, we have described, in detail, how the company’s unique and clever Power Wedge works. Essentially, it is a foil that can be lowered just under and behind the transom to pull down the back of the hull and so change the shape and height of the wake. Combining that facility with varying weights in the ballast tanks at different speeds gives precise control over the wake and so gives an enormous range of choice for skiers, wakeboarders and wake surfers to suit everyone from beginners to pros.

Steering is light, with three and a half turns lock-to-lock and it gives a very direct response without being over-sensitive.

Accelerating from rest, the hull rises gracefully on plane, with some bow rise that quickly drops away for a pleasant and efficient running angle. Opening the throttle more quickly shows plenty of grunt from rest when required, and there’s strong acceleration through mid revs, too.

Malibu uses in-laminate acoustic insulation and it does a top job of keeping noise levels down, with the VTX proving to be about the quietest watersports boat I’ve been aboard. Vibration was virtually non-existent at all times, too, so the Wakesetter felt smooth-as-silk right through watersports, cruise and top speeds. Throttle control was seamless and gave instant response, so the whole affair felt lively and would give a high sense of satisfaction to the skipper. The throttle and gear shift lever was ideally positioned for me, and there was a neat ledge built into the side of the cockpit so I could relax with my arm and my fingers, operating the throttle with just a gentle touch for fine adjustments. The VTX has been designed and built as much to keep the skipper and crew very content as it has to provide fun for riders.

About 3000rpm is an ideal cruise speed, and that recorded 43.2km/h on our GPS. Running up to 4000rpm, the V8 still felt relaxed and the boat was shooting along at 58km/h, whilst full throttle brought up 5000rpm and 69.5km/h. The driving seat felt ultra comfortable and would keep the skipper feeling good all day, especially with the lumbar adjustment and a flip-up bolster to change position every now and again.

The prop was perfectly matched to the engine and hull, with no trace of slip, even in very tight turns – tighter than you’d need in practice, but good fun for testing! The ride was soft through other wakes and across typical river wash and slop, so that the boat felt strong, with no rattles or squeaks anywhere. Phil commented that he’d heard rattles on some of the other boats he had checked out – notably with their wake towers. There’s plenty of freeboard up front with those strong chines and, with all that buoyancy built into the forward sections, the Wakesetter should prove dry when running through chop with crew in the bow rider area.

REFINED DESIGNS

Recognised as one of the world’s leading watersports boatbuilders – Malibu has repeatedly won the US Powerboat magazine’s ‘Tow Boat Of the Year’ award – Malibu has been refining and improving its hull designs for many years. The undersides of this Wakesetter hull seem relatively conventional at first sight, but incorporate countless attributes that combine to deliver an excellent ride, with the ability to tune the wake for individual watersport preferences.

The main hull strake runs parallel to the keel and sweeps toward the front of the boat to intersect with a mini-strake that runs aft from the stem more or less parallel to the gunwale. The chine starts high on the gun’l, back from the stem and broadens as it runs aft to terminate with a curved downturn at the transom. That combination of chines and strakes helps keep the boat dry and contributes to its excellent tracking. The keel has twin turn fins (also helpful for precise control) and a small delta planing pad that concludes as part of the only slightly veed bottom across the transom.

The latter looks impressive if you take the time to peek under the huge boarding platform while the boat is on its trailer. The gleaming plate of the Power Wedge is matched by the shine on the twin downturned Hydroquiet exhaust outlets, while forward under the boat is the rudder and CNC-cut nibral four-blade, 13.5in diameter by 16in pitch prop.

The trailer is equally impressive, with dual axles, smart alloy wheels, a long row of rollers on both sides and quad aft padded bunks to very effectively support the hull under the aft-mounted engine. The boat and trailer combination have loads of eye-appeal out of the water and the depth of the hull, which contributes to the space and extensive stowage capacity onboard, is disguised with two colour panels – one along the top of the gun’ls and a smaller band that follows a knuckle in the topsides just above the waterline.

Malibu is very conscious of all the practical aspects of owning a trailer boat, including the challenge of finding room to store it. To make the VTX as ‘garage-friendly’ as possible, the large boarding platform is easily removed and the trailer draw-bar hinges back to reduce the length needed in a garage. The wake tower also hinges down to reduce the height to 2.305m.

On either side of the stem, in the angled panels above the gun’l, are delta-shaped fine-mesh vents that channel air through the under-floor areas and engine bay for ventilation. Also near the bow are the optional docking lights, and there’s a combined navigation light on top of the stem.

The space aboard the Wakesetter would make many longer boats hang their heads in shame. The aft-mounted V8, with V-drive transmission, helps, of course, to free-up usable room, but the interior design team at Malibu deserves accolades for the quality of the seating and the volume of storage packed into the VTX.

The boat is trimmed with truly luxurious 38oz ‘Duraguard’ vinyl that is French-stitched to perfection over triple-density foam cushioning and matched by premium 32oz carpet.

A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING…

Our photos show all the seating and there is neatly carpeted stowage beneath it all, except for an insulated cooler under a starboard cockpit seat. Even spots above the transmission and engine have lift-out storage trays, while extra large compartments are in front of the observer’s seat and beside the engine under the aft sunlounge. There’s a lockable glovebox, too, with iPod and USB connections inside. Grab handles and drink holders are prevalent, with stereo speakers strategically positioned throughout the boat.

A removable table has a mount in the cockpit floor, with the table itself storing neatly where it takes up very little room. The floor space and the passage between the main and front cockpits are generous and make it extra easy to move around the boat.

The screen is very attractive as well as practical, with pleasing curves and vents in the quarter frames. A centre panel hinges for access between the cockpits, and a removable panel below keeps out the breeze through the passageway on cooler days. Arcing well above the boat is the Illusion G3 wake tower, with a pair of swing-in board racks and topped with a large bimini that gives both more shade and more headroom than most of its type – factors that weighed in the Wakesetter’s favour for Phil against its competition.

We could go on and on about the Wakesetter VTX; we haven’t even mentioned the all-’glass construction, keyless start, the LED courtesy lights with two-stage dimmer, the huge rear-view mirror, twin fuel fillers, engine fresh water flushing system with external access, auto bilge pump, the Dexter electro-hydraulic brakes on the trailer, and … well, you’d better have a look at a Wakesetter VTX for yourself as that’s the only way to get the full story.

Our sincere thanks to Phil for making his shiny new pride and joy available for our review. It wasn’t difficult to see why he had chosen this boat.

As he noted: “For us to purchase a good quality boat, we had to tick a lot of boxes.”

It sets a good example for any new boat buyer to see the way Phil went about examining the alternatives for the best fit against his requirements.

SPECIFICATIONS: MALIBU WAKESETTER VTX

Overall Length: 6.10m

Beam: 2.49m

Draft: 0.56m

Weight: 1497kg (boat)

Weight: 2097kg (boat and trailer)

Capacity: 10 persons

Fuel capacity: 174lt

Power: Monsoon V8 (261kw, 350hp)

Price from: $80,400 excluding delivery and on-road costs

Price as tested: $96,405 ready to run

Performance:

RPM KM/H

2600 32.7

3000 43.2

3500 52.3

4000 57.6

4500 67.8

5000 69.5

More information: www.malibuboats.com.au.


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