This all-new model Malibu 23 LSV was no trailer queen, nor was it straight from a dealer's showroom. It was on its way back to base at the Malibu facility in Albury after a hard-working two-week tour promoting the watersports lifestyle on the Malibu 'Just Ride' Tour. Nevertheless, the boat still looked absolutely impeccable and performed to the same standard.
Joining Club Marine for a run in the 23 LSV, on the Williams River at Raymond Terrace in the Hunter Valley of NSW, was wakeboarding star Thorry Heaney. We also had Shannon and Tien Norley along, with their daughters Laura, Ellie, and Tayla. The Norleys are an enthusiastic watersports family who have been enjoying their Malibu Wakesetter for five years or so and were checking out the LSV as a possible upgrade.
The MXZ (MaXimiZe) Wakesetters have a 'pickle-fork' bow shape that adds extra room in the forward cockpit by carrying a wider beam further forward. The LSV (Large Sports V-drive) Wakesetters have a more traditional 'pointed' bow, although still with a hull shape that provides a spacious bowrider area.
The 23 LSV is a designation that has been around for a while and has proven to be the most popular of the larger Malibu boats. For 2014, ongoing market demand has seen it fully redesigned.
The interior layout boasts lots of space in both the forward and main cockpits. Up front forms a fully cushioned 'playpen' above the optional bow ballast tank. A new and welcome feature is drop-down armrests to add comfort and support.
The main cockpit has virtually full perimeter seating with, again, a special new benefit being 'Wakeview - hinge-up cushions that form backrests so crew can recline facing aft. More clever seating is above the large boarding platform behind the sunlounge over the engine bay. A lower level of cushioning forms seats that can be a great spot to relax when the boat is at rest.
The helm position has a new fully digital dash panel with a multitude of optional engine and boat management displays, plus controls for pre-sets, media and more. That's augmented by the 'MaliView' touch-display to the right that handles the Wedge, Surf Gate, ballast tanks, lights and other functions. To the left of the wheel are the stereo controls - and there's another set of remotes for that, neatly integrated in the aft lounge backrest for easier control by crew members.
The driving position as a whole, and, indeed, the entire 23 LSV, is a glorious example of how to do things right, with thoughtful design backed by high-tech materials and craftsmen-built quality.
The actual running surfaces of the boat are unchanged, as Malibu's 'Diamond' design has proven itself a winner across the watersporting spectrum. At the transom, a central planing pad gives way to low deadrise sections out to strakes, before a slightly increased deadrise runs laterally to chines that are quite broad amidships; they are downturned for added grip on the water, before narrowing as they lead fore and aft. In its 'native' mode, the Diamond hull delivers an excellent wake for slalom skiing.
However, the overall design of the 23 LSV integrates features to also shape the wake for individual preferences in wakeboarding and wakesurfing. Triple ballast tanks are standard, with a fourth bow tank optional, all combining to sit the boat deeper for higher wakes, while Malibu's unique Power Wedge can be pivoted down at the transom to hydrodynamically pull down the back of the boat for further wake-shaping options.
Add yet another Malibu specialty, Surf Gate (which powers plates out sideways on either side of the transom to form optimal surfing wakes), and you start to understand the versatility of the whole 23 LSV experience.
All of these functions are controlled by computer systems that operate through very user-friendly graphically presented colour touchscreens at the helm. Individual settings for ballast, Wedge, and Gate, for skiers, riders and surfers, can be set and recalled at any time.
An extra innovation for 2014 with Surf Gate is faster actuation, for quicker transfers from side to side. To make the most of this, Malibu has added signalling with a horn on the transom and optional lights on the tower to inform the rider.
During our run on the river, both Thorry and Shannon had a great time wakeboarding, doing so together for a long while, taking it in turns to do tricks and then combining for awesome jumps over each other. A quick re-set of the ballast, Wedge and Gate then saw Tien and David surfing with ease and emphasising the multiple abilities of the 23 Wakesetter.
Versatility and fun
Shannon commented: "I'm impressed with the wake and the boat itself - it's fantastic. The new hulls are a little different, with cleaner wakes, and it's good to have a bit more room onboard compared with our own boat."
Thorry has been wakeboarding for seven years, starting when he was 14 and competing up to the top-three level in national Junior Men's events. However, he is now actively involved in promoting the recreational aspects of the sport and the lifestyle of wakeboarding.
Thorry had shown the way at the wheel and advised: "For wakeboarding, the speed is usually about 22mph (35km/h) and between 3000 and 4000 revs, depending on ballast and Wedge settings. There's not much difference in feel and handling when running with the ballast tanks full and the Wedge deployed, but it does feel heavier at idle and it settles more quickly when coming off plane."
My time at the controls was just as rewarding. Every Malibu I've driven has been another reminder of what a quality hull design and top-class set-up can deliver with great punch out of the hole and pleasant cruising when not towing anyone. Manoeuvring for watersports can be critical at times and the 23 LSV turned with precision and perfect control.
Malibu's construction techniques result in very low noise and vibration levels, making these boats amongst the quietest and smoothest you'll find anywhere.
Pricing for the 23 LSV starts from $99,994 (plus on-road costs) and a range of options are available. Our review LSV had been highly specified, which took the as-seen price to $138,986.
Incidentally, the Malibu facility has recently been significantly expanded to cater for the ever-growing demand for its products. It is a wonderful Aussie success story - if you would like to be a part of it, get yourself to a Malibu dealer pronto.
SPECIFICATIONS: MALIBU WAKESETTER 23 LSV
Overall length: 7.01m
Weight (boat, dry): 2040kg
Weight (towing): 2700kg (approx)
Capacity: 15 persons
Fuel capacity: 261lt
Power (standard): Monsoon V8 (306kW, 410hp)
Power (as tested): Monsoon V8 (336kW, 450hp)
Price from: $99,994 excluding delivery and on-road costs
Price as tested: $138,986 excluding delivery and on-road costs
More information: Malibu Boats tel: (02) 6040 1174. Web: malibuboats.com.au.