One of the most popular and best-known watersports brands in the world, let alone Australia, is Malibu. A multi-decade association between the local independent, Australian-owned company and Malibu in the USA, which involved a range of Malibu models being built here in a state-of-the-art factory in Albury, recently changed, with news that the US company has acquired the Australian business (see article on P31).
Malibu has evolved its designs, with considerable R&D investment over the years, to be genuinely outstanding.
This latest model, the 24 MXZ is the largest in the range and is built exclusively in the US.
David Thorpe, Malibu Australia's National Marketing and Dealer Development Manager, acknowledges that a boat this big attracts a niche segment of watersports enthusiasts.
"With the popularity in Australia of the 20 and 22 MXZ, which we manufacture here, we felt that this 24 MXZ really had a small part in the market. With a seating capacity for 18 people, it answers all the questions when it comes to big boats and is available here to special order. We see it as the sort of 'holy grail' of watersports boats."
This is a premium wakeboard boat for those who want to take a large crew out on open waters. It comes with Malibu's unique Power Wedge and Surf Gate wake-manipulating features for boarding and surfing, and all the options available on the smaller MXZ Wakesetters can be fitted as well. Additionally, it has a reverse seating set-up where parts of the side seats flip up to form backrests for aft-facing crew to recline and watch the action astern - or to just relax.
The 24 MXZ has quad ballast tanks that can add over 600kg of water to the boat's displacement for those monster wakes. The hull design of the smaller MXZs has been well-proven and the 24 is the same and every bit as good - just bigger.
Motor to match
For a boat this size you need an engine to match and the 24 MXZ is delivered with a 450hp LS3 6.2lt Monsoon V8 which, on this craft, was spinning an impressive four-blade 15in diameter by 12in pitch Torque prop. That combination is enough to strongly launch the hull out of the hole with minimal bowrise. All the raw grunt you'd want to lift 'boarders out of the water is just waiting to be deployed.
The steering is light and gives immediate response for balanced directional control. The bow did run a bit higher at cruise speeds, but not enough to affect visibility, which was clear all around. The throttle and shift are also light and a pleasure to use, and combining the throttle and wheel for tight turns is great fun, especially as the hull and prop gave no sign of misbehaving in any of the conditions we tried.
This exceptional handling and manoeuvrability is a hallmark of Malibu hull designs and throws down the gauntlet to testers to find chinks in the armour - a task that was beyond me, I have to say.
The driver has an ideal spot and with the crew can enjoy top-class facilities and a rarely matched quality of finish all through the boat.
The dash panel is genuinely superb - excellent layout, perfectly positioned, great ergonomics and clear displays, which are a mix of analogue and digital and are all easily understood. There is also a touchscreen display that allows full control of all the facilities, and the computerised cruise control of Wedge/Surf Gate/ballast management is most convenient. Combined with top-class seating, good ventilation from the screen quarter-vents and protective shade from the large bimini overhead, the driving position of the 24 MXZ is as good as you'll find.
We were planing slickly at 3500rpm, which showed 40.7km/h on the GPS, while full throttle had the 24 MXZ fairly creaming along at 64.5km/h with the Monsoon V8 singing at 5600rpm. Cruising speeds were anywhere between 46.7km/h at 4000rpm and 58.6km/h at 5000rpm. At any speed the Malibu is smooth, with low noise levels.
We were fortunate to have champion wakeboarder Joel Bartley with us during our test run. After experiencing the big Malibu, he was obviously impressed.
"The wake is outstanding in the way you can get different shapes with the Power Wedge - steeper or more mellow to suit the rider. It's just easy to get a good wake - an all-round good boat. The pre-sets are the best thing - you just press a button and it fills the tanks and sets the Wedge just as the rider wants."
Controlling all the various wake-inducing features is a computerised system that allows any combination of Wedge, Gate and ballast to be set and later recalled.
Thus, everyone can find the setup that they like best and have the computer remember and re-set the boat accordingly at any time.
The layout of the 24 MXZ follows the theme of all Malibu's Wakesetters, with a large forward cockpit and a ballroom-sized main cockpit with full-perimeter seating. There is a big sunlounge over the rear-mounted engine and more aft-facing seats in front of the boarding platform.
Overhead is a graceful, yet practical tower that supports the bimini as well as combination swing-around board racks.
As you would expect, there is a superb stereo system and throughout the boat there are drinkholders and almost an excess of storage locations.
Unseen beneath all the attractive finish is a very strong internal structure that Malibu calls FibECS, which stands for Fibreglass Engine Chassis System. This is a patented innovation by the company and is the core of the 'carved from granite' feeling of substance and quality that you get when aboard, and especially when driving a Malibu.
There is quite a range of Malibu boats to meet individual size and budget requirements, and all have a variety of options so they can be customised to suit individual preference.
SPECIFICATIONS: MALIBU WAKESETTER 24 MXZ
Capacity: 18 persons
Fuel capacity: 294lt
Power (standard): Monsoon V8 (306kw, 410hp)
Power (as tested): Monsoon V8 (336kw, 450hp)
Propeller: 15in x 12in Torque
Price from: Around $125,500, excluding delivery and on-road costs - available only to special order and subject to exchange rates
For more information, and to find a dealer, go to: malibuboats.com.au; or gremarine.com.au.