‘New for 2016’ often refers to a revamped version of a 2015 model. But not so for the Malibu Wakesetter 20 VTX, which is a totally new design with fresh tooling and a host of features not seen before.
The initial hull came out of the moulds in February, and Club Marine Magazine was the first to review the visually stand-out black and yellow creation at the impressive Del Rio Riverside Resort on Sydney’s Hawkesbury River.
We were there just before a Malibu Owner’s Reunion, hosted by long-established local dealer GRE Marine, which also supplied the immaculately prepared test boat. Indicative of Malibu’s popularity, some 160 people were booked to attend the reunion, with 125 at a celebratory feast on the Saturday night. Held in conjunction with a stopover for one of Malibu’s Just Ride tour events, the team took the opportunity to introduce the innovative Wakesetter 20 VTX.
Malibu appropriately tagline this new model as the ‘crossover king’ with its brand-new T-Cut Diamond hull providing a competition-level slalom-ski wake akin to many tournament-approved boats, while also enabling a wide range of wakeboarding wakes. That’s achieved through the use of either (or both) its ballast tanks and Power Wedge, while deploying the Surf Gate option further facilitates excellent wakes for surfing.
Malibu’s Power Wedge is a foil that rotates down behind the transom to alter the shape of the wake, while Surf Gate comprises plates on either side of the transom that hinge outwards to shape the wake for surfing. Both are clever and effective and, new for 2016, the Surf Gate plates are operated hydraulically rather than electrically.
The 20 VTX can cover every aspect of watersports, with a level of tuning from the onboard facilities giving everyone from rank beginner to seasoned professional the wake they want. On top of that, the VTX is a superb boat for the driver and for off-season family cruising.
Part of a range of Wakesetter models, the ‘20’ versions (20ft/6.1m) have proved the most popular, thanks to their value for money and ability to comfortably accommodate family and friends. Their comparatively compact size means easy-handling and storage. They’re visually appealing, too.
The 20 VTX starts at around $104,750 while our review boat had a number of options, taking its investment to $123,819. The long list of included/optional features and Malibu’s top-level quality make it good value in today’s market.
Malibu’s facility in Albury, NSW, is possibly the most advanced watersports boatbuilding operation in Australia and its proud catchcry ‘Built by Australians for Australians’ carries a lifetime warranty on hull/deck construction, with five-year warranty on electronics, the powertrain and other components.
It’s in the powertrain that one of the most significant variations from previous Wakesetters has been made. The company has changed from GM-sourced engines to Ford V8s marinised by well-regarded specialist, Indmar. The reason for this change is that the 6.2lt Indmar Monsoon V8 has a higher torque output of 410lb-ft (556Nm) and a torque curve better suited to watersports. In this environment, the torque of an engine is of greater importance than the power output. A changed ratio in the V-drive transmission for the rear-mounted engine also helps give the new VTX great grunt, both out of the hole and through the mid-range.
Other new items aboard the 2016 VTX include a redesigned driver’s seat that has an optional powered vertical adjustment, as well as the usual fore/aft adjustment, flip-up bolster and swivel ability. Also new are the windshield design, a reversing camera (that auto-engages when reverse is selected and can be activated when driving for a view astern), fender locks that can grip fender or mooring lines at any convenient point, sensors that warn if you launch with the drain plugs not fitted (very useful that one), a dry-storage locker at the helm, an expandable phone holder to accommodate larger smartphones, and new options for carpets and gelcoat/trim colours.
The trailer is also Aussie-built, by Easytow, with alternative full/part roller supports to suit each owner’s launching conditions. It’s ADR compliant and comes standard galvanised with electric/hydraulic Dexter brakes and a new design of alloy wheels, plus paint and other options.
The 20 VTX interior layout is typical for a watersports bowrider, with full-perimeter seating in the main cockpit, a sunpad in the forward cockpit (over an optional extra ballast tank), another large sunpad over the aft engine compartment, and a generously sized boarding platform behind aft-facing transom seats. The gracefully forward-curved G3 tower supports a neat and effective bimini and comes in a range of new optional colours.
Storage compartments and lockers are found everywhere, including under seats and beside the engine as well as under the passenger screen console below a lockable glovebox. Drinkholders, grabhandles and deck hardware are intelligently sized and positioned.
The upholstery is market-leading, with firm cushioning for comfort and support and with the best-quality trim materials. It’s especially appealing around the helm, with a charcoal leatherette-style material enhanced with optional colour-matched contrast stitching at no charge.
Board riders describe the wake as being really good; nice and poppy (‘poppy’ describing the height that can be achieved off the peak of the wake), with a clean shape. The wake has a longer transition than previous models, so you can come in with a lot more speed and not get tripped up so much. The take-off ramp is longer and smoother to a nice peak.
Using the ballast tanks (standard single amidships and dual aft side tanks, plus optional bow tank) adjusts the size of the wake. Deploying the Power Wedge will further increase the size and amend the shape. At the helm are two superb touchscreen colour graphic displays – the amount of control the skipper can command is exceptional, including a range of recallable presets for ballast, plus Wedge and Surf Gate settings to suit individual skier/rider preferences. Phone profiles can also be displayed, as can graphic representations of various boat configurations and engine data, and any number of further capabilities. It’s all intuitive and easy to follow.
The only downside is that the 20 VTX is so great to drive that those wanting to pursue their watersport may have to bribe the driver to stop them heading off into the distance all alone!
The throttle and steering are beautifully smooth, linear and responsive, and that new Indmar powertrain is a perfect example of the old ‘iron fist in a velvet glove’ saying. It has a very low NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) threshold and really boots the Malibu along. The hull turns tight and free of any glitches.
We reached a top speed on the day of 36.6 knots (67.8km/h) at 5200rpm; mid-range cruising was between 3500 and 4500rpm which brought up 25.9 and 32.3 knots (48 and 59.9km/h) respectively. Optimum wakeboarding speed was around 19.4 knots (36km/h), although that will vary with individual skills and wake requirements.
There are many other aspects and individual features and facilities offered by the 20 VTX … the only way to appreciate them all is to go look for yourself.
MALIBU WAKESETTER 20 VTX
Weight (towing): 2520kg (approx)
Capacity: 11 persons
Fuel capacity: 144lt
Power (as tested): 410hp V8 Indmar Ford Monsoon 6.2lt
Price from: $104,750 (including NSW delivery and on-road costs)
Price as tested: $123,819 (including NSW delivery and on-road costs)
More information: Malibu Boats, tel: (02) 6040 1174. Web: malibuboats.com.au.