It's all well and good to label a boat a 'wakeboarder', but how do the VLX's wakes stack up ?
Issue: June 2004
Manufacturer: Malibu Boats
Over the years, in this and other publications, much has been written about Malibu Boats in an attempt to let people know that Malibu Boats Australia are, as the words imply, just that ' top-of-the-line Aussie-made boats. Yes, Malibu does have an American sister company, but Malibu Boats started production in Australia in 1993. And while the Aussie-built product is still heavily linked to America ' Malibu uses the same materials and components they use in the States to fit-out its boats ' the entire process is completed at the company's Albury production facility.
Right down to hand laying the fibreglass hulls. The result is that Aussie-built Malibu Boats retain all the quality components and design expertise that go into the American versions, but they are true-blue Australian products that, more to the point, have a true-blue Aussie price tag. With a starting price under $65,000 for a Wakesetter VLX, including a wake tower, it represents excellent value for money. From a wakeboarder's perspective, the 2005 Wakesetter VLX is one of the new generation of big, bold and brassy, specialist wakeboats that throw an enormous wake, enabling riders to get extreme air.
The Wakesetter VLX has evolved from its original design to near legendary status in its field. Sporting a completely re-designed hull and deck, the Wakesetter VLX now measures 6.55m from bow to transom, not including the swim platform, and boasts a beam of 0.61m. She's a big, purpose-built boat that has more than enough room to take family and friends out for a great day on the water. Returning to the rider's perspective, after spending a day boarding on the Hume Weir at Albury, the Modern Boating team can confidently attest that true to the slogan in the brochure, she does deliver 'gravity defying wakes and an awe-inspiring ride'.
So, what makes this wakeboat so special ? Let's start with the hull. It features an extremely sharp bow entry and carries its wide, heavily defined flat chines well forward. Working in conjunction with the keel, these form a mini tunnel down each side of the hull, which allows the boat to ride on a cushion of air, aids lateral stability and softens the overall ride. Straight-line tracking and 'rocket sled on rails' like turns are controlled by two over-sized strakes that begin well forward. Towards the bow these are one and a half inches wide and positioned at an angle of 90 degrees to the hull. In other words they sit vertically to the horizontal plan of the hull.
As these strakes extend towards the stern, they narrow to only half an inch, keeping the hull almost flat at the transom for a smoother wake. The result is a straight tracking hull that produces a uniform wake. Two Gorilla Blade fins, positioned along the keel almost underneath the driver, also aid high-speed turns, but that's not the only innovation hidden under the boat. All inboard ski/wakeboats suffer propeller torque steer, which can make manoeuvring at slow speeds, especially around the dock, a bit tricky for those not accustomed to the idiosyncrasies of certain boats. However, Malibu has overcome this problem by adding a small adjustable 'door' near the top of the rudder, which set correctly, enables you to reduce torque steer to almost zero.
It's all well and good to label a boat a 'wakeboarder', but how do the VLX's wakes stack up. Modern Boating's Domonic Wiseman, who spent the day behind the Wakesetter on Lake Hume, said the VLX wakes were the biggest he'd ever boarded on. 'They were that big I would have had no trouble free surfboarding behind this boat.' There are a number of factors that contribute to the boat's ability to 'wall up' big wakes. The first we have already mentioned; the way the hull flattens out near the transom.
This, coupled with a 340hp Malibu Monsoon stern-mounted V-drive motor, add considerable weight aft, which push the stern down, helping generate wake. But that's only the beginning. All 'boarders' know that the secret behind a big wake is ballast and the Wakesetter has almost half a ton of it in twin 90lt side-flood tanks and one 160lt centre tank. The test boat also had the optional 140lt bow tank, which in combination adds up to 480kg of extra ballast. And the good news is they only take four minutes to fill or empty. However, it's not just weight that adds to the size of the wake, it's the positioning of that weight.
The side tanks and the motor weigh down the back of the boat. The centre tank pushes the centreline keel down and the forward tank keeps the bow down. Basically, the entire length of the boat is pushed down into the water, not just the stern; hence, a bigger wake. And that's before we add wake-enhancing devices such as the Malibu 'Wedge'.
Being a wakeboat, straight-line speed isn't the major focus of the Wakesetter, but don't be fooled into thinking that she's a pussy in the power department. Powered by an Inmar 340hp Malibu Monsoon V8, this boat's got 'balls'. Her hulls relatively flat aft section means it doesn't take a stack of grunt to get the hull on the plane and once there, she'll hold her own with the best of them. During this test powering into a head wind, she clocked 47mph at 5300rpm, which isn't bad for a boat that weighs almost 2.5 tonnes before you add people and fuel.
On the layout front, the interior has been expanded to accommodate 11 people in comfort and luxury abounds, as you'd expect from a Malibu. There's a wraparound windscreen, 38oz 'G&T' upholstery, luxurious carpets, sport steering wheel, both analogue and digital instrumentation, a huge 1.5 cu ft glove box and a roomy bowrider that 'can' seat three adults in comfort. The test boat was also fitted with the Illusion X Tower, with its forward sweeping design and sleek look that compliments the Wakesetter's bodylines and eliminates the common box look. It has outstanding forward visibility, superior strength and unique styling. The Illusion X is available with as many as four optional 6' Sony Xplode tower speakers, racks, lights and a bimini. And speaking of wakeboard racks, you just about need a crane to lift the solid stainless steel board racks fitted to the Wakesetter's tower.
Malibu have left nothing to chance when designing the Wakesetter VLX, right down to the shaped swim platform, which allows you to stand on your wakeboard without damaging its fins. Her build quality and the standard of componentry used in her construction are second to none. Her design and layout are world-class and fully functional and as her name suggests, this boat sets some of the biggest wakes in the business. With a standard tower and powered by a Malibu LCR 320hp EFI-MPI V8, you can get behind the wheel of a Wakesetter VLX for under $65,000. The boat as tested, with all the goodies and the Illusion X Tower, will set you back $74,900, plus dealer delivery and on roads.
Words by Ian Macrae