Malibu Wakesetter VLX 2006 Review

Issue: April/May 2006

WAKE UP! Malibu’s latest offering leaves others in its wake.

Wakeboarding is one of the country’s fastest growing watersports and Malibu’s latest offering takes the fun to a whole new level.

Why? Because its 2006 Wakesetter VLX generates some of the biggest wakes in the business! This latest model has a hull designed to create monster wakes, plus a host of other features that’ll have wakeboarding enthusiasts salivating.

The Wakesetter VLX (21ft 6in) made its debut on the Aussie market in 2005, where it set the cat among the pigeons in terms of ride, finish, performance and wake heights for an Aussie-built wakeboarding boat. But Malibu has never been a company to sit on its hands and the 2006 VLX raises the bar even further.

There are a several factors helping this boat ‘wall-up’ big wakes. The first is the design of the hull, which flattens considerably near the transom. This, coupled with the weight of the Malibu LCR 320hp, EFI, stern mounted, V-drive engine, add considerable weight aft, pushing the stern down to wall-up the wake.

But wait… there’s more! Try twin 90lt port and starboard stern flood tanks, a 220lt-centre tank and a 140lt-bow tank, which counter all that weight at the stern. This keeps the hull at a good running angle when the tanks are full. That’s an extra 540kg of weight pushing the hull down, before you add people and 174lt of fuel.

What this means for boarders is the entire length of the boat is pushed down into the water (not just the stern), creating a bigger wake. But Malibu’s coup de grate is the wake-enhancing Power Wedge, which turns the VLX’s big wakes into massive, designer wakes. Amazingly, the shape of the wake can be customised to each rider’s style and ability. A switch on the dash offers a range of five settings (for 180kg to 545kg of displacement), all indicated on a separate cockpit gauge that pinpoints the Wedge’s exact location for rider preferences. For safety reasons the wedge angle can only be completely retracted when the boat is travelling below 10mph.

The new VLX is as big, bold and brassy as the 2005 version we tested last year on Lake Hume, near Albury, with many obvious and not so obvious improvements.

In the obvious category is the digital Precision Pro Speed Control (positioned in the centre of new Billet Dash Insert). It not only delivers controlled constant low speed for boarding and crisp, steady slalom speeds, but also incorporates a Ballast Monitoring System. Now you can see precisely how much water is in the 540kg of concealed ballast flood tanks under the floor.

Then there’s the pillar-less toughened glass windscreen, swivel and slidingdriver’s seat with lumbar support, servo electronic instrumentation and large LCD screen, retractable ski pole, large Cipa mirror, carpets, super-smooth rack and pinion steering, plus the ‘Illusion X’ wakeboarding tower. The list goes on. 

The not so obvious improvements include new digital drive-by-wire throttle, a hand-wrapped uni-directional vinyl dash, multiple stainless steel drink holders, subtle LED cockpit lighting, down-turned exhaust extensions, a removable cockpit table, large built-in, self-draining Esky and a removable, insulated cooler bag.

Look a bit harder and you’ll also notice the striking new graphics on the hull that give the VLX a new stylish look. 

But the improvements don’t stop with the boat. The galvanised and painted-tandem trailer has also been upgraded to include breakaway brakes, a pivoting drawbar and optional forward trailer rollers for easier launch and retrievals.

The underside hull didn’t need any tweaking (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it), to deliver optimum performance. Her extremely sharp bow entry and aggressive chines are carried well forward and work in conjunction with the keel to form mini tunnels down each side of the hull. This allows the hull to ride on the cushions of air trapped between the outer edges of the chines and the keel.

The ride is soft and stable and the boat tracks and turns like a rocket sled on rails, aided by two Gorilla fins fitted to the keel under the driver’s seat and two over-sized strakes that begin well forward. These are one-and-a-half inches wide and positioned at an angle of 90 degrees to the hull. As the strakes extend towards the stern, they narrow to only half an inch, keeping the hull almost flat at the transom for a smooth wake. The result is a straight tracking hull that produces a uniform wake.

All inboard ski/wakeboats suffer from propeller torque steer, which can make manoeuvring at slow speeds, especially around the jetty, a bit tricky. But Malibu has overcome this to a certain extent by adding a small adjustable ‘door’ near the top of the rudder, which when set correctly, enables you to reduce torque steer dramatically. 

At 21ft 6in, the VLX is a big boat boasting plenty of freeboard, which puts her in a class of her own in the bowrider stakes. Her soft , dry and stable ride, even over choppy water, makes her an ideal harbour and bay day boat. Her rough water ride will leave many so called open-water cuddy and half cabin 21 footers floundering in her wake. 

A 5.7lt 320hp EFI Malibu LCR V8 is the standard power for the VLX. Other engine options are a 340hp Monsoon EFI and a 400hp Hammerhead 383 EFI. The 320hp Malibu LCR had a top speed of 44.1mph, but she cruised effortlessly at 31.1mph pulling 3500rpm.

With a price tag of $73,746 as tested (base price $67,850), the Malibu VLX is by no means an inexpensive boat, but that old clich?: ‘you only get what you pay for’ rings true here. Malibu boats are built in Australia using many quality parts imported from America, but make no mistake, they’re definitely Australian-made at the Malibu factory in Albury, NSW.

The quality of the componentry and craftsmanship used in construction is obvious at first glance, but dig deeper and you’ll find Malibu has left nothing to chance. The boat’s performance and handling is exemplary, but there’s also another side to owning a Malibu people sometimes forget – resale value. If you spend $70,000 buying a Malibu today, when you come to sell it in five years time, history shows you can probably expect (if you have looked aft er the boat) to get almost the same amount back. These boats are renowned for holding their value.

In 1995, Malibu joined with an established boat manufacturer to build Malibu Boats in Australia. Headed by Xavier West, the company is young and energetic and closely mirrors the entrepreneurial spirit that’s driven Malibu over the last 23 years.

Based in Albury, NSW, it’s the largest custom ski boat manufacturer in Australia, producing eight boats per week. The factory is being expanded and after Easter 2006, Xavier and his team will move into new premises covering four acres.

A 5.7lt 320hp EFI Malibu LCR V8 is the standard power for the VLX.

With two adults onboard in calm conditions the VLX/320hp combination returned the following performance figures.

18 – 2500
25.5 – 3000
31.1 – 3500
35.4 – 4000
39.8 – 4500
42.9 – 5000
44.1 – 5400

LENGTH: 21′ 6″
BEAM: 98″
DRAFT: 24″
WEIGHT: 1633kg
FUEL: 174lt
PRICE: $67,850 (Base)


+ Exceptional handling; Digital cruise/ballast control 
– Nothing to report