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Trend setter: Malibu Wakesetter VLX.

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So what does a company do when it has a best-selling model* If it's Malibu, they make it even better, as evidenced by the Wakesetter VLX, which sports a tweaked hull that makes one of the best wakes in the business even better and more versatile than ever.

Unique Factor

Nobody does classy better than Malibu and instead of whacked-out graphics that look like a bad Vegas carpet, the stylized Wakesetter moniker is emblazoned on the sides amid a tasteful color scheme. The biggest eye-grabber this year is the forward-swept Illusion G3 tower that comes standard with Titan slide-off spinner racks. It's spring-loaded, making it nearly weightless--even when stacked with options like quad stereo speakers--so folding it down before tucking it in the garage is so easy your kids can do it. Get the hint, Junior?

According to Malibu sources, most VLX models ship with the full Monty of ballast: four tanks that hold 1,250 pounds of jump juice, including the optional bow ballast tank, artfully controlled by MaliView, a 6.5-inch touch-screen LCD display. In addition to factory presets like beginner, intermediate and pro, you can customize it to your own personal profile and switch from rider to rider with two taps of the screen. A new update is the wakesurf settings that optimize your personal pipeline.

Performance

Powering our test boat is the Indmar 350 Monsoon, which is a 5.7L GM block with ETX/CAT (Extreme Tuned Exhaust with catalytic converter) that puts out 350 horsepower. Because this engine is a 4-Star Super Ultra Low Emissions Engine in California Air Resources Board-speak, it can be offered for sale in the Golden State. Since harmful emissions are vastly reduced, it's also the perfect engine choice for those who are into the quickly growing sport of wakesurfing, where riders are maneuvering very close to the stern.

Fortunately this doesn't adversely affect performance or fuel economy, as we found out in our test. Malibu did a very effective job of engine noise abatement, emitting only 58 decibels as we idled out. Thanks to the drive-by-wire throttle, ramping up the power was as smooth as soy milk, and we stroked it on plane in 2.7 seconds with little bowrise. Time to 30 mph was 6.1 seconds and we hit a top rpm of 5250, which gave us a top speed of 44.7 mph--very respectable for a V-drive inboard.

Handling

Thanks to the twin Gorilla Fins along the keel with a surface area of 120 square inches each, slicing through the water like an upside-down shark, the Wakesetter VLX will go wherever you point it, however fast you need to get there. The fins also give you added stability, so keeping it tracking straight is easy, no matter how hard someone is digging in for an epic launch.

Cornering is extremely flat and comfortable for riders with well-placed handholds. Our test boat is equipped with the Auto Wedge, which is the next-generation Power Wedge that progressively planes into the water and can mimic 1,200 pounds of displacement. Most riders use it to shape the wake to make the ramp steeper. The auto function saves you gas by retracting whenever it senses you are going slower than the cruise speed you input, such as when you are turning. For safety, the wedge can only be activated when you are in gear and moving. The Auto Wedge also helps the VLX plane faster. We found the biggest and bad-dest wake occurred when we had the Power Wedge deployed at about 2/3 down.

Best Uses

The Wakesetter VLX is widely regarded as one of the top wakeboarding boats on the market and is the official towboat for Wakestock and other top tournaments. But a one-trick pony it's not. With twin 200-pound outboard ballast tanks and an assist from MaliView, drivers can conjure up a hefty curl for wakesurfing. The Power Wedge can be used to dial in the shape of the wave to make it longer or more massive. With all the tanks empty, the VLX offered up a fairly flat wake for slalom fans.

Because the hull is fairly sharp at the entry and tapers off to 10 degrees of deadrise, it won't pound you like flatter-bottomed boats. The 21-foot, 6-inch VLX has a wide 100-inch beam and plenty of seating for its max load of 11 skiers. But while they're waiting for their pull, they're nicely entertained with a killer stereo system. The available Rockford Fosgate speakers are recessed into the seat backs and glare at you like the stack of money in the Geico commercial.

Refreshments can be stashed in the cockpit cooler under the starboard-side lounge seat, but like other storage compartments you have to remove the entire seat to access it, not my favorite arrangement. You can even bring hot food across the lake stored atop the engine on Malibu's famous "pizza box" storage bin.

Preferred Setup

Like most other ski boats, stereos are an option because for skiers this is a highly personal item. Our test boat comes loaded with the premium Rockford Fosgate eight-speaker plus subwoofer system, so you have your own personal soundtrack accompanying your run. Although the standard cruise is adequate, the GPS-based Zero Off system is a state-of-the-art upgrade with speed accuracy to one hundredth of a second. Ballast* Bring on the max 1,250 pounds as well as the Auto Wedge for the most versatility in wake choice. If you aren't tied to one lake, the optional dual-axle trailer is mandatory.

Owner Feedback

Tommy and Melissa Lee, Shady Shores, TX

Purchased at Waterski America, Dallas, TX

What we liked:

* The versatile wake and ease of setup

* The 6.5-inch MaliView LCD screen

* The roominess and quality of seating

* The fold-down tower

What I would change:

I think it would be great to have a tower that folds down electronically.

Why we bought it:

My wife and I have skied for years on our friends' boats, and because we knew one day we would own our own boat we took mental notes whenever we would go out. My wife was a little intimidated at the prospect of driving a ski boat, so that was a major concern since I needed her to drive when I skied. She was very pleased at how easy it was to drive the VLX. With the ease of setup for wakes and the cruise control, she realized all she had to do for a perfect pull was to advance the throttle and steer. We were also getting into wakesurfing and spent as much time doing that as wakeboarding, so we needed a boat that could handle it, which the VLX does well. We entertain a lot and have riders of all skill levels, and the Malibu can accommodate everyone. It's very roomy, so whether we are skiing or cruising to restaurants on Lake Lewisville, everyone on board is comfortable.

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IN BRIEF:

FEATURES

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1 Step-up to centerline walkthrough gives skiers a seat for booting up

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2 Helm places MaliView screen and gauges high for easy reading

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3 Filler cushion in the bow makes it a great place for gathering rays

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4 Recessed stainless steel grabrails replace on-the-gunwale rails for 2010

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5 Beverage access in cockpit is just a flip of the cushion away

6 Swivel board racks on the tower make it easy to select your weapon

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Malibu
Wakesetter VLX

SPECIFICATIONS

Length                            21 ft., 6 in.
Beam                               8 ft., 4 in.
Capacity                              11 people
Dry Weight                           3,500 lbs.
Fuel Capacity                          46 gals.

PERFORMANCE

                              mph    rpm    dBA

Peak                         44.7    5250    93
Cruise                         31    3500    85
Time to Plane                          2.7 sec.
Time to 30 mph                         6.1 sec.

POWER

Test                      Indmar Monsoon 350 hp
Max hp                                   505 hp
Cylinders                                   V-8
Displacement                               5.7L
Weight                                 930 lbs.
WOT Range                              5200 rpm
Base Price              w/Indmar Monsoon 350 hp
                                        $69,698

VALUE-ADDED
STANDARD FEATURES

G3 Illusion Tower, snap-in carpeting,
drive-by-wire throttle, Precision Pro cruise

MUST-HAVE OPTIONS

MaliView LCD screen, Rockford Fosgate
stereo options, hot water shower, Auto
Wedge

BUILDER

Malibu Boats
malibuboats.com

Circle 6 on reader service card

$ FINANCING:

$558/month based on 15% down and 7.75%
interest for 15 years
COPYRIGHT 2010 Duncan McIntosh Company, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:tested: Malibu Wakesetter VLX
Author:Jones, Alan
Publication:Boating World
Article Type:Product/service evaluation
Date:Jun 1, 2010
Words:1383
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