The most important feature of this boat became apparent as we idled away from the ramp and headed downriver. We had a keen watersports family onboard, and the way they all interacted with each other emphasised the wonderful camaraderie that comes with sharing time on a boat like this, especially when there’s an element of friendly and supportive competition.
In an age when youngsters can spend way too much time indoors and not have enough physical activity, or even enough real-life interaction, going boating and wakeboarding can be a superb way to get out and enjoy our glorious waterways.
At the wheel of our Wakesetter 22 MXZ was Scott Bartley and brightening our day as well with their comments and laughter were his wife Tanya, son Joel and daughter Teaghan. Scott and Tanya are both on the committee of Wakeboard NSW. Joel has just won the NSW state title in the Junior Men’s Division and Teaghan is also a very keen wakeboarder. Scott often drives boats from a variety of manufacturers for wakeboard competitions and was, therefore, uniquely positioned to comment on this new 6.78m Wakesetter 22 MXZ from Malibu.
Scott admitted he felt a little biased as he currently owns his third Wakesetter (and was being tempted to make this MXZ his fourth!), but on the other hand someone who keeps choosing a Malibu after driving, and being able to evaluate, all the leading brands in the demanding environment of competitions has got to have some good reasons for doing so.
“I drive every boat that’s out there as a driver in wakeboard competitions and I reckon the Wakesetter is by far the best because of build quality, handling and company support,” Scott said.
The MXZ hits the market at a value-rich $89,034. That includes a long list of standard features and there’s a treasure trove of options, too. Our test boat had been fitted with a load of the latter and came out at $104,270 (both prices excluding delivery and on-road/water costs). The main upgrades were the more powerful V8 with closed cooling ($5992), the MaliView computer-driven graphic display and control system ($1509) and the Power Wedge ($2440).
VALUE FOR MONEY
Scott said he’d already driven an MXZ. “I liked it,” he said. “I thought the width of the bow might be an issue, but it handles just as good as any Wakesetter. We had 15 people aboard when I drove it and it was awesome. There are a lot of good boats out there and everyone’s got their own opinion, but for value for money I think it’s going to blow everybody away, and it’s Australian built.
“I have a Power Wedge on my boat and the best thing about it is you set it all the way down to pull people out of the hole. With Joel riding, the Wedge is put about two or three touches up and we set that as an automatic setting on the computer to make the wake exactly the way he wants it.
“Teaghan and I ride with the Wedge all the way down. It works really, really well because you can change the shape of the wake while you’re driving. We find sometimes that water conditions can change the shape of the wake a little bit, but then I can just give the Wedge a touch on the screen and the wake is back to exactly the way the rider wants.
“You can feel the effect of the Wedge when driving, but the boat is designed for that and it doesn’t affect the handling. We ride with all the ballast tanks full, using the Power Wedge and with as many adults on board as possible.
“I’ve driven a lot of different boats for riders in wakeboard competitions, and the Wakesetter just works, especially in handling and turning. You look inside a Malibu and you just think they’re finished so well,” he said.
Malibu has been producing Wakesetters for many years now (the company has more than three decades’ experience in watersports craft), evolving each new model with improvements in design, construction and features. The company is very active, both here and in the US, in supporting wakeboarding events and both upcoming and current champions. That provides a wealth of feedback on what riders and their families and crews want, and enables Malibu to keep the innovations feeding into production.
The wide bow that Scott mentioned is a result of this Wakesetter introducing to the model range a ‘cathedral’ or triple-stem forward section. The main advantage is more room on board and deeper sections for added storage and buoyancy. The full beam of the boat is carried right to the stem giving an especially spacious bowrider cockpit. Malibu uses the extra forward buoyancy to help achieve a soft dry ride through sloppy conditions and has in geniously channelled the flow of extra water under the boat to contribute to that all-important wake size and shape.
At the back of the MXZ there is a fairly wide planing pad that narrows in a delta shape as it runs forward to twin turn fins. Out from the planing pad, the undersides slope upwards slightly and extend laterally to chines that are fairly narrow at the transom. However, the chines broaden as they flow forward and then flare inward quite dramatically toward the stem to create the cathedral-styled bow shape. It looks stunning from in front, although from alongside, the hull at first looks quite conventional.
Conventional maybe, but still very appealing, with quite high topsides disguised by a deep and shapely scallop and by a stainless rub rail separating the hull and deck with eye-catching graphics and colour accents. This is not a suitable boat to slink quietly by and not attract attention.
The interior is beautifully finished and supremely comfortable. As well as the large bowrider cockpit, the main cockpit has seating all-round with storage below, including an insulated lift-out cooler to starboard. Then there is a third ‘zone’ (as Malibu terms it) for relaxing. Behind the sunlounge over the engine bay there are two aft-facing seats, complete with drinkholders and a stereo remote.
The driving position is amongst the best in the industry. The seat offers excellent support and adjusts fore and aft; it also swivels when you’re not driving to bring the skipper into the ‘circle of life’ of crew and family around the cockpit. A flip-up bolster gives a higher sight-line alternative when desired.
Dash panels have always been a Malibu specialty and the MXZ maintains that tradition at an impeccable standard. The wheel is tilt-adjustable with a thick comfort-grip rim and a broad single spoke. All the gauges and displays are in unrestricted view and present a wealth of information. To the left is an analogue speedo with digital readouts such as depth, plus air and water temperatures. On the right is an analogue tacho also with digital readouts for engine status, including oil pressure, volts and an hour meter.
In the centre is the full colour and easily-legible ‘MaliView’ screen with a computer-controlled range of readouts and graphics covering cruise control and more. There’s quite a lot to absorb at first, but it’s very intuitive and before long it’s second nature and makes tuning the Wakesetter for personal preferences both helpful and rewarding.
“Within the MaliView, one of the pre-sets is for wake surfing,” said Scott. “There are waterways restrictions you need to watch for that, but it is so easy to set up and it works extremely well. We use ours a lot. The boat ‘nails it’ for all of wakeboarding, skiing and wake surfing.
“I always keep an eye on the ballast tank levels and use the speed control and check the speed to see it’s what we want. We tow at 35 to 36km/h; that varies a bit between riders. I ride at 35, and Joel too, but Teaghan a bit quicker at 36. The depth gauge is really important, especially in shallower waters. I’d never have a boat without a depth gauge. I watch oil pressure and the air and water temperatures. Everything is easy to read such as the speed pre-sets. It’s easy and practical.”
Back to the left of the wheel, but lower on the dash, is the Rockford Fosgate stereo system, whilst matching that to the right is Malibu’s ‘Touch Command’. This is another multi-purpose touch colour screen that includes key-less engine start/stop plus controls/displays for the Power Wedge, ballast tanks, lights and switches.
We’ve described the Power Wedge in detail in previous Malibu reviews. It can be lowered at the transom to act as a form of hydrofoil to pull down the back of the boat. It is the equivalent of adding more weight on board, but it’s done through hydrodynamics rather than actual displacement. The result is the same and both increases and allows control of the wake size and shape.
The MXZ has triple ballast tanks as standard; two aft tanks holding 95kg of water each, and a centre tank holding 220kg. Optionally, a fourth 150kg tank can be added in the front cockpit. By partly or fully filling some or all tanks and by using the Power Wedge and the Cruise Control, there’s excellent control over the wake. Pre-sets in the MaliView system enable each rider to set the boat up to deliver exactly the wake they want, and to be able to re-create the settings whenever needed.
The Wakesetter is great to drive, with light steering that gives an excellent feel for the boat. Standard power is a 350hp Monsoon V8, but our boat had the optional upgrade to a 410hp L96 V8 that was untroubled at all times to deliver strong acceleration and plenty of grunt to haul riders out of the water. I’m sure the 350hp engine would meet all but the demands of the most serious (or largest) wakeboarders.
There’s an armrest behind the throttle/shift lever that was useful, and all the controls worked smoothly and gave immediate response. Visibility was unimpaired, and a welcome continuation from previous Malibu models was the vented quarter panel in the screen.
Scott drove the MXZ whilst Joel and Teaghan used the wake to good effect for tricks on their boards. Being an old hand at such driving, Scott soon had the Wakesetter delivering the best individual wakes for his two youngsters, who were loving every moment of it. This was in May when the water was decidedly cool, but that was no deterrent and the family was planning to use their own Wakesetter right into full winter.
Joel was also enthusastic about the boat. “With this boat you don’t have to put as much weight in it to make the wake as big, and it’s a great boat to ride behind,” he said. “It’s easy to set up and there’s lots of room onboard for everyone to come along and watch.”
With the boards back in the racks (which swivel inboard to make loading and unloading much more convenient), I took over from Scott at the wheel and found that the MXZ lived up to all expectations in performance. With three adults and three teenagers onboard, we were cruising at a relaxed 3000rpm and 39km/h. Using a few more of the horses in the engine bay we swept along between 46.4km/h at 3500rpm and 60.2km/h at 4500rpm. Full throttle saw 5400rpm on the tacho and had my GPS reading 67.6km/h.
There was a little bow rise as the MXZ came out of the hole, but the hull was quickly back down at a level attitude. When you’re not wakeboarding, the MXZ makes a delightful family dayboat for just cruising. Turning can be anywhere from gentle to as tight as you like; the hull behaves faultlessly and holds a stable attitude at all times.
“We just load the boat and take straight off, and the wake’s formed,” Scott said. “Some boats out there you have to shuffle weight around the boat, but we find with the Wakesetter that it’s very steady and with minor changes of people moving around the wake’s always perfect. I used to do all the driving, but now Joel’s got a full licence I kind of drive for him, but then I like to sit back and see what’s going on. I use the seat with the bolster up – that gives me better vision over the screen. We can be out for three or four hours at a time, which is great.”
And I had a great time aboard the MXZ too; it’s comfortable blending into luxurious, has all the inclusions you could ask for, handles superbly, delivers the goods for watersports, and it certainly looks the business. Pride of ownership would be a no-cost option on every boat sold.
I’d like to add a note of thanks to Scott, Tanya, Joel and Teaghan, plus family friend Toni, who collectively made the run on the river even more enjoyable. Thanks as well to the team from GRE Marine, the long-time Malibu dealer in Sydney, which (as usual) presented and supported the boat impeccably. There’s much more to find out about Malibu and the new Wakesetter MXZ, so chase down the full story at: www.malibuboats.com.au.You might also want to consider a visit to the state-of-the-art factory in Albury, as that’s the best way to see how these boats are built so well, right here in Australia by Australian craftsman. ¿
SPECIFICATIONS: MALIBU WAKESETTER 22 MXZ
Overall length: 6.78m
Weight: 2080kg (boat)
Weight: 2700kg (boat and trailer)
Capacity: 15 persons
Fuel capacity: 189lt
Power (standard): Monsoon V8 (261kW/350hp)
Power (as tested): L96 V8 (306kW/410hp)
Price from: $89,034 (excluding delivery and on-road costs)
Price as tested: $104,270 (excluding delivery and on-road costs)
For more information: www.malibuboats.com.au; www.gremarine.com.au.