Malibu has reinvented the Wakesetter 20 VTX from the hull up.
Crossover watersports boats are a great idea for boaters who like variety. Often, however, the jack-of-all-trades syndrome dooms the effort with a weak link. Malibu has had the Wakesetter 20 VTX in its lineup for years, but this year its designers did more than hit the refresh button on an already successful model; they created a new, compact multitrick pony that can go from wakeboarding to wakesurfing to slaloming without missing a beat.
The hardest of the three disciplines to pull off with a V-drive powertrain setup is slalom skiing. Creating a really flat wake is difficult, because instead of having the engine amidships where they are on tournament ski boats, it is in the stern, to provide some ballast. But the 20 VTX’s T-Cut Diamond hull is Malibu’s next-generation variant of the Diamond Hull found on Malibu’s Response TXi, its pure tournament slalom boat (with a big engine hump in the cockpit) that has been used to set four world records. The other hull in Malibu’s lineup is the Wake Plus, used on its 20 MTX, the pickle-forked 20-foot counterpart to the VLX. So how’s its slalom wake at 28 to 32 mph? Far lumpier that the VTX’s. Another slalom plus is the standard removable amidships ski pylon.
So how do you get a world-class wake out of a slalom hull? The wakening process starts with 800 pounds of standard ballast, which will produce tight recreational launch ramps. For maximum potential, there is an option for an incredible 3,000-plus pounds of additional ballast, including a 300-pound bow tank, 1,500 pounds of Plug ‘n’ Play tanks and another 1,500 pounds from its ace in the hole, the Power Wedge II — a plow that drops incrementally to simulate up to three-quarters of a ton of ballast and shape the wake. And Surf Gate II, the latest hydraulic iteration of this innovation, allows surfers to ride either side without heeling the boat far over.
Our test 20 VTX was powered by the Indmar Monsoon 410, which is its standard engine. Instead of the 410 referring to horsepower, which is the norm, it’s actually the amount of torque it generates. And when you are hauling 3,500 pounds of ballast plus 11 people, this is more important than its estimated 350 hp. The optional Raptor/Monsoon engine is a 450 (foot-pound) model that produces about 400 hp and should get the job done. Hammering the throttle produced a lovely growl that put the unladen VTX on plane in 3.6 seconds. Time to 30 mph was 8 seconds flat, and its top speed was a faster-than-most-ski-boats 43.6 mph. The Power Wedge II provides lift when coming out of the hole to help it get on plane quickly even when tankered up.
The smallest boat in Malibu’s lineup at 20 feet long and 8 feet, 2 inches wide and with a traditional pointy bow, it’s also the most nimble. Twin tracking fins give it extra grip in corners — no sliding even when it’s whipped around with as much vigor as a jetboat. For 2016 Malibu raised the gunwales a bit to increase freeboard, which really comes in handy when it’s fully loaded with ballast and max wedge. It still sits pretty low in the water, though, so the driver better not crank the wheel too hard when tankered with peeps and jump juice. Some boats handle like a pig when loaded, but we still had good directional control even when plowing up a surf wake at 10 mph. The driver enjoys a new bucket seat that features an optional electrically powered adjustable-height seat pedestal. The lake was calm during our test, but given the VTX’s shallow seven degrees of deadrise, it will probably pound more in large waves than boats with Malibu’s Wake Plus hull.
Malibu makes it easy for drivers without a lot of experience setting up wakes to nail it, providing a graphic depiction of the shape of the desired wake, be it mellow or rampy, in addition to choosing its size. All this is displayed on the 12-inch MaliView touchscreen display that’s part of the helm’s Viper 2 Command Center. It’s a Bluetooth-compatible system, which allows someone to control it with a smartphone running the free Perfect Pull app. Surfers, while in the act, can use a Surfband wrist remote to control the Wedge, surf direction and boat speed, while simultaneously alerting the driver to any changes. So the driver just finds the shape and size wave he wants, taps the screen and lets the internal computer do his ballast bidding. Lower and to the right is a seven-inch MTC display that replaces all the toggle switches for accessories such as lights, the blower, heat and the bilge, along with the stereo and GPS. An analog control with a large knob makes it easy to change the surf wake from left to right or tweak the speed and wedge without touching the MaliView screen.
Although the 20 VTX can do it all, its strengths are in slalom and surfing. The standard package comes complete with a cool, dual-axle trailer, and one of the things this package can do is fit nicely into a typical one-car garage. With the tongue folded, its overall length with the swim platform attached is only 22 feet, 4 inches, and with the standard Illusion G3.2 tower folded down, its height is 7 feet, 8 inches, which can usually limbo underneath a standard garage door.
An optional cockpit table ($427) and two Malibu-logoed marine coolers with dedicated storage for beverage containment enhance the entertainment potential. There’s plenty of upscale cockpit seating, and the bowrider seats are just long enough to allow a six-footer to recline without having to accordion-up. For better skier observing, go with the convertible Wake View bench seat option ($2,333).
With a starting MSRP of $88,230 (check for rebates), it doesn’t take too many options to crack the six-figure barrier, but to set it up properly there are a few must-haves. The whole point of this boat is to be able to do it all, which requires the Integrated Surf System, which includes Surf Gate II with Surfband ($4,333) and the Power Wedge II ($3,505). For tunes, a killer system with a subwoofer runs $3,550. A pair of Wet Sounds tower speakers costs $1,855 with a second pair coming at a $103 discount. Every avid skier I know extends the ski season as far as possible, and adding a two-outlet heater ($427) and a hot water shower ($513) is money well spent.