Author: Alan Jones
For its 30th anniversary, Malibu takes an all-new view with the introduction of the Wakesetter 22 MXZ, the builder’s first pickle-fork-bow boat ever. The new bow configuration creates more passenger-carrying capacity than the longer, pointy-bowed Wakesetter 23 LSV, by 212 pounds.
Malibu makes great use of the onboard space, giving this 22-foot, 3-inch mid-size enough room for up to 15 passengers, a number eclipsed only by its top-of-the-line 247 models. By carrying the beam forward and pushing the helm back a little, Malibu transformed the bow into a roomy seating area, with fore- and aft-facing reclining seats, and a great place for catching some rays with the filler cushions in place. The recliners’ backrest angle could have been a little more pronounced, but adherence to Newton’s Law means that would reduce legroom. The deep bow section and cockpit also make it a great boat for younger kids.
Malibu’s Illusion G3 Tower is a unique sculpture, with a swept-forward design that gives the driver an unobstructed view, and it comes standard on all Wakesetters. This incredibly stout, powder-coated billet aluminum-based tower even comes in a choice of colors, while the stainless steel hoop adds strength and bling to the mix. Like the tower, the optional coffee-can speakers are made in-house by Malibu, and with a foursome of them, the soundtrack for this adventure is pure surround sound. The swing-in Titan board racks feature a wider top comb rack for thicker boards such as those used in wakeskating. Folding down the G3 — to fit in your garage or to limbo under a bridge — is easy thanks to the gas-assist hinges, which make the tower nearly weightless.
Powering our test boat is an Indmar 6.0L L96 that puts out 410 hp. But if that’s not enough attitude, the mega-upgrade engine is the supercharged 6.2L LSA that puts out an astounding 555 hp and is the sister engine to the one in the Cadillac CTS V, the world’s fastest production sedan. With an astounding 545 foot-pounds of torque, this engine could make you a little money on the side pulling stumps. Although not available in California, it’s lake legal in the other 49 states.
As soon as you throw the power lever, the power rolls on smoothly and with some authority, even when fully ballasted-up to get the stout, 4,000-pound MXZ up and rolling. On plane in 3.1 seconds, we reached 30 mph in 8.7 seconds. Top speed was 44.3 mph, which represents the top speed of any inboard ski boat we tested this year. What is amazing is the throttle response; the power curve is totally linear, so any adjustment is virtually instantaneous. We were packing the optional GPS cruise control, which we could initiate with the 6.5-inch Maliview screen. Starting this year, the cruise control features Auto Pull Up, which allows you to dial in precisely the amount of acceleration your skier wants.
Many ski boats with the V-drive arrangement, which allows you to put the engine at the rear of the boat to create more interior space, don’t have tracking fins. But the MXZ has a pair of Gorilla Fins, which, as you can guess by the name, are large and in charge. Not only does this enhance straight-line cruising, but when you crank the fat one-spoke Isotta wheel hard over, you can complete a turn before you can finish the phrase, “Hold On!” We even had excellent steerage when chugging along at wakesurfing speeds.
With just the stock ballast setup, the Malibu 22 MXZ makes a beautiful, well-formed wake for launching. Standard ballast gives you 950 pounds of launch liquid in amidships and rear ballast tanks, with the option of adding 350 pounds in front. There’s enough room to boost the ballast aft, but perhaps the handiest aid to setting up the wake is the Power Wedge, which simulates up to 1,200 pounds of additional ballast. This stainless steel water plow pulls the stern of the boat down to boost and shape an already potent wake. Ordinarily, if a rider needs a wake adjustment, the driver must stop and add or subtract ballast by trial and error until it’s perfect, but the Wedge allows on-the-fly tweaking to nail the perfect launch ramp. It’s also superb for eliminating any whitewash that certain conditions can produce. We noticed that when we tried to deploy it at rest, nothing happened because of its swimmer safety feature, which prevents movement until you are in forward.
Because the MXZ doesn’t have trim tabs, to build a surf wake you have to put more ballast on one side to maximize the wake, then use the Power Wedge to increase it and shape it until you have the ideal endless wave. There’s a less-costly manual Wedge that requires you to stop to deploy it.
Under-seat storage is perfect for long surfboards, because there are no bulkheads to artificially segment them, and to starboard there’s an under-seat area for a soft-sided cooler as well as a bin in the stern for wet storage or cooler use. Malibu makes it easy to boot up for a set or just hang out at rest with a pair of stern jump seats.
Although the MXZ comes loaded with standard features such as the Malibu Touch Command, an essential option is the larger 6.5 Maliview LCD screen that has high-definition color for easy reading in bright conditions. In addition to controlling features such as the stereo, rider presets for ballast and the Power Wedge, it makes an awesome display for the optional Flo-cam camera, which smoothly tracks along with the rider. It’s an awesome tool for training or YouTube hit-generating when your best friend throws down an epic wipeout.
As far as engine choice, while the sound of the supercharged 555 hp Indmar monster automatically sets the saliva glands at full spigot, like Pavlov’s dogs, it’s probably overkill unless you are towing many of your 15 riders at once. A more appropriate package is the one-up-from-standard 410 hp 6.0L L96 Indmar that we tested, which should provide plenty of giddy-up and costs $11,000 less. Going with the standard 350 hp Indmar Monsoon still gives those looking to save even more money plenty of performance.