The Malibu Response LXI is both a cutting edge tow boat and a comfortable family cruiser. State-of-the-art design and manufacturing technology has enabled Malibu to purposefully tweak their S23 hull into what some might consider to be a superior tow boat.
- Features SV23 Diamond hull design
- Bow seating area is accessed via a proper deck level walk-through with room to sit or stand in the bow
- Automobile style helm chair slides forward and aft and includes an adjustable lumbar support
- Locking aft ski compartment lid makes a comfortable sunpad, and has been redesigned to allow access from either the cockpit or stern platform
See the price by becoming
a BoatTEST member.
Acceleration Times & Conditions
|Time to Plane
|0 to 30
13 x 12 3-blade Nibral
2 persons, 1/2 fuel, no water, min. gear
82 deg., 33% humid.; wind: 5 knots; seas: calm
1 x 375-hp Corvette LSI EFI
1 x 310-hp Malibu Vortec Carb.
Watch Our Video
Malibu Response LXi
Test by Capt. Vince Daniello
While preparing to test Malibu’s Response LXi, I was studying sales literature, press releases, and even quotes from other articles which left me with one important question: “Was this a competition ski boat with family comforts, or a family boat that skis well?”
While testing the boat I discovered the reason for my confusion; it’s both a cutting edge, no compromise tow boat, and a comfortable family cruiser. State-of-the-art design and manufacturing technology has enabled Malibu to purposefully tweak their S23 hull into what some might consider the perfect tow boat.
My initial confusion about the boat grew as I discussed its details with company representatives. This new boat evolved from the company’s twenty-foot Response hull, but when I mistakenly referred to it as a twenty–footer, I was promptly corrected. It is not a twenty-one-footer either. It is, I was sternly told, a twenty-and-one-half-foot boat. The point was well taken. By increasing the length by just six inches and expanding the beam by three-and-one-half inches, Malibu was able to squeeze in the desired interior elements while retaining the responsiveness of a small boat. This was made possible in part by the new design and construction techniques employed on this hull.
Malibu is currently building this SV23 Diamond hull design in four sizes from twenty-feet to twenty-one-feet-eight-inches. All thirteen 2003 models are built upon some variation of this design, which the company originated in 1993. With that much experience with one hull design, subtle modifications can be made to produce very specific, predictable results; at least on paper.
Historically, getting a new boat from the drawing board to finished hull was a painstaking, three-month process. The design would be drawn to full scale on plywood sheets (called lofting), then each part would be individually cut and fitted to create a prototype. Further massaging of the prototype was required until the exact hull form was reached, from which a mold would be made to produce actual boat hulls. An error in this laborious process of even a quarter of an inch could conceivably mean the difference between a gem of a boat or a disappointment.
Through the latest CAD/CAM technology, Malibu avoided this whole process, having the “plug” machined by a giant computer-controlled router system directly from their precise three-dimensional computer design. The whole process from computer to plug took about three hours, with reported tolerances of five thousandths of an inch. (To put this into perspective, manufacturing tolerances for internal engine components are typically two or three thousandths.)
While this technology seems complex, its effect for the consumer is simple. The design team could piece together the entire boat, including every subtle detail, and then quickly and accurately produce their exact vision. Every minor design alteration, whether for performance or passenger comfort, could be incorporated into this new hull.
On the comfort side, the most notable difference on this new boat is at the bow. On the previous design, the bow seating area was simply an upholstered pad sunken into the deck, with no foot well at all. The windshield hinged open for access but it was a climb over affair. On the new LXi, the bow seating area is accessed via a proper deck level walk through with room to sit or stand in the bow. A filler cushion is included to cover the foot well to create a comfortable lounge area. Beneath the hinged windshield section, a Plexiglas panel can be inserted to block the opening on chilly days. The boat’s added width also provides more room to walk around the engine box, and a slight increase in storage space.
Behind the windshield on the port side, a rear facing seat accommodates two observers and lifts to reveal a huge storage compartment for skis and wakeboards. The automobile style helm chair slides forward and aft and includes an adjustable lumbar support. At the stern, a full-width bench seat lifts for storage.
The locking aft ski compartment lid makes a comfortable sunpad, and has been redesigned to allow access from either the cockpit or stern platform. One easily overlooked but important refinement, the wrap-around windshield is fabricated in just three sections, one hinged center panel with a curved glass sections on either side, eliminating the typical corner post that can obstruct the helmsman’s view.
As for the new design’s skiability, this boat has not been available long enough to gain any independent citations or industry awards; however, the Malibu ski team considers this “family” boat to be every bit as good a towboat as her sibling, the Response LX, which has won numerous awards and towed many world records.
In keeping with her tow-boat design, Malibu outfits the boat accordingly. A large, convex rear view mirror ensures that the driver is well informed. The aluminum ski tow pylon includes a stainless steel shaft that swivels on three needle bearings, and a transom mounted grab-rail forms an additional attachment for a tow-rope.
For wakeboarders, Malibu’s patented Wedge and MLS systems are available to allow this smooth-waked slalom boat to be almost instantly reconfigured into a wake churning air rider’s dream. (Details about both of these systems can be found in the write-up on Malibu’s Wakesetter 21 XTi.) The manufacturer also offers a choice of wakeboard towers for the boat.
As with the other Malibus I’ve tested, performance and handling of this new design were outstanding. Our test boat’s custom-marinized, 375-horsepower Corvette engine brought her up on plane in just 2.4 seconds with her bow barely rising while planing. The whole boat seemed to lift out of the water, reaching 30 miles-per-hour in 4.6 seconds.
Our test boat topped out at 49.0 miles per hour at 5100 RPM, although the engine is rated to turn 5500 RPM and had been doing so earlier in the day with the same prop. The rack-and-pinion steering system was quite responsive, and the boat tracked well while running through other boats’ wakes.
While our test day was relatively calm, I suspect that the modified-V hull, with a twenty-three degree entry forward and a ten degree deadrise at the stern will handle choppy water comfortably.
By applying cutting edge manufacturing techniques to modify a well-proven hull, Malibu seems to have blurred the lines between family fun and hard-core competition. While the jury is still out among ski industry experts, I thoroughly enjoyed testing this new Response LXi.
Malibu has a fine reputation on the competition ski circuit, and I don't think you'll go wrong with this new boat.