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Volkswagen Amarok vs Nissan Navara

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How does Volkswagen's Amarok spar with the Nissan Navara ST-X 550? Neil Dowling compares.

VOLKSWAGEN AMAROK ULTIMATE

NISSAN NAVARA ST-X 550

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VALUE from $58,490

As the name suggest, the Ultimate has all the extra fruit and is the most expensive Amarok. Good though it is, the cheaper Trendline ($47,990) with part-time 4WD and low-range gearing is better for off-roader buyers. Ultimate has a permanent 4WD system without low-range but gets leather, CD player, comfort suspension, dual-zone climate airconditioning, side steps and a sports bar.

imageVALUE from $60,990

You can't pay more for a Navara than this. But you get the best. The 550 flicks the 2.5-litre turbo-diesel four in favour of Renault's 3-litre V6 diesel with 170kW/550Nm. It mates this to a seven-speed sequential auto and electric part-time 4WD system with low range. Features are comprehensive, including a six-speaker, six-CD audio with Bluetooth, dual-zone airconditioning, steering wheel controls and a hard tonneau cover over a ray with brilliant Utili-Trak rails.

imageTECHNOLOGY

Australia gets only the 2-litre bi-turbo diesel engine across the Amarok range. Don't complain - it may be the smallest 4WD ute engine but with 400Nm from 1500rpm, it's probably the best. A permanent all-wheel drive system runs through a Torsen centre diff and there's a switchable electric diff lock at the back. The rest is all conventional dual-cab ute muscle.

imageTECHNOLOGY

This is the first showing of the V6 in a 4WD, but maybe not the last as it's probably going into the Patrol. That, and the seven-speed auto, are the techno highlights. The rest is, like the VW, purposefully conventional to remain rugged, durable and together over the rough stuff. This and the Amarok have near-identical suspension - coil-overs with wishbones at the front and leafs at the back.

imageDESIGN

This is arguably the prettiest and purposeful 4WD dual-cab on the market. Everyone who saw this just wanted one. It is efficient too, being the only on in its class to fit Euro or Aussie pallets sideways in the back. The cabin is typical Volkswagen - neat and clean but a bit plain. Argentine build quality is very good. The 19-inch wheels look good but give poor after-market tyre options, especially if you want to go off the bitumen.

imageDESIGN

Unlike the Amarok, the Spanish-made Navara doesn't win many hearts. It looks old fashioned because it is old. But the dashboard is easier to use than the VW and the steering wheel controls are excellent. Seating is reasonable at the front and the cramped, knees-up position in the back is poor. VW fares a lot better here. The locakable ute lid is a great idea. Nissan has put a lot more gear into this than its rival.

imageSAFETY

The five-star crash rating is good news for tradies, off-roaders and families. It complements the usual comprehensive safety gear - ESC, ABS and so on - but adds a secondary mode that compensates for off bitumen roads. There's seating for five and five lap-sash seatbelts.

imageSAFETY

This gets only three stars despite having two more airbags than the Amarok. So, you see, it's not just about counting airbags. It adds stability control and ABS with an off-road mode. Like the VW, it has rear drum brakes. Braking performance is still great but in today's market these brakes are a tad quaint. Navara also has five lap-sash seatbelts.

imageDRIVING

The Amarok range comes only with a six-speed manual gearbox. Until the auto arrives - early next year - it will dull some interest. The shift quality is firm, even stubborn, and not as good as VW's front-drive models. But the engine never stops giving. It's a bit noisy but is economical (7.9L/100km) and has 400Nm of torque from 1500rpm that means it can be easily putted around at low speeds. Despite the small engine, the gear ratios are perfect. It easily won my sand dune climb test against the Navara. On the road it's also surprisingly comfortable.

imageDRIVING

This can out-accelerate most cars on the market. It's not only unexpectedly rapid off the mark - thanks to that 550Nm of torque from a low 1750rpm - but it's smooth and very quiet. The seven cogs in the box suit the engine and the fact it's an auto makes it fine for the family. It's also comfortable. What lets it down just a bit is the uncommunicative steering that reduces precision while cornering. The driving position is good though the seats need more support.

imageFINAL POINTS 

imageFINAL POINTS

OVERALL VERDICT

Contemporary Argentine meets traditional Spain. My heart says Amarok but the Navara - automatic, higher 3000kg tow rating, more features and so on - is a more versatile machine. It could be a tow car for grey nomads or a competent off-road machine for a youth or a family car or a tradie's weekday worker. But Amarok is a near perfect execution, notably the engine-gearbox relationship. If it had an auto it would be untouchable.

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 33 comments

  • I recently test drove the Amarok and I think they were asleep at the design desk with this thing!! It would not pull the skin off an egg custard, it is seriously lacking power and the clowns still have the indicators on the left hand side of the steering wheel? No thanks!!!

    Mike Hunt of Perth Posted on 28 July 2012 7:16pm
  • Navara is obviusly the best ute. towing a 3 ton caravan with an amarock is a death trap. a high peacked turbo diesel belongs in a passanger car not in a work ute. the amarock is a confused character. trying to mix a city car with a commercial does not work. i am not convinced that a 2.0 can tow 3 tons or over. thy might be confortable but with sucky reliability and non tested high peaked diesel this will not sell in the masses. like a patrol a 4.2 diesel single turbo gets lots of life out but 2.0 TWIN turbo this will not stand the test of time. and the reason that people say that the navara has more issues is because there is more on the road and more chance. AMAROCK 3/10 it might be good for germany but anyone with any sence would not look at one until they have been stood the test of time. navara 8/10 exelent engine and has been proven but is still a bit cheap and underequipted for 66k (drive away price based on W.A prices)

    Nick of Mandurah W.A Posted on 03 May 2012 10:24pm
  • Unfortunatelly people don’t just consider dragging people off at the lights when buying a 4 wheel drive ute. There are other factors that are more important such as fuel consumption, interier comfort, off-road ability etc. (the Navara fails in all of these).

    Fred Gerk Posted on 31 March 2012 4:31pm
  • Exactly Gerk, its not back on top again. Nav gets 7.5 seconds 0-100, try getting that out of the Anorak! You would be wasting your time! BTW, it’s only the 4 cyl that blows up in the Nav. The V6 is a different engine altogether, in case you didn’t know that.

    herb Posted on 30 March 2012 9:15am
  • Than along comes the automatic Amarok and not it’s back on top again. The mighty Amarok can now tow up to 3.5 T, has more power and torque and has the best four-wheel drive system of any ute on the market. Also when are Nissan going to update the interier of the Navara!  And tell me why Nissan’s engine’s blow up so easily??? Look in Q & A.

    Fred Gerk Posted on 24 March 2012 2:29pm
  • Fred you poor bogan Amarok is blitzed by Navara ST550. End of story. Surge of power or no, how can you compare 420nm to 550nm? not to mention the power - I’ve forgotten how much it is, but it’s heaps more. It’s kind of towards the bottom of the pile now.

    herb Posted on 23 March 2012 9:27am
  • What a useless ute if it starts in second by default!! Does that mean that it is actually a 4 speed auto? How handy would this be off-road? I’m sorry but although the Navara may beat the Amarok from standing start to 60 km/h, Amaroks in gear accelleration is second to none. With it’s 2 turbo’s working together between 2000 and 3000 rpm. This creates a surge in power and makes it easy for towing. As for the Navara’s interior? Come on Nissan!!!

    Fred Gerk Posted on 18 February 2012 1:09pm
  • Well Fred Gerk, someone forgot to put the gearbox of the navara in 1st didn’t they? Because it starts by default in 2nd, however, put it in first, and it eats the Amarok for breakfast in a drag race, or any other race, V6 td power beats 4 cylinder td anyday.

    John Walker of Brisbane Posted on 30 January 2012 11:43pm
  • How funny it is that so many people are upset because there Navara’s have been beaten. Ha Ha Ha. Just accept it guys, if you own a Hilux, Navara, Triton, Ranger, BT-50, or any ute, the Amarok has clearly outclassed it. Maybe not in every domain but overall. Even though this is VW’s first ute when it came out in 2010 it was way ahead of its rivals, as usual for VW. Typical Japanese take a while to grasp hold of where the market is going and the levels of refinement the customers now expect. The new Ranger comes the closest to the Amarok and many people may think it beats it looking at the specs. However, it’s seemingly brilliant 3.2-lt engine has an average turbo life of around 80,000-100,000 kms. The engine drinks more fuel, is not as responsive and does not combine with its gearbox like the brilliant Amarok. You get the same engine in the new BT-50. But its looks leave a lot to be desired, to anyone with a good set of eyes. The Amarok is a refined piece of VW equipment and I believe an automatic is coming down under which will give the engine 136kW and 440Nm of torque. I have not heard of anyone having any problem with them yet in their 18 month life in Oz. A truly good ute.

    Fred Gerk Posted on 12 January 2012 11:32pm
  • The Amarok is outclassed by the New Ranger by long shot.

    Brian Stone of Deloraine Posted on 30 December 2011 12:36pm
  • I believe that the new Navara 550 arriving August 2011 has a TI Intereior, including heated seats and sat Nav. Can anyone confirm this?

    Bill Keen of Frankston Posted on 16 August 2011 5:27pm
  • FUNNY FUNNY FUNNY! Don?t get the Amarok because its Euro? Yet the Navara is made in Spain with a French engine?

    Craig of Darwin Posted on 08 August 2011 10:30am
  • @Grammar Nazi hahahaha yes that joke never gets old . . . . how old are you again? are you like 11? you should be in bed by now! btw you are seriously an idiot . ..  was that good grammmmmmer? haha

    mrtrucks of nz Posted on 21 July 2011 11:33pm
  • After having worked for Nissan for the last 20 years I hope that the new 3.l is way better than the 2.5l

    Nissanman of qld Posted on 08 July 2011 10:05pm
  • don’t get either of them get a Ranger or a BT50 - you can’t bust anything on them cause they’re so simple!

    mannix Posted on 08 July 2011 12:34pm
  • @mrtrucks, obviously education is not a priority in NZ. sheep shagging is though

    Grammar Nazi Posted on 07 July 2011 7:31pm
  • @ mrtrucks, I should know because I own a D40 as have 5 other people in my area and all have had problems ranging from broken timing chains, worn pinion seals, broken uni-joints, vibrating front-ends, erratic tyre wear, shoddy paint that peels off, faulty cruise etc.  My ute has had 3 pinion seals in the transfer case, was recalled for a faulty bonnet pin, keeps getting a rattly turbo-boost solenoid, has had one turbo failure and I can’t get any more than 35,000 kms out of a set of good tyres.  The only problems I haven’t had is the clutch letting go like on some early D40s or a timing chain go snap…. yet.  As for mechanics whilst I may not be a qualified mechanic, I’ve been fixing machinery and working on trucks, tractors and cars since I was a kid, I know what I’m talking about. I don’t thrash this ute, it is looked after well and yet at 90,000 kays you would swear it drives like it has done a million.  My other ute is a ‘07 Hilux with 250,000 kays on the clock and the only problem it has had was a crook injector when it was new which was replaced under warranty.  Face it the D40 is a crap ute and the service from my local Nissan dealer has been disgraceful to say the least.

    ZeroFive of Wimmera Posted on 07 July 2011 6:56pm
  • ozzies are really funny, all you guys do is whinge! the navara is the better ute, better speced, better options, more power, the only people who the VW will attract is wannabe farmers who already own euros! Look how many navaras there are on the roads and most of those people are really happy with there truck, there is the odd one with issues (like any manufactor, including toyota) but all in all they re great trucks, what gives them a bad name is people like zerofive who have no understanding in mechanics! Nissan NAVARA 550 FTW!!!!!

    mrtrucks of NZ Posted on 07 July 2011 5:02pm
  • The Amarok is just simply the best ute out their at the moment. I have done extensive research and the Amarok comes out on top every time. DO NOT BE PUT OFF BY ITS SMALL ENGINE. This is a great ute with plenty enough grunt and is also very economical. It’s safe and reliable, don’t get me wrong. I own two Volkswagens. One is a Carravele and its done 300 000 km’s without a problem. Most certainly the best vehicle that i have ever owned.

    Fred Elphick Posted on 07 July 2011 12:44am
  • One is overpriced with a Golf 2.0 engine. One is a puffed up Renault built in Spain unless it’s the Navara D22.

    A of Melbourne Posted on 07 July 2011 12:27am
  • If the V6 is anything like the 2.5 ltr 4 in the D40, I wouldn’t touch one with a thirty foot barge pole.  By far and away the worst ute I’ve ever owned.  Manufacturers take note, small displacement turbo-charged diesels fly to bits when you use them as workhorses like they are supposed to be.  The numbers these engines put out are fantastic but they are only reliable as a Toorak tractor. The D40 2.5 ltr is way to over-powered and geared to tall to be a farm ute.  My suggestion is to get a Hilux, not the best ute around but a damn site more reliable than any of the Nissans in our area. I’ll bet the Amarok shares the same fate with blown turbos, crook injectors and driveline failures due to its puny little motor being overworked, but time will tell

    ZeroFive of the Wimmera Posted on 06 July 2011 11:04am
  • By the way, we use an ‘05 VW Transporter turbo diesel which has done nearly 350 000 kms, with the only hassle being a clutch replacement and superficial interior bits falling apart, which we replaced with non-genuine parts for a fraction of the cost of genuine ones. Also a broken radiator and hoses when it hit a massive kangaroo at 100k/h. Even then it managed to get home (25km) with no water in the cooling system, and no damage! (i wasn’t driving) Goes extremely well and is very economical. From my experience, there’s no reliability issues with them.

    mannix Posted on 06 July 2011 8:38am
  • Hey JABBA, get hold of 4x4 Australia mag & see how people who know about off road vehicles see it. The Datsun wasn’t up to it I’m afraid. I’ll quote them for you….” the nissans engine was as disappointing as the VW’s was impressive”.....Too bad so sad.
    ; )

    Matty J Posted on 05 July 2011 11:17pm
  • Wow, not much research went into this article. Just so everyone knows the facts, the Ultimate comes in EITHER selectable (with low range) or full-time 4x4. All Amaroks come standard with heavy duty suspension, with the no cost option of comfort suspension. Come on Neil, how hard is it to read the brochure?

    M J Davis Posted on 05 July 2011 11:08pm
  • Yeah, i was gonna say that the v6 has already been put into the pathy. was the v6 meant to mean the renault v6, or any v6 diesel in particular? i can think of other 4bys with v6 diesel, think landrovers and rangerovers, g wagen, etc.etc.etc.

    mannix Posted on 05 July 2011 5:27pm
  • Neil Dowling has a track record of poor and superficial reviews, no surprises with this review

    Bollywood Shak Posted on 05 July 2011 3:56pm
  • The navara hardly looks old because it is old, what does that mean?? is 6 years old for a design? still looks bloody good to me! love the v6 diesel!!

    todd of oz Posted on 05 July 2011 2:50pm
  • @Jabba the Hutt - VW’s have questionable reliability? Come on! We have both a diesel VW with loads of km’s on it and a Navara as a work ute with low km’s and I can tell you which one has the issues and it isn’t the VW!

    Blankity Blank of Sydney Posted on 05 July 2011 2:31pm
  • “The fact that its auto makes it fine for the family”. Cmon Neil how are the kids in the back seats gonna mind how the cogs are being swapped. Or were you diplomatically saying that the Missus wont be scared to drive it

    Micky the V of Mekb Posted on 05 July 2011 1:00pm
  • Looking forward to seeing how many Amaroks are for sale with 250,000+ kms on them in 5 years time. That will be the real test. Seems to me that much of this test is based on criteria for cars rather than utes. That isn’t to say the Amarok is a bad unit, just that I am yet to be convinced that a 2.0T is going to be sustain the type of longevity expected in a ute for Oz.

    Fake Name Guy of Sunshine Coast Posted on 05 July 2011 12:15pm
  • “This is the first showing of the V6 in a 4WD”. WRONG WRONG WRONG. Nissan have already used this motor in the Pathfinder. Please next time don’t insult us and do your homework next before putting pen to paper

    Blue Blood of Sydney Posted on 05 July 2011 10:46am
  • terrible review, not sure where to begin . . . the safety section? so why did you give the nissan less stars? because of the of the crash test rating performed when the navara only had two airbags and no stability control? im sure that you would have done your research in this department. and you say don’t complain about the VW 2.0L??? how was first gear neil? it would have been better off to start in second dont you think? the engine works hard and you can hear it doing so. One last thing you say the navara looks old? i really think that that is the eye of the buyer to decide that, what makes it look old to you? is it just that the amarok is new so it is something different?

    ron of qld Posted on 04 July 2011 11:40pm
  • The Navara every day of the week, the Amarok is gutless and has questionable reliability like all VWs

    Jabba the Hutt Posted on 04 July 2011 9:53pm
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