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VW Amarok Highline 4x4 Review

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    The Amarok presents a more civilised, inoffensive exterior that is typical of the VW range.

Craig Duff road tests and reviews the VW Amarok Highline 4x4 with specs, fuel economy and verdict.

Dual-cab utes are muscling in on SUV sales as a family lifestyle vehicle. The Volkswagen Amarok is the leading example and deservedly so. It has car-like comforts, room for five and a tub that will cope with a pallet or tonne of dirt as the need arises. Try doing that in a Prado. Parking the big beast is the only area where a traditional SUV still has the edge.


Ignore the steel-wheeled council-specials and the 4x4 Amarok starts at $45,990 for the manual-only diesel TDI400 Trendline models. Opt for same spec in the eight-speed auto TDI 420 and the starting point is $48,990, though with more power and torque.

Trendline models are fitted with air-conditioning, daytime running lights and Bluetooth steaming, but miss out on (much-needed) rear parking sensors. It’s a $5000 step up to the Highline version Carsguide tested with sensors up as standard, along with dual-zone aircon, flared wheel arches with larger, 18-inch rims and chrome highlights.


The four-wheel drive system gives more than enough scope for families to head bush. Those who aren’t too concerned about extreme off-road and who won’t use the one-tonne payload capacity can opt for the no-cost comfort suspension that takes a leaf out of the rear springs to improve the around-town ride. It cuts payload by 250kg but for most the trade-off is worth it.


Ford’s Ranger still has the tough-truck title in its grasp. The Amarok presents a more civilised, inoffensive exterior that is typical of the VW range. It is also one of the smartest-designed vehicles in the class, boasting the ability to forklift in a full pallet as a work Ute over without affecting its looks. Inside is as comfortable as most SUVs, though the operation of the roof-mounted sunglass holder and centre console bin lid are rudimentary by VW standards. The sound system is straight out of the VW vehicle catalogue, the aircon is effective and the headlights are better than average.


The ANCAP score of 32.99 made it the first dual-cab to earn a five-star rating. EuroNCAP penalised the car in the frontal offset test for transferring forces to the dummy’s chest “in a way which could not be done with a human body”. I dunno what is means, either, but it doesn’t sound like something I’d want to subject my sternum to. The newer Ford Ranger/Mazda BT-50 still top the dual-cab charts with a score of 35.72/37 and, unlike the Amarok, they have rear curtain airbags.


A jittery ride over chopped-up tarmac is the obvious sign this isn’t purely a passenger vehicle. Add a couple of hundred kilos into the back and it settles down nicely. It isn’t sedan-smooth but it is at the top of the pickup class for refinement. Body roll is minimal and that helps the high-riding bus corner with more composure than most rivals. It has steering to match with a little bit of play on centre that weighs up nicely as lock is applied.

The eight-speed auto is as good as many diesel cars, though, especially in sports mode...  a pretty seamless self-shifter. It gives the 2.0-litre turbo diesel better acceleration than should be possible hauling a two-tonne truck. The brakes are also up to the task but there’s more pedal travel that most people will be used to before they activate.

Interior space is good front and rear but storage, especially in the back, isn’t class leading. And the glove box is small enough to make a mouse feel claustrophobic.


As an all-purpose vehicle, the Amarok takes some beating. Lack of a reverse camera aside, it has all the comforts of an SUV with the added utility of a three-tonne towing capacity and a tray that can be hosed out after a dirty weekend. And there’s always the option of a canopy to go over the tub.

VW Amarok Highline 4x4

Price: From $45,990
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited km
Crash Rating: Five stars
Safety: Four airbags, ABS with EBD, TC, ESC
Engine: 2-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder  132kW/420Nm
Body: 5.25m (L); 1.95m (W); 1.83m (H)
Weight: 2080kg
Spare: Full-size
Thirst: 8.3 L/100km, 219g/km CO2


Mazda BT-50 XT Hi-Rider

Price: From $36,170
Engine: 3.2-litre five-cylinder, 147kW/470Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, RWD
Thirst: 8.4L/100km 222g/km CO2 



Mazda BT-50 - see other Mazda BT-50 verdicts




Ford Ranger Wildtrak
Price: From $57,390
Engine: 3.2-litre five-cylinder, 147kW/47-Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual; 4x4 Dual Range
Thirst: 9.4L/100km 248g/km CO2



Ford Ranger Wildtrak - see other Ford Ranger Wildtrak verdicts





Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 6 comments

  • It’s almost impossible to find an Amarok motoring review that doesn’t look like a paid advert from VW.
    How about we start to mention the Amaroks known problems? - as reported by a host of unhappy owners - usually in the “comments” section of every glowing review?
    Things such as:
    Fanbelts that don’t last for more than 60,000kms ..
    Headlights that aren’t properly sealed, and which fill up with moisture ..
    Headlights that make the lighting on a Model T Ford look good ..
    Regular torque converter failures in the 8 speed auto ..
    Annoying constant rattles, squeaks and clunking in the body ..
    ABS brake sensors that send fault codes when small metal particles are picked up by the brakes ..
    A speedo that is at least 10% fast, giving a very erroneous feeling of better fuel economy than what it actually is ..
    VW customer service that scored them 12th place out of 12 in ratings ..
    Front suspension failures due to faulty welds ..
    Parts pricing that leaves owners breathless ..
    Parts availability that is poor, to say the least ..
    Then there was the trumpeting about how VW was targetting the mining companies and rural owners with the Amarok. I’ve yet to see any impact by Amarok in these areas.

    Sandgroper of Australia Posted on 18 November 2013 4:41pm
  • We need some happy campers not the usual people who bag their vehicles.
    Four out of four comments complained. I have spoken to heaps of owners who have had trouble motoring and it outweighs these comments.I have one and it has been a very pleasant experience save the fuell cap being faulty. I converted from an ML 300 the ultimate in SUV’s.

    Phil of Melbourne of Melbourne Posted on 07 November 2013 2:42pm
  • Here is the list of failures so far in my MY11 Manual Highline Amarok at 90,000 km mileage;
    AC Unit,
    Bluetooth Unit,
    Clutch failure,
    Turbo failure,
    Rear window winder failure,
    Now Coolant leaks including nauseous gas coming back into the cabin.
    In my 30 years of driving 4WDs for work I have never had such an unreliable vehicle, all of these problems are firsts for me and very disappointing for a brand which promotes itself on its reliability. Its not as though I am doing anything different to that which I have done previously with all the Toyotas, Subarus, Nissans and Mitsubishis I have had before this lemon came my way. I travel 60K per year so I need a reliable vehicle and this is not one. Unfortunately I can not recommend the vehicle, which disappoints me, because I go out of my way to recommend 4WD products which have given me good service including featuring in an ad promoting Bridgestone tyres.  VW promoted it as being “uber tough” and it is far from that. I am constantly asked what i think of the vehicle and I have to say that while it is comfortable,  I think it is the least reliable 4WD I have ever owned.

    Hugh D of Albury-Wodonga Posted on 07 May 2013 12:01pm
  • I loved this car right up until it had to go back in at 1000 km for an oil light fault and at 6000 km for the torque converter to be replaced in the gear box.  Beware - just another vehicle pretending to be big and tough but with underlying faults.

    Dave B of NSW Posted on 03 May 2013 12:06pm
  • Hi, I have a problem with my new (10,000k’s so far) Amarok with a light staying on in the dash, it was the rear diff lock-up light. when I took it to VW they told me it had broken teeth in the diff to which they added I had misused/abused it in some way for this to happen & it’s not covered under warranty & that I’ll have to pay $10,000+  to have it fixed. I have disputed this with them & have sent an email to VW Aust Customer Service Centre to which I’m waiting on a reply, Is there anything else you can suggest I do or info that you have heard of in relation to this happening?

    Les Pearce of Perth Posted on 21 February 2013 10:44am
  • “Ignoring the characteristic dual-clutch pause when taking off, this is a pretty seamless self-shifter.”

    Ignorance is bliss. It does not have the dual clutch. Amarok’s 8-speed auto is of a conventional torque converter type. VW says the dual clutch design (effectively a robotic, fast-shifting manual, not a true automatic transmission) is not ideal for offroad use

    ————————————————————————————————————————————————You’re right. - Ed.

    stary Posted on 21 February 2013 9:58am
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