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VW Amarok ute review

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    The Amarok will be available as a rear-wheel drive, but there will be two four-wheel-drive models to choose from. Photo Gallery

James Stanford road tests and reviews the Volkswagen Amarok ute at its international launch in Argentina.

The Volkswagen Amarok is about to shake up the workhorse ute market, if the — as yet unknown — price turns out to be right. The Amarok will be introduced into the South American market next March and is due to arrive in Australia in the second half of next year, and will set a new benchmark for refinement and economy in its class. It will go head-to-head with the workhorse king, the Toyota HiLux, which Volkswagen is happy to admit was used as the benchmark, as well as vehicles like the Nissan Navara, Ford Ranger and Mitsubishi Triton.

We'll have to wait to test it on our roads, with a full load. But our launch drive on gruelling roads — including a stretch used for the Dakar Rally — suggested Volkswagen has a winner on its hands with stand-out refinement and best-in-class fuel economy.

Models and drivetrains

There will only be one model to start with, a double cab available with a tub or flat tray. A single cab will follow around 12 months later. The Amarok will also initially be diesel-only. There are two kinds of 2.0-litre diesel four-cylinder engines, one with a single turbocharger and the other with two turbos. The range-topping twin-turbo version will have 120kW of power and a healthy 400Nm of torque, available from just 1500 revs. A single turbo version will be available with 90kW and about 340Nm.

Volkswagen says it's working on a turbo four-cylinder petrol engine which will come about 18 months after the launch. Both engines are only available with a six-speed manual. An automatic will follow but could be as long as three years away. The entry-level diesel uses just 7.6 litres per 100km, while the more potent unit manages 7.8 litres per 100km. With a big 80 litre tank, the Amarok has a range of more than 1000km. It will also have fuel economy bragging rights over the Toyota HiLux diesel, a 3.0-litre engine that uses 8.1 litres per 100km.

The Amarok will be available as a rear-wheel drive, but there will be two four-wheel-drive models to choose from. One uses a constant 4WD system from the Audi Q7 and is designed more for use on slippery surfaces than bush bashing. An alternative switchable 4WD system with a Torsen centre differential and a low-range gearbox is designed for heavy duty off road work.

Both 4WD systems feature rear locking differentials and have an off-road mode which alters the anti-skid brakes so that they work better on gravel, frees up the electronic stability control to allow for some slip as well as an automatic hill descent control feature.

Capacity and ability

It has 280mm of ground clearance. Like the other traditional workhorse utes, the Amarok has a separate chassis, not monocoque like a Falcon or Commodore ute, and uses MacPherson struts at the front and heavy duty leaf springs at the rear.

The payload will vary depending on the model chosen, but will run from around 850kg through to 1150kg for the dual cab and the single cab will manage around 1200kg. Towing capacity will be a healthy 2800kg. There is 2.52 square metres of load space in the cargo area which is 1555mm long and 1620mm wide and there is a class leading width of 1222mm between the wheel arches.

The Amarok double cab is 120mm longer than the Hilux equivalent, at 5250mm, and 220mm wider at 1980mm.

Fit-out and equipment

The Amarok will be available in three different trim levels include a range topping Highline model loaded with gear including chrome bumpers and leather seats. Electronic stability control is likely to be standard in Australia, along with front and side curtain airbags.

High end options including satellite navigation and even heated seats will be available as options. Volkswagen will produce the Amarok at its Pacheco plant near Buenos Aires in Argentina. It hopes to match the Hilux on price in most countries, but is yet to decide on the pricing for the Australian market.

Driving

Letting journalists loose on a brutally tough stage of the Dakar Rally in pre-production prototypes is a pretty brave move, but it shows just how confident Volkswagen is in its new ute. The drive revealed that this confidence is well placed. The utes did have a small amount of ballast the in tray to help with handling and we didn't get to run them with big loads or tow anything, so the test is not comprehensive.

Even so, it was clear that the Amarok will be a class leader in a lot of areas. Its high level of comfort is the most impressive attribute. Driving a regular workhorse ute is hard work. They can be rough, noisy and uncomfortable.

The first thing you notice in the VW is how quiet it is in the cabin. It is very good on the broken tarmac of the roads leading out of Cordoba, but is also relatively serene on a series of terribly rough dirt roads. The suspension is compliant, perhaps a little soft, but it easily accounts for some nasty bumps and ruts. It is helped by its remarkably stiff body. You can usually feel some flexing or wobbling come through the body of most workhorse utes, but this feels as hard as a road car.

There is a lot of room in the rear, with plenty of head and leg-room for an average adult male. It is comfy enough that you wouldn’t mind going in the back for a long road trip. Occupants will appreciate the car-like interior which looks modern and practical. The plastic surfaces are all hard, but they look good. Small touches such as a power outlet on top of the dash, for sat-nav systems, and multi-function points on the dash, which can be used for either cupholders or phone holders, should also be popular.

Oddly, The disguised Amarok prototypes featured an upside down Mitsubishi logo on the grille. Asked why the three-diamond logo was chosen, a VW engineer said: "It was just the one that fitted the best." The engine is also a strong point. Some people will be scared off because it is only 2.0-litre, but they should be convinced if they drive it. We only experienced the twin turbo and it's a cracker. With a small and large turbocharger, to ensure an even spread of torque, this is a strong motor that delivers as much pulling power as you need. It is pretty quiet too, compared to its rivals. The only question is how it will stand up under heavy load, but with 400Nm it should do just fine.

The six-speed manual is a crisp gearbox with easy to place gears. The calibration of the engine and clutch means the prototype is easy to stall unless you slip the clutch, so hopefully this will be fixed. The Amarok's biggest problem will be the lack of an automatic. It is a glaring omission in a market like Australia and will no doubt limit its appeal. We drove the constant 4WD and part-time 4WD and both managed some extreme off-road driving with ease. There is 280mm of clearance which should be enough for all but the hardest rock crawling.

The way the vehicle adapts to off-road driving, with the ESC system allowing it to move around a bit before interrupting as well as the anti-skid brakes that act differently in order to actually pull up the car on gravel (unlike some other systems) make dirt road driving far easier. The prototype car only has four tie-down points in the back, on the bottom of the tray. High mounted points will be available as an option. They should be standard here.

We will have to wait and see the all-important price. But if it is reasonable, the Amarok is set to shake up the workhorse class.

Volkswagen Amarok
Price: TBA
Engine: 2.0-litre twin turbo diesel
Power 120kW and 400Nm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, all-wheel-drive
Weight: TBA
Fuel consumption (approx): 7.8 litres per 100km (combined)
Emissions: 206g/km CO2

 

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 32 comments

  • The Ranger is easily better than the Amarok - bigger more durable engine (as it isn’t as highly strung out as the 2 litre in the Anorak) Nicer interior - a bit more adventurous than the staid insides of the VW, and it’s CHEAPER. Who gives a rat if the veewee has a couple of kg’s more towing - it’s too EXPENSIVE. The Ranger looks a hell of a lot better on the outside as well. Same goes for all Volkswagen - far too boring and not durable enough. Look at the engines blowing up on the twin charge Golf’s and Polo’s - pissy little engines with way too much power for their size. Our T5 transporter has been at the dealer for 5 WEEKS now waiting for a little part to come. The dealer has tried to fix the problem (massive overboost, pouring black smoke out the back, overheating) 4 times now. Hopefully they’ll get it this time, and then we’ll get rid of the van straight away. Also 1 of our customers have 5 new Transporters in their fleet, and every single on of them has been back into the dealer to fix a problem, from waiting 4 days to 3 weeks to get it fixed. Pathetic. At least other manufacturers such as Ford, Holden, Mazda etc. can build exciting, different cars that last more than about 20000kms!

    herb Posted on 30 March 2012 9:00am
  • The Ranger does is the closest competitor to the Amarok. However, it’s off-road capibilities are not nearly as good (read any review) and it lacks the refinement of the Amarok. eg. interior detail. The automatic Amarok now beats the Ranger in towing capacity and grunt (although the Amarok looks like it has less grunt on paper, in practice it’s a different story because of it’s two turbo’s working together which greatly enhances acceleration).

    Fred Gerk Posted on 24 March 2012 2:36pm
  • The new Ranger is a lot better with a lot more grunt and more offroad capabilities.

    Brian Stone of Deloraine Posted on 30 December 2011 12:39pm
  • I own an Amarok Highline and have not regretted it once. The 2.0 L engine feels like a 3.0 L. I suggest that Mike Cory visit his VW dealer and have a drive. The Amarok certainly does not lack grunt at 110 km/h. All car manufacterer’s are downsizing their engines. Why? because smaller engines are more responsive, with a turbo (two turbo’s in the case of the Amarok) they are as powerful as a much larger engine and they drink less fuel. People are afraid of buying an Amarok because it has a 2.0 L engine. Trust me this thing has been tested to the limits and has not had any major (or minor) problems. It’s been tested by Dakar!!

    Fred Gerk of Toorak Posted on 23 December 2011 2:50pm
  • I agree, due to the weight of the twin cab 4wd nothing should be produced under 3L in diesel and 3.2 in petrol. They become to sluggish on the open road, and due to the shape and height of 4wd utes fuel economy dips massively at around 110km with a small motor. I hoped VW had solved the problem of crap seating for long drives with the extra width in the cabin, but unless they up the size of the motor to cater for towing and real use (not all of us live in the city) I wont buy one. So please VW, make an option of a 3L+ size motor to cater for us that live in the bush and really make our vehicles work.

    mark cory - budget engineering and sales of victoria australia Posted on 15 October 2011 9:32am
  • Very nice vehicle with all the bells and whistles, 2.0 liter diesel motor lacks grunt at 120km/h, a 2.5 or 3.0 motor would be ideal.

    Tony of South Africa

    tony vassilatos of durban, south africa Posted on 16 May 2011 8:33am
  • test drove a trendline today, the only problem will be convincing the boss…....awesome ute drives like a car, great visibility, brakes are great, centre console is a bit small and no controls on the steering wheel for the radio are a couple of letdowns. i test drove a tritton beforehand and it simply does not compare to the vw. how good is the 1 ton payload and being able to fork in a pallet on the vw? this may help in convincing the boss grin

    Grant of NSW Posted on 12 May 2011 10:27pm
  • Another full size dual cab.  Why isn’t there a smaller economic version around? Suzuki made the Holden drover in the 80’s, Daihatsu had something similar but optioned diesel. Subaru had the Brumby which had a great reputation.  The only small ute around now is the Proton, but no airbags and no 4WD.

    Tim White of Frankston Posted on 18 April 2011 8:27pm
  • I took one for a test drive on saturday.I LIKED IT.Traded the nissan d40 in on the spot.Less power than the nissan,but a snorkel and a three inch exhaust should improve the power and get rid of any turbo lag.I purchased a trendline,its got all the bells and whistles,who needs leather.ARB already have some bits and pieces for them so I got a bullbar as well.They have good under body protection as standard, something you dont get on other utes.Ride and comfort is superb,high seating position,good vision and easy to read instruments.It has as standard many things that would be expensive options on other utes,cruise control,rear diff lock,outside temp,fuel consumption,klms to go,gear indicator,and so much more.As with any new model the proof is in the pudding,Im going to enjoy finding out.

    Mark Jones of Blaxland Posted on 20 March 2011 7:29am
  • The Amarok Trendline is a nice truck overall,it would be great if it was closer to the $50,000 scale of costs.My only dislike is the calibration with the engine and clutch,it is easy to stall and takes a little getting use to.My wife test drove it and stalled it,to be honest i almost did the same:(  Brett Victoria

    Brett of victoria Posted on 18 March 2011 4:33pm
  • As Brian said, at the worst it will make other manufactures lift their game, I personally will not pay top dollar for 20 year old technology, which is what is available out there at present.
    The Amarok is stepping up to the plate, and by all respects looks like there will be a few home runs to be had.  Grant of Adelaide, apparently ARB has already made up a duel battery system and a few other handy gadgets for the Amarok

    Keryn Woods of Brisbane QLD Posted on 17 March 2011 9:14am
  • Cant wait for this quality car makers Dual Cab Diesel Ute, will at worst make the others lift their game a little, for me an Auto would be fine, all that torque - and knowing the Germans it will probably also be a six speed, no need for a manual, although if thats all we get I will be happy to settle for that. Just a quick note on the first comment by Ricardo - mate just because some people wash their 4x4s don’t judge them, you probably don’t have one at all, maybe jealous? the Peugot comment gives you away.

    Brian Cooper Posted on 05 March 2011 3:30pm
  • I have been waiting too for this to come to Oz. It does seem to read well on paper and the curtain airbags is what i was chasing for the family. I personally would never buy an automatic 4wd anyway, so i’m glad they didn’t decide to bring that out 1st before the manual. I get the impression they bring out the automatic version for those people that drive their dual cabs around cities, that are immaculately clean and never seen a dirt road or mud in its life!!!! I know the twin turbo 2litre should provide plenty of power, as i think that’s what is in the wife’s Peugeot. However that’s is a lot lighter vehicle than a dual cab ute. Guess i will find out on the test drive!

    Ricardo of Sunshine Coast Queensland. Posted on 19 February 2011 4:32pm
  • Sounds good,(shame about the name, what desk-jokey came up with anorak?)but the questions i want answered are: has it got room under the bonnet for a second battery,can i fit a snorkel and can it be lifted (MacPherson struts at the front??)

    Grant Yearsley of Adelaide,South Australia Posted on 16 February 2011 2:58pm
  • Sounds like a real winner on paper. The overall width being 225mm wider than the Hilux is extreme. Wider track? More cabin space? The proportions appear to be totally in balance, which translates as “shelf appeal” (good looks) top handling, more storage space and refinement. Bring it on!!

    Matthew Easton of Ferntree Gully, Victoria Posted on 11 February 2011 1:12pm
  • Hilux only tows 2.25 tonnes, and only has 343 nm torque out of a 3-litre turbodiesel 4. So bigger is not better.

    Craig of Darwin, Ute Country Posted on 08 February 2011 6:45pm
  • Towing capacity is doubtful, sounds like it wont have much grunt. I am looking for a 3 tonne capacity, so back to Navara, Hilux and Triton it seems .. shame .. looks like a cute ute!

    Lisa Cohen of Australia Posted on 28 January 2011 8:22am
  • 2.0 Ltr eng ? worried about its ability to tow say 1.5 ton easy?
    Small capacity Engines usually have to be pushed hard, along with continual gear changing and increased consumption? 400nm sounds great, but where in rev range ? A 2.5 - 3 ltr is where we expect,regardless of fuel saving.A comfortable ride in a Dual Cab is a bonus.

    Bruce Keen of Kurrajong Hills NSW Aust Posted on 12 January 2011 10:08pm
  • I have being waiting patiently for the arrival of the Amarok in Australia. I am saddened to see that there will be no Automatic option for perhpas twelve months or more!  Mitsubishi fell into the same trap when it released its new Triton a few years ago, costing it untold sales losses (including my brother who purchased a Hilux) The two litre engine will indeed cost more sales with tradies regardless of its potential. Bigger is better!!! in Australia,. We are a crude bunch when it comes to utes and we all want our bragging rights. Twin turbo or not…give it a minimum 2.5 litre, or better still a 3.0 litre TT with an Auto shifter and you have a genuine class winner!!

    Matthew J easton of Melbourne, Australia Posted on 08 November 2010 11:22am
  • Yes I am also waiting for this ute to arrive to Geelong in Victoria

    Michael Fisher of Geelong ....Victoria Posted on 03 November 2010 5:31pm
  • Our Amarok is sleeping in our garage! At last, it was a very long wait for my poor husband. We love it; it takes a gravel road better than anything we have driven.  We thought our Triton was nice to drive. The Amarok feels like a car, just higher and better. The engine felt a bit small but when you keep your eye on the speedo it’s a different story. We are going to tow a camping trailer and is a bit worried about the fuel consumption then, it is not as good as VW stats it to be, you will have to drive it very ‘soft’ to get what they say it can get per 100km. The gearbox is a bit hard and I have to ‘look’ for 2nd gear, but the girls in SA don’t mind. I’ll be doing a lot of favours to get a drive in my husbands Amarok!

    Marna of Limpopo, South Africa Posted on 25 October 2010 6:03pm
  • I already test drove one Amarok, it is a fine vehicle, but the top model available in my country lacks steering wheel radio controls and it sure needs an automatic transmission. The plastics are hard, no comparison to the materials used in a Golf, which are far better.

    Miguel Prera of Guatemala Posted on 19 September 2010 2:03am
  • Current dual cabs available in Australia leave a lot to be desired with regard to rear passenger comfort and ANCAP safety levels.  I looked at a new Mazda BT50 dual cab recently and walked away laughing when I saw it only has a lap belt in middle of rear seat… they must be kidding this is 2010, not 1976.  If the Amarok is even half as good as my wifes 2007 turbo diesel golf it will be a good thing.  With the reviews I have read, I am eagerly awaiting for Amarok to arrive in Australia & will be test driving one ASAP.

    Paul of South East Queensland Posted on 31 July 2010 4:37pm
  • Looks the goods. Any idea what the gear ratios are? Sometimes transmissions in diesels are a tad truck like, particularly 1st gear.

    Stevo of Sydney Posted on 21 July 2010 6:54pm
  • Twin turbo 6 speed manual. This makes a great ute. Who needs automatic anyway? Need more manual vehicles in Australia. I reckon this ute will be faster than a lot of cars with bigger engines. VW make very good engines and vehicles.

    Al of NSW Posted on 04 July 2010 5:37am
  • Ground clearance on my wifes Tiguan “at the sump” is similar to the standard 2009 Toyota Hilux dual-cab 4WD. So VW don’t have to do much to beat that with the their new Amarok. I look foward to test driving this ute when they arrive in Oz.

    Ozywayne of Country NSW Australia Posted on 16 June 2010 7:28pm
  • Pete, if you don’t have any meaningful comments, please do not post again.

    Frank Posted on 11 April 2010 2:31am
  • Harden up princesses! Is a manual really too tricky for you to manage? Even my wife drives a manual!

    Pete of NW Corner Posted on 27 March 2010 6:28pm
  • I would be wary of any ground clearance figure stated by VW. They have a rather creative way of specifying ground clearance, as they do not measure at the lowest point, but half-way between the front and rear axle. This is of course completely useless to the off-roader, as generally the sump has to pass over the obstacle before the middle of the car. They have done this with the Tiguan, where the clearance under the sump - the lowest point - is 25 mm less that the stated value. So before buying an Amarok based on the brochure ground clearance - which I assume is where the information in the article comes from - I would get underneath and measure at the lowest point.

    JJ Jonker of South Africa Posted on 23 March 2010 7:44pm
  • I have been waiting for VW to make a ute of some interest for so long. Like Deano said, If there was an auto, I’d order one too. Thanks VW for expanding your model range to include a comfortable stylish car for us to get around in…....can’t wait

    DM-VW Forever of Brisbane, QLD. Australia Posted on 17 March 2010 12:55pm
  • 3 years for an automatic. Theyre dreaming. If they brought out an auto I would order one.

    deano of sydney Posted on 28 February 2010 10:14am
  • I have ordered one!!!  I would like know the top speed!!! (Not that it will change my mind) I am very excited
    Douw

    Douw of Windhoek, Namibia Posted on 06 February 2010 1:46am
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