Volkswagen Amarok V6 2017 Review
CarsGuide joined the Volkswagen Australia crew on a 1200km cross-country odyssey that took in three states and more than a thousand kilometres of dirt roads.
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Ute buyers are now looking for more flash when they spend their hard-earned cash.
Case in point: the top-spec / top-shelf / upper echelon / call-it-what-you-will level of fully-kitted-out, sometimes limited edition, dual-cab utes fresh from the showroom: it's a booming niche inside an ever-popular SUV and ute market.
Think Toyota HiLux TRD, Volkswagen Amarok Ultimate, Holden Colorado Z71 among others – they’re all sporty, feature-packed and costlier alternatives to their stock-standard stablemates and rivals. Cool looks, novel colour schemes, plus a healthy dose of leather, stitching and sports bars abound in this burgeoning slice of the market. The Ford Ranger Wildtrak is one of the best there is – in terms of both quality, and sales.
The Ford Ranger Raptor will be here next year (watch this to further whet your appetite for it) but while we wait with bated breath for that, the Wildtrak might be right up your alley – so to speak.
|Ford Ranger 2018: XL 2.2 (4X2)|
|Engine Type||2.2L turbo|
The Wildtrak is, essentially, a Ranger with flash clothes on. It is a great looking ute – in fact, it’s a great looking vehicle, full stop. It’s big, bold and full of bluster but without an over-the-top feel that sometimes threatens to overcome these types of supposedly exclusive utes.
From the truck-sized grille with bush guard and shoulder bulges at the front end, back along the ingot silver panels, past front quarter panel air vents, chrome side steps and up to the black moulded tray-top spoiler, all the way across the roller shutter tray lid, through to the rear bumper and step, the Wildtrak is a smooth-looking operator.
Inside, it’s just as slick; the faux leather-trim dash is big and dominates up front with its clear and bright instrument cluster (comprising two 4.2-inch LCD screens either side of a central speedo dial) and centre panel. Further back into the cabin from the leather-wrapped steering wheel, it’s all clean lines, and big, smooth surfaces everywhere, capped off by a distinctive orange hand-stitched look to the interior; classy and eye-catching. This isn’t hose-out territory, folks.
The Wildtrak has the presence of a Yank tank pick-up without the truck-sized bulk; it has the style, inside and out, of a luxury offering, with all the class but none of the pretension.
So, it looks damn good, but is it functional in a real-world, day-to-day sense? Yes, very much so.
From the get-go it’s very easy to live with and feels roomy and comfortable. Fit and finish are tremendous throughout; we couldn’t find any substantial faults in build quality and the soft-touch materials make the cabin a pleasant place in which to spend time.
Storage and other useful features include front seat cupholders, a split, cooled centre console, grab handles on both A-pillars, two covered 12V sockets, two USB ports, a decent glovebox, a sunglasses holster up top, and lights and mirrors in the sun visors. There is a 230-volt inverter in the rear console so you can keep your tools (or toys) charged on the move.
The Wildtrak has bottle holders in all doors and cupholders for driver and front passenger in the centre console, and fold-down arm-rest cup-holders for the rear-seat passengers. The Wildtrak lacks the HiLux’s very convenient push-in/pop-out cup-holders mounted on the dash near the side air vents.
Rear-seat passengers also get air-vents and storage bins under their seats.
The seats - front and back - are well cushioned and supportive but, if you have to pick, obviously the front is the place to be. The back row is a bit straight up and down in the grand tradition of utes everywhere. All seat trim is a new stain-resistant material.
The driver's seat is eight-way power-adjustable with lumbar support; both front seats are heated. Steering is rake- but not reach-adjustable.
There are steering wheel mounted controls for entertainment, phone, instrument display, etc, and controls for dual-zone climate and more are located in the centre dash. Everything is well-positioned for optimum ease of use on the move.
Sync 3, which replaces the previous model’s Sync 2, seems to have ironed the niggles of that earlier version which, because of its clunkiness (especially in navigation mode), felt at odds with the rest of the ute. Now, once you’ve connected your phone or tablet via USB, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto immediately appear on the 8.0-inch colour screen and away you go. The in-built nav works fine, too.
The Wildtrak’s tray is 1549mm long, 1560mm wide (both measurements across the floor), 1139mm between the wheel arches, and 511mm deep. Loading height (from tray floor to the ground) is 840mm. The tray has a tub-liner and six tie-down points, as well as a 12-volt outlet at the front left-hand corner of the tray.
The Wildtrak has a lockable roller shutter tray lid and one of its downsides is that the shutter itself is rolled away and stowed in a metal drum at the cabin end of the tray and that drum – about the size of a rolled-up single swag – takes up a fair bit of load space.
Also, the roller tray lid is quite fiddly to open; even when we followed instructions to the letter, we had problems getting it to retract into its drum from the locked position – perhaps the latch was stiff from under-use because previous road-testers had refused to try to open it if they’d failed once.
This Ranger variant has a maximum towing capacity of 3500kg (braked) and 750kg unbraked.
The Wildtrak tips the scales at 2250kg and it has a claimed payload of 950kg. It has a gross vehicle mass of 3200kg and a gross combined mass of 6000kg.
Once you’ve decided to throw your money down on a 3.2-litre turbo-diesel Wildtrak dual-cab 4x4 – your next choice is a simpler one, and boils down to which transmission you want: six-speed manual or six-speed auto? Our auto tester was $61,790 plus on-road costs.
Standard features on the Wildtrak include adaptive cruise control with forward collision alert and lane keeping aid, the new-for-this-gen 8.0-inch Sync 3 touchscreen infotainment unit with sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and six speakers, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats and heated exterior mirrors.
There's chrome trimming for the exterior door handles, front grille and tailgate handle, plus it has roof rails, side steps, an alloy sports bar, tow bar and 18-inch alloy wheels. It also has leather-accented upholstery, gear knob and steering wheel, as well as eye-catching ‘Wildtrak’ embroidery everywhere.
Exterior colour options for the Wildtrak include Shadow Black, Ingot Silver, Magnetic, Frozen White and Pride Orange.
The Wildtrak has the Ranger’s 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, producing 147kW at 3000rpm and 470Nm at 1750-2500rpm. It has a six-speed automatic transmission, or the option of the less expensive six-speed manual.
The Wildtrak has a claimed fuel consumption of 9.0L/100km (combined). We did a regular drive loop of more than 200km – including bitumen, dirt, gravel and some 4WD action – and recorded a fuel consumption figure of 11.5L/100km.
It has an 80-litre fuel tank.
The Wildtrak has a kerb weight of 2250kg and is 5426mm long (with a 3220mm wheelbase), 2163mm wide (mirrors out) and 1848mm high. Those numbers aren’t small, so you never forget you’re driving a big unit.
However, it does handle urban and suburban duties, including tight parking moves and back-street turn-arounds, with consummate ease. Its electric power-assisted steering is largely to thank for this. It yields variable assistance, depending on speed and circumstance (steering wheel angle, cornering forces and more), and takes on an evenly weighted and precise feel appropriate to the speed you’re travelling and the terrain you’re on. It has a 12.7 metre turning circle, but never feels cumbersome.
The 3.2-litre turbo-diesel loves being pressured with a bit of heavy right foot (watch out: that throttle is touchy) and the predictive six-speed auto is mostly tremendous, switching cogs when it ‘thinks’ it should. However, having towed a 1500kg boat with the Wildtrak, we found it too pre-emptive in its shifting up or down under load – nothing too jarring, but definitely noticeable.
With the Ranger line-up’s Australia-specific suspension tune the Wildtrak is a smooth-as daily driver, with greater comfort and better handling than most other utes, including the BT-50, which shares its platform. We drove it on long stretches of open-road bitumen, back-road gravel, sandy tracks and more, and on it all, this Ford - coil springs at the front and leaf springs at the back - was very compliant and comfortable.
Off-road, the big beast comes into its own.
A few minor negatives we experienced: several instances of body roll when pushed hard through corners at speed and the back end became a tad skippy when driving sans load over gravel and corrugations and when smacking through a few surprise potholes. Sure, that’s a ute thing, but in something this refined you’d expect that those characteristics would have been sorted out by now to such a degree that they would be barely noticeable.
Noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels have all been pretty well smothered and subdued to a dull background thrum at worst. Under heavy throttle though, there is a bit of engine noise through the front end.
The Wildtrak has a stack of smart tech aimed at making your drive experience a safe one, which is great, but we’ve found that these systems are overly sensitive and off-putting, and don’t allow for some natural driving moves - for example, overtaking in city traffic. Lane-keep assist, for instance, screeches at you for (it seems) even looking at the centre or outside line on a marked road. Its forward collision alert is also too intrusive for our liking.
On-road driving alerts and the like must be switched off when in the bush because off-road adventures are unlike any other ‘normal’ driving and also proximity alerts shriek when you get anywhere near a blade of grass.
Off-road, the big beast comes into its own – as is often the case with many of these otherwise-gentrified utes.
The Wildtrak has a part-time four-wheel drive system with low-range gearing. Modes are easily switchable between 2H (two-wheel drive high range), 4H (four-wheel drive high range) and 4L (four-wheel drive low range) via a small dial to the right of the shifter. We cycled through all of those during a 50km loop of bitumen, gravel road and steep rocky climbs and never had any strife.
Remember: you can shift from 2H to 4H on the move; you only need to stop when switching from 4H to 4L.
The Wildtrak also has an e-locking rear differential and tyre-pressure monitoring system.
We did notice that the sensitive throttle requires a light touch on slow-going track work otherwise you’re in for a jerky drive.
The Wildtrak also has an e-locking rear differential and tyre-pressure monitoring system, both of which are great features for anyone considering off-road touring.
We never bellied out on anything – ground clearance unladen is 237mm – but we did scrape the bash guard at the front and the tow bar at the tail on one or two tricky pointed bits. Off-road numbers are: 29 degrees (approach angle, unladen), 21 (departure, unladen) and 25 degrees (ramp-over). There is some substantial underbody protection aimed at soaking up the hits if you do bash it into rocks or tree stumps anyway.
Our Wildtrak was on 18-inch alloy wheels shod with Bridgestone Dueler H/Ts and that road-biased rubber was in the only real chink in this Ranger’s off-road armoury – and we sorted them out with some tyre-pressure adjustment; deflating from 36psi to whatever pressure suited the terrain we were on. Brakes are discs at the front and drums at the rear.
We never got anywhere near testing the Wildtrak’s claimed 800mm wading depth despite trying to do so through a series of creek crossings; water levels were just too low.
3 years / 100,000 km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
The Ranger Wildtrak has a five-star ANCAP rating, as a result of testing done in September 2015. It has six airbags – driver and front passenger, front seat side, and side curtain – and three top-tether child restraint anchor points and dual ISOFIX attachments in the back seat.
Passive and active safety tech includes a reversing camera, parking sensors (front and rear), forward collision warning, driver fatigue detection, lane change warning, rear diff lock, hill descent control, hill holder, and trailer sway control.
The Wildtrak is covered by a 3 year/100,000km warranty. Base scheduled maintenance is due every 15,000km/12 months at $400, $560 and $500 for the first three.
There is no doubt the Wildtrak can function supremely well as a working ute but it can also easily slip into suburban and city life, no worries. It looks good, is very comfortable and it’s more than capable in all situations. Sure, it’s expensive - but which premium dual-cab ute isn’t? The Wildtrak is one of the best, if not the best, of the ute pack.
|3.2 XL Plus (4x4)||3.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO||$38,900 – 49,720||2018 Ford Ranger 2018 3.2 XL Plus (4x4) Pricing and Specs|
|FX4 Special Edition||3.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO||$52,000 – 65,780||2018 Ford Ranger 2018 FX4 Special Edition Pricing and Specs|
|FX4 Special Edition (5 YR)||3.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO||$42,100 – 53,900||2018 Ford Ranger 2018 FX4 Special Edition (5 YR) Pricing and Specs|
|Raptor 2.0 (4X4)||2.0L, Diesel, 10 SP AUTO||$54,500 – 68,860||2018 Ford Ranger 2018 Raptor 2.0 (4X4) Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||8|
|Engine & trans||8|