Should the Toyota Hilux be looking over its shoulder at the Volkswagen Amarok? It's early days yet, and Toyota's Hilux utility continues to rule the roost in both the 4x2 and 4x4 utility segments.

But Volkswagen could have a thing or two say about that, with sales of its Amarok ute beginning to gain ground. Amarok is now available with an auto too which will make it even more attractive. It comes in 24 variations, which may sound like a lot -- but then Hilux is 35. Amarok is produced at the Pacheco plant near Buenos Aires, Argentina. The name, borrowed from the Inuit Indians of Northern Canada and Greenland, translates as ‘The Wolf’.


Our test vehicle was the Amarok TDI420 Highline 4MOTION Dual Cab Ute. Priced from $53,490. Highline is the mid- range 4x4 model and features permanent all wheel drive, with comfort suspension that limits its off road ability. Our favourite goodies include the Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity, cruise control and a multi-function leather steering wheel.


A torsen differential automatically distributes power between the front and rear wheels, while an electronic differential lock stops wheel spin. It can tow a 3-tonne load and carry a payload of 1.2 tonnes. This one gets the new 2.0-litre 132kW twin turbo common rail direct injection four cylinder diesel that produces 420Nm of torque from 1500 revs. It's hooked up to a traditional 8-speed automatic transmission (yes, 8-speed) and delivers claimed fuel consumption of 8.3 litres/100km.


Not sure about the brown and charcoal interior colour scheme? You've got to remember to give the doors a good solid shove when leaving the vehicle or they don't close completely is annoying. No auto off for the lights, just a buzzer reminding you to turn them off. Highlights include a stainless steel sports bar and side steps.


It's big all right. 5254mm in dual cab form. But it's by no means the biggest dual cab out there. That particular honor goes to the recently enlarged Triton that comes in at 5389mm with a tub on the back. Being so long Amarok can be difficult to park, particularly if you return to the vehicle and find you haven't got enough room to get out again.

It's remarkably smooth and quiet inside for a diesel and with five stars for safety could conceivably double as a family vehicle. In fact, we suspect more people are buying this one as a recreational vehicle than as a work horse.

On the road we found throttle response laggy at times and the torque lock up even in eighth gear is enough to drive you nuts. In this respect sport mode was more responsive and user friendly, even if it probably chews through a little more fuel. Rated at 8.3 litres, the trip computer was showing 8.5 litres/100km after about 500km and it has an 80 litre tank.


It's the level of refinement that is most impressive. The Amarok is a step up from the competition in this department. No make that a whole flight of stairs.