Mercedes-Benz X-Class V6 2019 review
The Mercedes-Benz X-Class fell short of high expectations when launched in 2018 as it was perceived to have relied too heavily on Nissan’s Navara in appearance, design and chassis/mechanical hardware.
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Volkswagen turned the tables on its competitors when it flexed its corporate muscle and reached into its parts catalogue to offer a 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6 in its Amarok range.
The Amarok, once scoffed at by some die-hards for its European roots and its 2.0-litre engine, had surged to the front of the pack as the most powerful dual-cab ute you could buy in Australia.
The only catch? To get the gruntiest '580' engine option you’d need to spend north of $70k for the Ultimate trim level.
Now, though, Volkswagen has made the bigger engine more affordable than ever, offering it in the lower ‘Highline’ trim.
So we were shipped thousands of kilometres from the nearest major city, to the middle of the Simpson Desert, to put this new Highline 580 through its off-road paces.
|Volkswagen Amarok 2020: Highline 580 Black|
Okay, here it is; the 580 engine is now available in the cheapest package across the entire Volkswagen Group, at an MSRP of $64,990. Yes, you can get the regular 165kW/550Nm V6 in the even cheaper Amarok Core, but this is now the cheapest way to get the same '580' engine that appears in the Audi Q7 and the Porsche Cayenne. That fact alone gives the Highline 580 a nice leg-up in terms of its value offering, and it also undercuts the only other 580 variant, the Ultimate, by roughly $8000.
The 580 version of the Highline can be told apart from the regular V6 version by the inclusion of a once limited-edition ‘black pack’, including gloss-black bumpers front and rear, 20-inch gloss-black alloy wheels, a slightly redesigned front grille, black interior headlining, as well as black side bars and sports bar.
The car we tested, the one which appears in the video and pictures, had all-terrain tyres, a rolling hard tonneau cover, and a roof platform fitted. All of which are optional, but are genuine VW accessories.
Other standard features carried across from the regular Highline include bi-xenon headlights, LED DRLs, a tyre pressure-monitoring system, manually adjustable seats with cloth trim, dual-zone climate control, as well as a 6.33-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity and built-in nav (a must when we were out in the middle of nowhere, with no phone coverage).
It’s a great set of features for any dual-cab ute, and its thumping V6 engine makes up for the fact that it’s missing a few small items that its major price rival, the Ranger Wildtrak, gets.
It would be nice to see a bigger multimedia touchscreen given the width of the Amarok’s cabin. In a normal passenger vehicle, this size would be enough, but it just seems dwarfed by the Amarok’s big dash. Electrically adjustable seats would be nice at this price, too.
To see what mechanical features you get, check out the Engine and Transmission part of this review, and for more on the Amarok’s safety features, check out the Safety subhead.
The Amarok has always looked good, and it continues to look good even after this many years on the road. Although VW design has moved on with new curves and edges, it hasn’t quite moved far enough to make the Amarok look dated.
The dual-cab still carries all the major VW design pillars, toughening them up with a few extra squared-off angles to make the most of its ladder chassis underpinnings.
Sure it may not look as truly rugged as the Ranger or HiLux, but it also looks more refined and stylish. As at home in the city as it is on a dirt trail. There’s a lot to be said for that.
Of course, VW confirms that most owners go on to spend a small fortune making their vehicles look even tougher with a suite of aftermarket accessories. Our test car for this trip looked extra tough, for example, just with a small set of genuine accessories fitted.
Inside, you’d almost think you were sitting in an SUV. There’s nothing industrial about the Amarok’s interior. It’s a comfortable, passenger-friendly place to be. It has all the familiar switchgear from the VW family, from the leather-bound steering wheel to the Golf-style indicator stalks and cloth seats.
This 580 version then spruces it up a little with the black headlining giving the cabin a moodier feel.
It’s so SUV-like I’d almost feel bad sullying it with tools or mud or sand or dirt. A victim to it’s own classy fit-out, perhaps. The Ultimate goes even further with 14-way heated and electrically adjustable leather seats, colour multifunction display and paddle shifters. Nice, but it all comes at a significant price-hike.
The Amarok is one wide unit, which means even among dual-cab utes it’s about as practical as you can get.
First, it’s one in a very limited pool (including the Mercedes-Benz X-Class) of dual-cabs that can carry a full-size pallet in its standard tray. So, already a win there.
The 580 engine also allows for a max payload of 911kg for a GVM of 3080kg, and also a max towing capacity of 3500kg braked/750kg unbraked for a GCM of 6000kg.
For those interested, the Amarok also has a max towball download of 300kg, and a max roof load of 100kg.
Most impressive is the rear seat, which genuinely offers room for three adults in decent comfort, each with individual seat contours. Legroom is decent, although bested slightly by the Ranger on a recent comparison, and headroom is excellent thanks to the Amarok’s big square roofline.
Rear passengers get a single 12-volt power outlet and decently sized bottle holders in the doors, but no air vents.
Up front there’s loads of room for occupants, nice soft trim features for your elbows on the door and a massive centre console. There are a set of two 12-volt outlets and a massive trench in front of the shift lever, a set of two cupholders next to the old-school handbrake and small trenches in the doors.
The big dash-topper is augmented by a wide storage bin which has an extra 12-volt outlet to make use of the space. The driver benefits from a telescopic manual adjust for the steering column.
The Amarok feels like a spacious and practical place to be, and although hard plastics adorn many of the internal surfaces, they will be a little more hard-wearing for those venturing to the worksite or off-road.
This is what you’re paying for. The 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6 in ‘580’ tune.
That ‘580’ is incidentally the amount of torque (Nm) this engine produces, alongside 190kW of power. Not to be outdone, this engine is also capable of ‘Overboost’, which temporarily disables some restrictions to allow the engine to reach a whopping 200kW.
This engine also appears across VW’s more premium offerings from Audi (the Q7) and Porsche (the Cayenne diesel), and outdoes the regular V6’s 165kW/550Nm power outputs by a healthy margin.
Is the added 25kW/30Nm worth the almost $4k extra spend over the regular Highline V6? If you believe comment sections anywhere, the resounding answer from Australian ute consumers is a resounding yes.
This allows VW to correctly assert that the Amarok has beyond class-leading power figures - the Ranger Wildtrak Bi-Turbo draws 157kW/500Nm from its 2.0-litre twin-turbo engine, while the X-Class Power 350d, comes much closer with its 3.0L V6 (producing 190kW/550Nm).
The Volkswagen makes do with a simple eight-speed torque converter auto. That’s right, no dual-clutch here.
It’s also worth noting that the Amarok has no transfer case or manually selectable low-range options. It has a constant ‘4MOTION’ all-wheel drive system with a 40:60 front/rear split.
It sounds suspiciously simple, but thanks to smart software and fit-for-purpose hardware (including a mechanical rear diff lock) it punches well above its weight when you need it to. For what it’s worth, the new Touareg uses this system to great success also.
We were surging up hills and plowing through sand and gravel, so it seems hardly fair to pitch our Highline 580’s 11.0-plus litres per 100km against its claimed/combined 8.9L/100km figure.
It’s worth making note of the fact that the Amarok will get fairly close to that 8.9L/100km rating on the road in the real world as per our previous V6 tests, and that’s not a bad thing at all considering its lower-capacity rivals will produce similar real-world figures.
You can talk numbers and figures all day, but it’s behind the wheel of the 580 where you suddenly see exactly what it is you’ve paid for.
The 3.0-litre V6 absolutely hammers. You can go as fast as you like, press that accelerator down as far as you want, and it feels like it just has an infinite well of torque to pull from. That’s all well and good on the straight of course, but is also means glorious scrabbling power when you’re contending with rocks or sand up hills.
Despite its apparent lack of traditional off-road running gear, the Amarok more than makes up for it with brute force. Driving up the Simpson Desert’s Big Red dune, with its soft red sand, was a cinch with the VW.
You will need to turn on “off-road mode” and disable traction control for the most hairy of situations, but even when I forgot to do so it didn’t let me down (I did wonder where the thundering torque had disappeared to, however).
What will shock you the most, though, is the refinement of the whole package. In terms of sound and responsiveness you could tell someone it was a naturally aspirated petrol and I think many would believe you. It’s almost unbelievably quiet, even under load.
The suspension and steering are so well sorted you almost forget that there’s a ladder chassis underneath you. It’s really like being at the helm of one of VW’s SUV offerings, and that’s big praise.
We’ve talked at length about how the Amarok’s slightly less powerful V6 variants handled in both towing and load scenarios (spoiler: they handled it with ease), so make sure you check out our comparison tests for more on that.
All in all, the Amarok is so well-refined on the road, you’ll almost forget how capable it is on the rough stuff.
5 years / unlimited km warranty
V6 versions of the Amarok do not have current ANCAP ratings, and given the lack of active safety items, and especially the lack of rear airbags, it would be a stretch to imagine it getting more than the 2.0-litre version’s four stars, given ANCAP’s more stringent 2019 rating criteria.
Although major competitor dual-cabs like Mitsubishi’s Triton, Toyota's HiLux, and Ford’s Ranger are rolling active safety tech like auto emergency braking (AEB) as standard, the majority of dual-cabs still lack active safety of any kind. It’s the fact that the Amarok still has no rear airbags in 2019 that’s the real shame here.
VW’s representatives tell us it’s likely we’ll be waiting for the next-generation ute to see these kinds of updates.
Volkswagen has made some strides here in recent months, now offering a permanent five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, up from its previous three-year offering.
The Amarok is also covered by a capped-price servicing program, costing between $482 and $923 per 12 month/15,000km service. The total cost over five years is $3115 for an average annual cost of $623.
Although this is pricey, Volkswagen says its fixed-price service program is all inclusive and has no extras, and on top of that, your Amarok should be returned to you cleaned and vacuumed.
The latest addition to the Amarok lineup is easily one of the best you can buy.
While it would be nice to see some more modern safety features, LED headlights and a bigger multimedia screen, there’s no getting past the fact that this truck is capable, comfortable, and packs what is essentially a Porsche engine in the highest state of tune at the lowest price across VW’s entire lineup by far.
Do you think the regular V6 is enough, or is the 580 the only way to go? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
|Price and features||7|
|Engine & trans||9|