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Volkswagen Amarok 2023 review

EXPERT RATING
8.1
More than a decade after Volkswagen launched its Amarok ute, the second-generation version is just months from an Australian showroom debut. But before it hits local shores, we test the new Aussie-developed pick-up in the country it will be built in - South Africa - to see whether it’s a worthy successor to the impressive original.

It was a surprise move from Volkswagen when the semi-premium German car maker announced plans to enter the ute market more than a decade ago.

But when the Amarok eventually arrived in 2011, it was clear that VW meant business. The first-gen Amarok was capable, offered car-like driving dynamics and interior comfort, and it could even swallow a full-size European pallet in the tray. And the V6 turbo diesel went on to carve out a popular niche within the ute segment. 

Now VW is gearing up to launch the new-gen Amarok in Australia in April, but before that, CarsGuide got to sample it in the country it will be built in - South Africa.

VW decided to partner with Ford for the new Amarok - as part of a deal to share commercial vehicle development - and the new version is based on the wildly impressive new Ranger

But can VW stand apart from its donor car and forge its own space once again?

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

Volkswagen hasn’t revealed pricing just yet, but given it’s a new-generation model, and the extra equipment over the outgoing version, it will be more expensive than the old model. 

The current Amarok starts at about $46,000 before on-roads so there is a good chance it will kick off from more than $50,000.

Variants include the base Amarok Core, followed by the Life, the Style and the two flagship grades - the more rugged PanAmericana and the more on-road focused Aventura.

The Style, PanAmericana and Aventura will be available from launch in April, but the Amarok Core and Life will follow mid-year.

There is a good chance the new-gen Amarok will kick off from more than $50,000. There is a good chance the new-gen Amarok will kick off from more than $50,000.

Once again, the Amarok is a dual-cab-only proposition in Australia.

Please note, these are initial specifications and they may change slightly before the vehicle launches.

Anyone expecting a stripped-back base grade with only the basic features and an affordable price tag might be disappointed. The Amarok Core is packed with standard in-car and safety features - more on the latter further down. 

Standard gear in the base Core includes LED headlights, power-folding mirrors, wireless charging, 17-inch alloy wheels, single-zone air-conditioning, 10.0-inch multimedia touchscreen, 8.0-inch digital instrument cluster and a multifunction steering wheel.

  • The PanAmericana grade includes black styling flourishes and 18-inch black alloy wheels. The PanAmericana grade includes black styling flourishes and 18-inch black alloy wheels.
  • Features of the PanAmericana grade includes roof rails and a spray-in bedliner. Features of the PanAmericana grade includes roof rails and a spray-in bedliner.
  • The PanAmericana grade features LED matrix headlights. The PanAmericana grade features LED matrix headlights.
  • Style grades and higher come with leather upholstery. Style grades and higher come with leather upholstery.

The Life - which essentially replaces the Sportline from the old model - adds body-coloured bumpers, mirrors and doors, a power tailgate lock, six-speaker audio, manually adjustable driver’s seat, tinted windows, leather gear shifter and steering wheel and auto-dimming rear-view mirror. 

Next up is the Style with more advanced LED Matrix headlights, a sports bar, larger 12.0-inch multimedia screen, 12.0-inch digital instrument cluster, 10-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, dual-zone air-con, ambient lighting and keyless entry and start.

PanAmericana grades include black styling flourishes, 18-inch black alloy wheels, roof rails, spray-in bedliner, LED tail-lights, soft tonneau cover, eight-speaker premium audio system and leather seats.

Finally the Aventura features 21-inch alloy wheels, chrome flourishes, electric roll cover, chrome side steps and a different leather seat trim to the PanAmericana.

  • The Style grade has more advanced LED Matrix headlights. The Style grade has more advanced LED Matrix headlights.
  • The Style grade is fitted with a sports bar. The Style grade is fitted with a sports bar.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   9/10

If ever there was proof that the Amarok is more than just a rebadged Ranger it’s the exterior and interior design.

Rather than the Ford’s very American styling, the new Amarok takes on a less aggressive - but still butch - look.

There’s a clear relationship to the previous Amarok too, with a more up-to-date take on the head-lights and grille, while the half-round wheel arches are also still present on the new model.

The new Amarok takes on a less aggressive - but still butch - look. The new Amarok takes on a less aggressive - but still butch - look.

At the rear, the Amarok adopts a C-shaped design for the tail-lights and they are LED on higher-grade models.

The new Amarok has grown over the old model in most areas, with an extra 96mm of length, and a 173mm longer wheelbase.  

Inside, VW has done a great job of separating the two models.

At the rear, the Amarok adopts a C-shaped design for the tail-lights. At the rear, the Amarok adopts a C-shaped design for the tail-lights.

While there are elements that clearly carry over from the Ranger - like the gear shifter, and touchscreen - the new Amarok has VW-specific features like the steering wheel, air vents and the centre console design and layout. The vertical cupholders in the Ford are swapped out for a horizontal pair in the VW.

The VW has a more cohesive look and it is clearly a big step up from the previous Amarok, as well as being much more appealing compared with other popular utes like the Isuzu D-Max/Mazda BT-50 twins.

The gear shifter is a carry over from the Ford Ranger. The gear shifter is a carry over from the Ford Ranger.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

One of the biggest improvements over the Ranger has to be the Amarok’s seats. In the three grades we sampled - Style, Aventura and PanAmericana, they were super supportive and incredibly comfortable. Like, premium SUV levels of comfort. I’d happily drive from Melbourne to Sydney in this ute based on the seats alone!

The addition of control buttons at the bottom of the centre stack makes for an even more practical cabin. These provide access to air con and other functions so not everything is housed in the touchscreen.

The VW steering wheel is nicer than the one in the Ranger and the controls are easy to identify.

  • The seats of the grades sampled (Style, Aventura and PanAmericana) were super supportive and incredibly comfortable. The seats of the grades sampled (Style, Aventura and PanAmericana) were super supportive and incredibly comfortable.
  • Seat comfort gets a big uptick in the rear too, with light bucketing on the seats. Seat comfort gets a big uptick in the rear too, with light bucketing on the seats.

VW’s digital instrument cluster is a winner and can be customised.

The other big tech talking point is the portrait style 10.0- or 12.0-inch touchscreen. Based on Ford’s SYNC system but with its own graphics, the Amarok’s setup has a clear and logical main menu, but some of the sub-menus have a lot of information. I could take some time to familiarise yourself with it, but it’s a top-notch system.

Neat storage touches include dual gloveboxes, with the box at the top of the dash able to hold a decent amount, while the central bin is average for the segment. There’s twin cupholders up front and a space for phones that is also a charging pad on some variants, while larger bottles will fit in the doors.

The Amarok’s portrait style touchscreen is a top-notch system. The Amarok’s portrait style touchscreen is a top-notch system.

The old Amarok had a very tight second row but the new model, thankfully, has much more occupant space.

There’s no shortage of headroom in the big ute, and behind my 183cm (6 foot) driving position I had enough legroom.

Seat comfort gets a big uptick in the rear too, with light bucketing on the seats. In the Aventura, there’s a fold-down armrest, but it has a latch so you have to pull it with some force and it feels like you’re going to break it. There are two cupholders embedded in the armrest. 

  • As with the previous Amarok, the new one can carry a Euro pallet loaded into the cargo tray sideways. As with the previous Amarok, the new one can carry a Euro pallet loaded into the cargo tray sideways.
  • The Aventura has a powered roller cover for the tub. The Aventura has a powered roller cover for the tub.

There are also map pockets, lower rear air vents, grab handles and enough room for narrow but tall bottles in the doors.

Lifting the seat base in the rear reveals a small storage nook, which is handy for hiding valuables. The rear seatbacks fold as one unit.

As with the previous Amarok, the new one can carry a Euro pallet loaded into the cargo tray sideways. Payload is up from one tonne to 1.16 tonnes. The roof of the Amarok can also take a 350kg load, so it’s capable of carrying some tents and other items. The Aventura has a powered roller cover for the tub.

Payload for the Amarok is up from one tonne to 1.16 tonnes. Payload for the Amarok is up from one tonne to 1.16 tonnes.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   8/10

VW has doubled the number of engine variants for the new Amarok.

The previous model was available with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel and the meaty 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel, that made up about 90 per cent of sales by the end of the model’s life.

This time around, the Amarok gets three diesels and - in a break from the norm in Australia’s pick-up segment - a petrol unit. But the diesel units will already be familiar from the Ranger.

VW has doubled the number of engine variants for the new Amarok. VW has doubled the number of engine variants for the new Amarok.

The base Amarok Core will be exclusively offered with a single-turbo diesel unit offering up power and torque of 125kW/405Nm respectively, paired with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission

This is the only grade with a manual and the only one with the selectable four-wheel drive system. All other Amaroks use VW’s 4Motion permanent four-wheel-drive setup.

The Life uses a twin-turbo 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine pumping out 154kW/500Nm, paired with a 10-speed automatic.

  • For keen off-roaders, the front approach angle is 29 degrees and the rear is 21 degrees. For keen off-roaders, the front approach angle is 29 degrees and the rear is 21 degrees.
  • The ramp angle between the axles is 21 degrees. The ramp angle between the axles is 21 degrees.
  • The new Amarok can handle deeper water too, with a wading depth of 800mm. The new Amarok can handle deeper water too, with a wading depth of 800mm.

Style grades are available with the twin-turbo and the meaty 184kW/600Nm turbo-diesel V6 also matched with the 10-speed unit. PanAmericanas come exclusively with the V6 and the Aventura has the V6 or the 2.3-litre turbocharged petrol engine delivering 222kW and 452Nm. This also has the 10-speed box and four-wheel drive.

For keen off-roaders, the front approach angle is 29 degrees and the rear is 21 degrees, while the ramp angle between the axles is 21 degrees. The new Amarok can handle deeper water too, with a wading depth of 800mm, up from 500mm in the outgoing version.

Once again the Amarok can tow up to 3500kg, and a towbar and brake controller are standard.

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

VW has not yet detailed the fuel economy figures for any of the Amarok engines. The process of determining that is happening now, according to VW Australia, and will likely be revealed in the New Year.

Expect it to be similar to the figures for the Ranger, which range from 7.6L/100km for the single-turbo diesel, 7.2L for the bi-turbo diesel and 8.4L for the V6 diesel.

After a decent stint in the V6 Aventura, we recorded 10.4 litres per 100 kilometres.

VW has not yet detailed the fuel economy figures for any of the Amarok engines. VW has not yet detailed the fuel economy figures for any of the Amarok engines.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

One of the biggest improvements for the Amarok is the safety offering. The previous model was criticised for lagging its rivals when it came to driver assistance features. But the new model has addressed that.

New safety gear not found in the old model includes auto emergency braking (AEB), multi-collision brake, traffic sign recognition, lane keep assist, a blind spot monitor, adaptive cruise control, trailer assist, a 360-degree camera and an adaptive speed limiter.

A centre front airbag, knee and curtain airbags are also new to the Amarok and standard across the range.

The Amarok is yet to be assessed by ANCAP. A full breakdown of safety gear by grade will be confirmed at the local launch.

One of the biggest improvements for the Amarok is the safety offering. One of the biggest improvements for the Amarok is the safety offering.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

Volkswagen is yet to detail its servicing offer for the new Amarok. Expect those details to be released early in 2023.

But you can expect the servicing schedule to remain at every 12 months or 20,000km, much like the outgoing version.

There’s likely to be a capped-price servicing offer but again that’s yet to be confirmed.

It will almost certainly continue to come with Volkswagen’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.

Volkswagen is yet to detail its servicing offer for the new Amarok. Volkswagen is yet to detail its servicing offer for the new Amarok.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

At the international launch in Cape Town, South Africa - where the Amarok will be built - we only sampled V6 versions of the Aventura and, briefly, the PanAmericana, on road. We did drive the bi-turbo Style on an off-road course briefly, but it was riding on tyres that we won’t get. Drive impressions on the four-cylinder turbo diesels and petrol will have to wait for the local launch.

Being based on the T6.2 Ranger was always going to benefit the Amarok’s on-road performance. 

Not that the outgoing Amarok had too many problems in that area. It was regarded as the most car-like ute to drive, and the V6 - found in other VW Group models like the Touareg and Audi Q7 - was one of, if not the best engine in the segment.

Being based on the T6.2 Ranger was always going to benefit the Amarok’s on-road performance.  Being based on the T6.2 Ranger was always going to benefit the Amarok’s on-road performance. 

The new Amarok uses all Ford powertrains and when it comes to the V6, it marks another step up over the old model.

The outgoing Amarok V6 lagged from takeoff, but the new version is far more responsive from a standing start. The only thing that lags a little is the auto start-stop.

With all that power and torque available, overtaking at speed is fast and fun. The 10-speed automatic transmission can occasionally hold gears on hills, but it changes without fuss when pushed.

The outgoing Amarok V6 lagged from takeoff, but the new version is far more responsive from a standing start. The outgoing Amarok V6 lagged from takeoff, but the new version is far more responsive from a standing start.

VW provided its own tune to the suspension and steering and the Aventura has its own specific steering tune too. It makes for a very engaging steer with sharper turn-in and a better connection with the road.

The suspension setup also ensures a balanced drive on twisty stuff, with the Amarok experiencing less head toss in tighter bends than before. The new ute is much more nimble than a ute of this size and weight should be.

On some of the patchy, uneven road surfaces we encountered in South Africa, the Aventura which is fitted with 21-inch wheels was a little jiggly. But on better roads, it was smooth and uncomplicated. The PanAmericana has a slightly better ride on 20s. 

The new ute is much more nimble than a ute of this size and weight should be. The new ute is much more nimble than a ute of this size and weight should be.

During the off-road stint, it’s clear the Amarok has genuine 4x4 chops. Also, the 4A automatic four-wheel drive setting kept the ute in check on a lengthy stretch of unsurfaced road.

As with its donor car, the Amarok has a well insulated cabin that keeps out a lot of road noise and offers a hushed ride. Even on some very average South African back roads. It’s clear refinement has been a priority for VW.

Verdict

After recently spending some time in a Ranger, I was keen to see how the Amarok measured up.

The Ranger is so far ahead of its competitors in the Australian ute market, and it is, by some margin, the benchmark.

What VW has done is add their own DNA to the design and the interior, as well as to some of the mechanicals, in a very meaningful way.

It makes for a more sophisticated ute that may well appeal to a different buyer than a Ranger.

We will hold our final judgement for the local drive on Australian roads in Australian-spec cars, but it’s clear the Amarok has improved significantly over the old model, and could well be a more compelling package than the vehicle it’s based on.

Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel, accommodation and meals provided.

Pricing guides

$74,400
Based on 795 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
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Highest Price
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Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Core TDI405 4Motion 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $50,160 – 57,640 2023 Volkswagen Amarok 2023 Core TDI405 4Motion Pricing and Specs
Aventura TSI452 4Motion 2.3L, —, 10 SP AUTO $75,680 – 87,010 2023 Volkswagen Amarok 2023 Aventura TSI452 4Motion Pricing and Specs
Aventura TDI600 4Motion 3.0L, Diesel, 10 SP AUTO $75,680 – 87,010 2023 Volkswagen Amarok 2023 Aventura TDI600 4Motion Pricing and Specs
Life TDI500 4Motion 2.0L, Diesel, 10 SP AUTO $53,900 – 61,930 2023 Volkswagen Amarok 2023 Life TDI500 4Motion Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8.1
Price and features8
Design9
Practicality8
Under the bonnet8
Efficiency8
Safety8
Ownership8
Driving8
Tim Nicholson
Managing Editor

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Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.