Australians love a good performance variant. We also love utes. You can probably see where I'm going with this.
We love both these things so much we're one of the highest per-capita consumers of performance variants in the world, and utes frequently vie for top spot in our highly competitive market.
Since the demise of local manufacturing, and thus the death of the car-based ute in Australia, on-road performance utes have given way to off-road-focused halo variants, most famously Ford's Ranger Raptor.
But thanks to a collaboration with local tuning outfit Walkinshaw, this new VW Amarok variant, the W580, looks set to change this, with a key focus on the tarmac, rather than on the rough stuff.
How does it differ from its rivals and who is it best suited for? We went to the W580's launch to find out.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 7/10
It seems apparent, at least at a glance, that the W580 is gunning for its popular off-road-focused rivals, with which it competes directly on price.
Split into two variants, the entry-level W580 (think Highline spec) at $71,990, and the W580S (think Ultimate spec plus some) at $79,990, the Walkinshaw Amaroks want your money over something like the Ford Ranger Raptor ($77,690), Mazda BT-50 Thunder ($68,990), and the Toyota HiLux Rugged X ($64,490).
It's clear from one look at the inclusions, though, that the W580 is a bit of a different beast. You'll see no off-road accessories included here, with the star feature being a re-tune and re-balance of the suspension, a wider tyre and wheel combination with matching flared guards, an entirely re-styled front fascia complete with Walkinshaw-branded LED fog-lights, and a host of aesthetic touches to remind you this particular Amarok has had the local tuning outfit's hands all over it.
There's a blacked out sidestep. (W580S variant pictured)
This of course adds to the standard stuff you'd expect on a Highline, like bi-Xenon headlights, dual-zone climate, paddle shifters for the transmission, and a 6.33-inch multimedia screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
The top-spec W580S gets all of this, plus Vienna leather seats with Walkinshaw branding, underbody styling elements, extended decals, electrically adjustable front seats with a heating function, electrically folding mirrors, built-in sat-nav, and a tuned twin exhaust with side-piping out the rear (cool), as well as a sail plane bar over the tub, which gains a five-piece liner (useful).
The Amarok is starting to show its age, though. The multimedia screen seems tiny, dwarfed by the Amarok's expansive dash, and the analog elements feel left behind compared to the rest of VW's heavily digitised range. The lack of push-start ignition, fully keyless entry, and LED headlights is particularly jarring at this price-point, too.
The W580 wears 20-inch alloy wheels. (W580S variant pictured)
Is there anything interesting about its design? 8/10
The W580 has to be seen in the metal to be appreciated. The pictures don't quite capture the menacing stance of this truck, helped by its Walkinshaw enhancements.
To accommodate its massive wheel-and-tyre combination, which is one-inch wider than the standard fare, the W580 has a 23mm offset alteration with those matching guards. The more I looked at the mean 20-inch alloys (clad in Pirelli Scorpion A/T tyres), the more I thought they suited it, and as a bonus they're no heavier than the wheels which come standard on an Ultimate as they are forged alloys.
You really have to splash for the 580S. (W580S variant pictured)
If you want the full show though (and we know customers at the high-end of the ute market do), you really have to splash for the 580S which matches the mean front overhaul with an equally mean rear. The sail plane bar and twin side-piped exhaust really finish the image and make the package stand out from the Amarok crowd.
It all serves to make an already attractive package even better, at least when it comes to its exterior.
On the inside it just doesn't feel as special. Sure, you get plenty of Walkinshaw branding stitched into the seats and carpets, as well as a numbered build plaque on the transmission panel, but there has been no effort to make it feel a bit more bespoke. I reckon you need an R-Line steering wheel, different dash inserts, and some properly bespoke seats. Or at least a splash of colour to spice up the Amarok's grey-on-black interior.
The interior is starting to show its age. (W580S variant pictured)
How practical is the space inside? 8/10
The Amarok has always been practical and offers some key selling points over some of its more popular rivals.
The cabin is largely unchanged for this edition, with plenty of room and adjustability for front passengers, a large centre console with dual bottle holders, a large armrest console box, and a huge tray under the climate unit. There are also large bottle holders and trenches in the door cards, and a cutaway atop the dash with its own 12v power outlet for stowing devices.
Peering at the tiny screen from the driver's position isn't as fun, but at least it has easy-access shortcut buttons and dials for adjusting things without looking while you're on the move. The same can be said for its dual-zone climate console.
The 580S adds sail plane bar and twin side-piped exhaust. (W580S variant pictured)
The width of the Amarok is useful for rear passengers, too. While legroom can be a little limited, the width is impressive, and the seat trim is particularly good when you consider it against its dual-cab rivals.
The Amarok's biggest selling point on the practicality front is its tray. With dimensions of 1555mm (L), 1620mm (W), and 508mm (H), it's already among the best in the segment, but the party trick is that it will fit a standard Australian pallet between its wheelarches, which allow a width of 1222mm. This remains true even with the five-piece tub liner in the 580S. For those interested, the W series Amaroks have a payload of 905kg for the W580 and 848kg for the W580S.
Importantly, neither Volkswagen or Walkinshaw wanted to mess with the Amarok's towing capacity, which remains at 750kg unbraked or a competitive 3500kg braked.
The seat trim is particularly good. (W580S variant pictured)
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission? 9/10
It might disappoint you to learn Walkinshaw didn't actually tweak the Amarok's already monstrous "580" 3.0-litre turbo diesel V6 for these special editions, but the argument is they really didn't need to, and it would have added unnecessary complexity to the project.
The 580 V6, after all, is still one of the leaders in the ute segment when it comes to outright outputs (at 190kW/580Nm, with overboost to 200kW when required). This will allow a 0-100km/h sprint time of just 7.3 seconds, while maintaining the competitive payload and towing figures already mentioned.
The 580S variant adds a twin side-piped exhaust system, which is said to add 16dB of volume to the V6's exhaust note, but honestly it was tough to tell from behind the wheel. At least it looks neat.
The 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 produces 190kW/580Nm. (W580S variant pictured)
How much fuel does it consume? 8/10
Amarok 580 V6 variants have an official/combined fuel consumption number of 9.5L/100km. Our alpine test drive which covered over 250km in deliberately trying conditions would hardly be a fair reflective figure of what it would be like to drive one of these trucks every day, but most were returning around 11L/100km, still under the official urban figure of 11.4L/100km.
This is pretty good considering this engine's capacity and capability, especially since you could expect similar consumption figures from its less powerful four-cylinder turbo-diesel rivals.
Amarok V6 variants have 80-litre fuel tanks, granting a theoretically range of around 1000km.
What's it like to drive? 9/10
You can turn your nose up at the lack of a power boost for this Walkinshaw-tweaked example all you want, but I can tell you the Amarok didn't need it. Instead, the tuning outfit has imbued an already fast ute with the handling it deserves.
This makes for quite a surreal experience behind the wheel, as the giant ladder-chassis swoops around corners on or off the tarmac with ease. Immediately you can feel how Walkinshaw has firmed things up, as on the straight, the W580 is a little jiggly, and bumps are felt with more immediacy, however the tune has nailed the re-bound, so road imperfections don't mess with the balance of this huge ute.
The 3.0-litre V6 is a monster. (W580S variant pictured)
Where it really shines is when you load it up in the corners. This is a ute which simply eats up bends like they are nothing. You feel the gravity take its toll, but even with road imperfections trying to rattle you free, the big grippy tyres and twin-tube dampers barely elicit a squeal.
Of course, the 3.0-litre V6 is a monster, drawing from a deep pool of torque to make for a relatively responsive and refined sprint when the accelerator pedal is down. It pairs nicely to the eight-speed torque converter, which provides predictable and linear shifts. The whole package has unbeatable refinement, too, the likes of which you won't find in any other dual-cab.
The steering feels heavy at low speeds. (W580S variant pictured)
Drawbacks? While it doesn't feel as though this Walkinshaw tune has messed with the Amarok's off-road capabilities, it is worth noting how heavy the steering feels at low speeds with the extra tyre width. I would also have loved it if there was a more savage exhaust note, and still, this is no performance SUV when it comes to comfort and refinement (although it's nearly as close as you can get in a ute).
It's also no Raptor. While I doubt the Raptor would provide the kind of organic feedback this Amarok can in the corners, it is better at providing an impression of indestructibility from behind the wheel.
The Amarok W580 is no Ranger Raptor. (W580S variant pictured)
Warranty & Safety Rating
5 years / unlimited km
ANCAP Safety Rating
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 6/10
Safety has been an awkward topic for the Amarok for a while. A lot of it is to do with this truck's age. At over 10 years without a truly major overhaul, there's a distinct lack of active safety items. There's no auto emergency braking, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, or adaptive cruise control.
Alarmingly for many buyers it's also missing airbags for the rear row. The V6 versions of the Amarok are not covered by an ANCAP safety rating, although their 2.0-litre counterparts carry a very outdated five-star assessment from a decade ago.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 8/10
VW also offers capped-price servicing, but the cheapest way to own the Amarok is through the pre-paid servicing packages.
These can be chosen in either three-year or five-year forms, adding $1600 or $2600 to the purchase price respectively.
The five-year plan will save almost $1000 off the recommended service pricing for the same period. Well worth it, and it can be rolled into your finance, too.
The Amarok W580 is no true Raptor rival, but it shouldn't be.
Instead, this Walkinshaw-tweaked edition leans into the Amarok's best attributes, as a ute which feels the most like a passenger car of its cohort. For many buyers in cities, it will be an ideal alternative to the usual off-road focused top-spec rivals.
Our criticisms are mainly reserved for things which are to do with the Amarok's age. To be able to have a monstrous V6 version of a ute which is now over a decade old drive and handle this well is a true feat.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
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