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Volkswagen Amarok 2020 review: V6 Sportline 580

Rugged good looks: Volkswagen's Amarok manages to look tough and stylish at the same time

Dual-cab utes, once the teak-tough domain of tradies hauling their tools, are fast becoming the family taxis of choice, charged with ferrying kids, shopping and weekend gear.

It makes sense when you think about it. The relentless wear and tear kids can dish out surely calls for something more hard wearing and durable than your average SUV.

Enter the Volkswagen Amarok Highline 580 Black, a high-riding, well-appointed dual-cab ute, sporting the kind of engine you wish your SUV had.

Our family test of the Amarok's hauling abilities included a four-day country farm-stay trip, with the remainder of the week spent taxiing the kids around the local suburbs.

What does it look like?

As utes go, the Amarok is definitely one of the better looking ones, with a commanding profile that has stood the test of time. The large exterior dials down the rugged muscular look, as trademarked by other utes, in favour of a more balanced design. It looks equally ready to tackle the suburban streets or the outback dirt.

The Ravenna Blue body paint (a $700 option), black sports bar and gloss black Talca 20-inch wheels really help this ute stand out from the crowd, especially on back-country roads.

In addition to the sports bar and black wheels, the 580 version of the Highline also comes with gloss-black bumpers front and rear, a slightly redesigned front grille, black interior headlining and black side bars.

  • As utes go, the Amarok is definitely one of the better looking ones,  with a commanding profile that has stood the test of time. (image: Dan Pugh) As utes go, the Amarok is definitely one of the better looking ones, with a commanding profile that has stood the test of time. (image: Dan Pugh)
  • It looks equally ready to tackle the suburban streets or the outback dirt. (image: Dan Pugh) It looks equally ready to tackle the suburban streets or the outback dirt. (image: Dan Pugh)
  • Over the course of the week the tray was used for nothing more than carrying our luggage for the farm stay. (image: Dan Pugh) Over the course of the week the tray was used for nothing more than carrying our luggage for the farm stay. (image: Dan Pugh)
  • The large exterior dials down the rugged muscular look, as trademarked by other utes, in favour of a more balanced design. (image: Dan Pugh) The large exterior dials down the rugged muscular look, as trademarked by other utes, in favour of a more balanced design. (image: Dan Pugh)

The cabin fit out is high quality, with premium materials used throughout. In fact, you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd just stepped inside a well-priced SUV, with a leather-covered steering wheel and Vienna leather (a $2790 option) seating. The switch gear and driver instrumentation are the same excellent units  you'd find on other VW passenger cars.

It's not all premium-SUV creature comforts, though, with plenty of hard-wearing plastics used where it counts; across the doors and dash.

All up, the Amarok made for an incredibly pleasant and comfortable place to spend the 2.5 hours it took to reach our farm stay.

The cabin fit out is high quality, with premium materials used throughout. (image: Dan Pugh) The cabin fit out is high quality, with premium materials used throughout. (image: Dan Pugh)

How does it drive?

The 580 in the name identifies the amount of torque this 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6 engine produces, and it is exceptional. Less than two minutes of motorway driving was more than enough to convince me.

It was a pleasure to pilot on the long, straight stretches of the motorway, with effortless acceleration on overtaking from any speed, dispatching slower cars with ease. I'd be surprised if there is another production ute that could match it in terms of performance.

Dual-cab utes, once the teak-tough domain of tradies hauling their tools, are fast becoming the family taxis of choice. (image: Dan Pugh) Dual-cab utes, once the teak-tough domain of tradies hauling their tools, are fast becoming the family taxis of choice. (image: Dan Pugh)

On the country 'B' roads, the Amarok delivered an equally impressive drive, which was only let down by the overly firm ride, which was partly due to the lack of weight in the tray. It had a tendency to bounce through some of the bumpier bends,  providing a potent reminder that this is a ute, not an SUV. Fortunately, the 4Motion all-wheel-drive system did still ensure we had plenty of grip.

The Highline performed equally as well around the burbs, with punchy acceleration from a standing start and smooth and intuitive gear changes from the eight-speed torque-converter auto at slower speeds.

The Ravenna Blue body paint (a $700 option), black sports bar and gloss black Talca 20-inch wheels really help this ute stand out. (image: Dan Pugh) The Ravenna Blue body paint (a $700 option), black sports bar and gloss black Talca 20-inch wheels really help this ute stand out. (image: Dan Pugh)

How spacious is it?

There's good leg and headroom up front, with ample space in the rear for my kids. It was a little more snug when I sat back there, with only a narrow gap in front of my knees when sitting behind my driver's seat (I'm 180cm). The Amarok's width provides for a decent-sized middle seat, though.

The tray comes fitted with four tie-down points and can swallow a standard 1165mm-square Aussie pallet. Over the course of the week the tray was used for nothing more than carrying our luggage for the farm stay.

  • There’s good leg and headroom up front, with ample space in the rear for my kids. (image: Dan Pugh) There’s good leg and headroom up front, with ample space in the rear for my kids. (image: Dan Pugh)
  • Those in need of extra carrying space can make use of the 60/40-split rear seat base cushion. (image: Dan Pugh) Those in need of extra carrying space can make use of the 60/40-split rear seat base cushion. (image: Dan Pugh)

For those with heavy-duty loads in mind, the Highline 580 has a max payload of 911kg for a GVM of 3080kg, and a max towing capacity of 3500kg braked/750kg unbraked for a GCM of 6000kg.

Those in need of extra carrying space can make use of the 60/40-split rear seat base cushion, which swings up to secure in a vertical position.

How easy is it to use every day?

Aside from its space, the Amarok brings its fair share of practicality, with plenty of storage on offer including a sizeable centre console up front, a large glove box, under front seat storage and a huge oddment tray set into the dash. Added to this are two cupholders up front and two in the rear, in addition to bottle holders in the front and rear door pockets.

There are enough 12-volt power outlets to power all the family's gear, with two available upfront, one in the rear and another located in the tray.

There are two cupholders up front and two in the rear, in addition to bottle holders in the front and rear door pockets. (image: Dan Pugh) There are two cupholders up front and two in the rear, in addition to bottle holders in the front and rear door pockets. (image: Dan Pugh)

The Amarok may be large but it's easy to parallel park and navigate within local shopping centre car parks, thanks to front and rear sensors, a reversing camera and good visibility from the driver's seat.

Over the week we covered 610km of motorway, country-road and suburban driving, with the trip computer displaying a fuel consumption reading of 10.4 litres per 100km. Higher than the claimed 8.9 litres/100km VW makes, but with nearly a quarter of the 80-litre tank still remaining at week's end, it's a figure I can live with.

How safe is it?

It's here the Amarok comes a little unstuck as a family hauler. While the four-cylinder diesel version of the Amarok earned the maximum five-star ANCAP rating back in 2011, the V6 version we tested is yet to be rated.

Standard safety kit includes driver and front passenger airbags and side airbags, but this model forgoes curtain airbag protection for rear-seat passengers. Not having AEB is a big miss here, too.

For parents with young kids there are three top-tether child-seat anchorage points, plus two ISOFIX fittings.

The Amarok is well kitted out and features bi-Xenon headlights. (image: Dan Pugh) The Amarok is well kitted out and features bi-Xenon headlights. (image: Dan Pugh)

What's the tech like?

The Amarok Highline 580 comes with dual-zone climate control air conditioning, a 6.33-inch media screen with sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, USB connectivity and Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, a leather-lined steering wheel, stainless-steel pedals and a colour info display with digital speedometer.

While the touchscreen has quality graphics and is easy to use, at only 6.33 inches wide it's a pretty small unit.

How much does it cost to own?

Priced at $64,990, the Highline 580 sits around $8,000 cheaper than the Ultimate 580 variant. Our test car came with $3,490 of optional extras, pushing the total figure to $68,480.

The Amarok is well kitted out and features bi-Xenon headlights, heated and powered front seats, dual-zone climate control, tilt and reach adjustable steering, rear-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, and more.

Interestingly, the Highline 580 represents the cheapest way to experience the 580 engine, which also powers the likes of far  more premium SUVs like the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne.

The Highline 580, with its bonkers engine, practicality and SUV-like creature comforts, presents a compelling case as a family hauler. (image: Dan Pugh) The Highline 580, with its bonkers engine, practicality and SUV-like creature comforts, presents a compelling case as a family hauler. (image: Dan Pugh)


The Wrap

The Highline 580, with its bonkers engine, practicality and SUV-like creature comforts, presents a compelling case as a family hauler. Driving a ute should not be this much fun. Unfortunately for the Amarok,  the lack of active-safety kit and rear air bags may see family buyers favouring SUVs as the safer bet.

Likes

Powerful engine
SUV-like creature comforts
Plenty of storage

Dislikes

Lack of active safety
No rear air bags
Legroom in rear seats

Scores

Dan:

4.1

The Kids:

4.3

$72,790

Based on new car retail price

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