Ford Ranger VS Volkswagen Amarok
- Great steering
- Nice cabin
- Limited availability
- Soft suspension a bit bouncy with weight
- A bit of turbo lag
- Awesome ride and handling
- No practicality compromise
- Diesel V6 still the best
- Interior showing its age
- Alarming safety omissions
- Lack of tech items at this price
The Ford Ranger Wildtrak has been a runaway success for the brand. Plenty of people have bought them, modified them, taken them off-road and put them to task in the PX generation of Ranger.
Now, to see out the 2019 model range, Ford has added a new version above the standard Wildtrak. It’s the Ford Ranger Wildtrak X, and the ‘X’ stands for ‘extra’, because you get a bit more gear for a touch more money.
We’ll get to all the detail soon, and for this test we didn’t head off the beaten track - our aim here was to see how the Wildtrak X copes in daily driving, as well as how it handles hard work.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
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.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
The Ford Ranger Wildtrak X is up to the task when it comes to hard work, but it’s more comfortable showing off at the worksite than actually getting the job done. We all know someone like that.
And that’s no bad thing - if you’re after a competent and impressively specified (if a little expensive) dual-cab ute, you could do a lot worse than the Wildtrak X.
Thanks again to our mates at Crown Forklifts in Sydney for helping out with this load test.
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.
You might be considering the Wildtrak X purely on aesthetic appeal - and that’s understanding. It has a few new design highlights compared with the non-X model, and most of them add function as well.
It scores an array of blacked out components, such as new 18-inch wheels (still wrapped in the same Bridgestone Dueler H/T rubber), wheel-arch flares (allowing for a more aggressive wheel/tyre setup), plus there’s a black nudge bar with LED light bar, and there’s a genuine Ford snorkel, too.
Combined, it makes the Wildtrak X look like a lot of those non-X models you’ve seen, where owners have spent thousands on extras. The rest of the destine is unchanged for the 19.75 model year variant we had, but there are subtle updates coming for the 2020 model range.
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.
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.
Like every dual-cab Ranger, the Wildtrak X is a good size inside. There’s enough space to fit three adults across the back and therefore five adults in the cabin. No rear air vents, though, which can result in a stuffy back seat on hot days.
You get cup holders up front and in the rear, and bottle holders in all four doors. You can raise the seat base for extra storage space, if there’s not enough room in the tub.
Up front there’s a good amount of space and storage, and the media system is simple to use. And while we haven’t raised this in the past, the number of warning gongs and danger dings might annoy you. Like, I know the door is open, I just opened it. Sheesh!
Now, the tub.
It’s 1549mm long, 1560mm wide and 1139mm between the wheel-arches, which means it’s too narrow for an Aussie pallet to fit (1165mm minimum). The depth of the tub is 511mm, but not in the the Wildtrak models, because the roller cover housing at the far end of the tub just about halves that, eating into usable space.
It’s great that you get the hard top roller cover, and that there’s a tub liner, too: however, the four tie-down hooks in the corners of the tub makes it difficult to strap down a load.
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 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.
Price and features
The Ford Ranger Wildtrak X starts at $65,290 plus on-road costs for the 3.2-litre turbo-diesel five-cylinder model we drove, while the more powerful and more refined 2.0-litre Bi-turbo four-cylinder engine is $1500 more ($66,790).
That makes it a $2000 jump over the standard Wildtrak, but according to Ford, you’re getting $6000 worth of extra value.
The Wildtrak X’s additional styling gear builds upon the already impressive list of included equipment on the regular Wildtrak.
Included on this grade are 18-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, HID headlights, an LED light bar as well as all the Wildtrak X body additions (see the Design section for more detail), an integrated tow bar and wiring harness, a tub liner, 12-volt outlet in the tub, roller hard top and the model-specific interior with part-leather trim and a dark headlining.
There’s also an 8.0-inch touchscreen media system with sat nav, DAB digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player. There are two USB ports, a 12-volt charger in the back seat and a 230-volt powerpoint, too.
The front seats are heated and the driver’s seat has electric adjustment, there are digital displays in front of the driver showing navigation and driving data (including a digital speedometer, which many utes still miss out on).
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.
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.
Engine & trans
Under the bonnet of the Wildtrak X we drove is a 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel engine producing 147kW of power (at 3000rpm) and 470Nm of torque (from 1750-2000rpm). It has a six-speed automatic transmission in this spec, and there is no manual option for the Wildtrak X. It has selectable four-wheel drive with a low-range transfer case (2H, 4H and 4L gearing), and an electronic locking rear diff.
The other engine option for the Wildtrak X is the 2.0-litre Bi-turbo four-cylinder engine producing 157kW of power (at 3750rpm) and 500Nm of torque (1750-2000rpm). That’s class-leading levels of grunt from a four-cylinder engine. It runs a 10-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive.
The Ranger Wildtrak X has a towing capacity of 750kg for an un-braked trailer, and 3500kg for a braked trailer.
The kerb weight of the Ranger Wildtrak X 3.2L is 2287kg. It has a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of 3200kg, and a gross combination mass (GCM) of 6000kg.
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.
Fuel consumption for the Ranger Wildtrak X 3.2L model is claimed at 8.9 litres per 100 kilometres, and it has an 80-litre fuel tank capacity. There is no long range fuel tank.
Our test drive saw a real-world return of 11.1L/100km across a mix of driving including urban, highway and back-road, as well as laden and unladen.
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.
We like the Ford Ranger as a daily driver. It’s easy to see why so many people buy Ford Ranger dual-cab four-wheel drives, even if they don’t need the payload, or the towing capacity. It’s the utility that appeals with this utility.
Without weight in the back it rides smoothly enough, and around town you won’t complain about back pain or sore kidneys when you crunch over speed humps. It’s composed and refined, so much so that it’s a better ute to drive without a load than with weight in the back, and there aren’t many that can claim that accolade.
The steering makes it easy to park, and it’s nice to steer in all sorts of situations. If you happen to be on the tools all day, you’ll be happy not to have to wrestle the wheel on your way home.
Acceleration is good, if not blindingly quite, and the transmission does what it should.
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.
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.
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 Ford Ranger Wildtrak - as with the rest of the Ranger line-up - is in the mix for the best in the business for ute safety specs.
Standard gear on all Ranger models is auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection as well as lane keeping assist, driver attention alert, traffic sign recognition and automated high-beam lights. The AEB system works at city and highway speeds, and adaptive cruise control is included, too. There is no blind-spot monitoring or rear cross-traffic alert, however.
The Ranger retains its five-star ANCAP crash test rating from 2015, when the standards were considerably more lax. It does, however, have six airbags (dual front, front side and full-length curtain), a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors and a semi-autonomous parking system.
It comes with dual ISOFIX child seat anchor points and two top-tether restraints for baby seats.
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.
Ford backs all of its models with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty plan, which is on par with the rest of the mainstream ute market but behind the likes of the Triton (promotional seven-year warranty), SsangYong Musso (permanent seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty), and Isuzu D-Max (six-year/150,000km).
Capped price servicing intervals are set every 12 months/15,000km. The duration of the service plan is for the life of the vehicle, too, which is good for peace of mind if you plan to hang on to your car for a long time.
Ford is currently running a promotion whereby the first four years/60,000km of maintenance is capped at $299 per visit. That’s competitive, but costs rise as you get beyond the promo period.
Concerned about Ford Ranger problems? Check out our Ford Ranger problems page for issues, complaints, recalls or anything else regarding reliability. We had an issue of our own, with the car convinced it was towing a trailer the whole time we had it, which disabled the self-parking system and the rear parking sensors, too.
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.