Foton Tunland VS Volkswagen Amarok
- Cummins engine
- Improved build quality
- Roomy interior
- Lack of safety gear
- Front end (bullbar will fix that easily)
- Some flimsy, and awkwardly positioned switchgear
- 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
Marcus Craft road tests and reviews the new Foton Tunland dual-cab 4X4 with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
When I told mates I’d be testing a Foton Tunland a few snort-laughed their craft beer out of their noses in not-so-mock shock. “Why don’t you save yourself the hassle and just write about another HiLux or Ranger or Amarok?” they said. The idea of me supposedly risking my skin in a Chinese dual-cab ute, lambasted in the past for lacklustre build quality and dogged by doubts over vehicle safety, delighted these blokes.
“Is your life insurance up to date?” one fella quipped. Yep, funny. Well, the joke’s on them because this latest-gen Tunland is a well built and well priced dual-cab ute with a bloody good Cummins turbo-diesel engine and a stack of other top-quality components thrown in for good measure. But, it’s not all good news – there are some safety issues. Read on.
|Engine Type||2.8L 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|
Foton Tunland 7/10
The Tunland is a damn good value-for-money proposition and it’s the best of the budget dual-cab ute mob, but a less than ideal suite of safety features impacts its appeal.
If those flaws are erased from the updated model, then it will likely stake an even stronger claim in a highly competitive ute market.
Does Foton's Tunland make the cut as a family-friendly work truck? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
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.
Foton Tunland 7/10
The Tunland looks good, not spectacular; like a noughties-era dual-cab rather than a contemporary one. And you know what? That’s fine with this journalist because it’s an easy fix. The Tunland is not unlike the BT-50 of recent years, in that once you’ve thrown a bull bar over the ordinary-looking front end (with its Wi-Fi-symbol-rotated-90-degrees-looking Foton logo) then all is forgiven.
Elsewhere, the Foton is a softer edged beast than some of its modern counterparts, with rounded headlights flowing back to a 'truck-lite' rear end, but it retains a robust, old-school ute presence.
Inside, the Tunland is neat, tidy and roomy. It looks ready for day-to-day duties – whether as a job-site workhorse, a daily driver, or a family mover. There is grey plastic everywhere but the cabin has nice touches like the leather-trim seats and wood-look panels.
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.
Foton Tunland 7/10
Tunland’s remote entry is two-stage: first press unlocks only the driver’s door; second press unlocks the other doors – that can be annoying when you have people champing at the bit to get into the vehicle during a heatwave, and there is an almost-comical series of mistimed attempts at opening doors and pressing buttons.
The cabin is spacious. Build quality and fit and finish have been improved well beyond expectations. One or two buttons feel a bit flimsy and the button to adjust the wing-mirrors is tucked away on the right-hand-side dash behind the steering wheel; quite awkward to see, reach and use.
The air con defaults to ‘off’ every time you re-start, which is a bit of a niggle, especially during the heatwave conditions during which some of this review took place.
Seats are supportive enough without going beyond the call of duty; the front seat bases are a touch too short for tall people and extra side bolstering would be welcome.
There is ample head and leg room, front and back, although rear-seat passengers are forced into an upright, knees-high position; still they should be used to that if they’ve been riding around in utes for any length of time. Cupholder count runs to two in the front centre console.
The dual-cab Tunland has a 1025kg payload, a maximum braked towing capacity of 2500kg (1000kg less than most other utes) and 750kg unbraked.
Its cargo area is 1500mm long, 1570mm wide (1380mm, internal width at floor level; 1050mm internal width between the wheel arches) and 430mm deep. The tray has four tie-down points at each interior corner and a poly tray-liner which protects the top ‘lip’ of the tray and that’s a big bonus.
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
Foton Tunland 7/10
The manual-only Tunland is available as a single cab 4x2 ($22,490), single cab 4x2 styleside ($23,490), single cab 4x4 ($25,990), dual cab 4x2 ($27,990), or dual cab 4x4 ($30,990), which we tested. Single cabs have an alloy tray. Metallic paint on any model is $400 extra.
For a ute firmly located at the budget end of the pricing scale, the Tunland’s interior has a fair few cheeky little extras packed into what is, at first glance anyway, a standard-looking workhorse inside and out. It has a tilt-adjustable-only, leather-trim, steering wheel with controls for Bluetooth, audio and cruise control.
The Tunland audio set-up plays MP3 files and CDs. There is an auxiliary port for a mini USB right beside the CD slot. Music can be streamed from Bluetooth-compatible devices. Air conditioning, electric windows, electric wing mirrors (with defrost function) and remote two-stage unlocking are all standard on Tunlands.
All seats in the dual-cab are leather trimmed and the driver’s seat is (manually) eight-way adjustable.
There are plenty of storage receptacles: a good-sized glove box, cup holders, door and seatback pockets, as well as a few handy little spaces for knick-knacks.
Standard features elsewhere on the dual-cab include daytime running lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, rear step bumper with parking sensor and fog lights, and a tyre-pressure-monitoring system; handy for off-road tourers.
Our test vehicle was one of the last of the model year 2016 examples, fitted with disc brakes all-round and stability control, and had a Euro 4 emissions compliant engine, according to general manager of Foton Motors Australia, Alex Stuart. An updated model, expected mid year, will have a Euro 5 engine, “but with the same exterior and basically same interior”, Mr Stuart said.
Accessories include pretty much everything you could ever want on a ute, ranging from a clear bonnet protector ($123.70) and full recovery kit ($343.92), to bullbar ($2237.84) and winch ($1231.84). Foton has a Tunland kitted out with most, if not all, of its available accessories as an example of what a fully geared-up Tunland looks like – and it looks bloody good.
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
Foton Tunland 8/10
The Tunland has a Cummins 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine, producing 120kw at 3600rpm, and 360Nm at 1800rpm-3000rpm, backed up by a Getrag five-speed manual transmission. These are two components with great reputations made by the best of the best in their respective fields: engines and transmissions.
BorgWarner, another industry leader (in powertrains, among other things), built the two-speed transfer case in the Tunland 4x4s. All Tunlands in Australia have Dana axles and differentials; the rear is a LSD.
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.
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.
Foton Tunland 7/10
The dual-cab Tunland is 5310mm long, 1880mm wide (excluding wing mirrors), 1870mm high, and has a 3105mm wheelbase. Kerb weight is listed as 1950kg.
In other words, it’s a big ute, one of the biggest models in Australia, but it doesn’t feel like such a cumbersome beast when you drive it.
The Tunland has a wide stance and sits well on the road, only exhibiting that tell-tale ute sway when it was really thrown into corners. Its hydraulic steering is faster and lighter than you’d assume in a hefty ute at this price-point although there is some ‘play’ in it.
The Cummins engine is a real cracker; gutsy and responsive. We had fun with it in city traffic, on the highway and along back country roads, winding it up, giving it the boot, hearing it growl. Driven judiciously it maintains the rage throughout the rev range.
The five-speed manual is a tall-geared, big-shifting unit; slick and fun to use. We had a few moments early on, but swiftly became used to the notchy action.
The Tunland has double wishbones and coil springs up front and leaf springs down the back. The set-up seemed firm but nothing out of the ordinary for a ute. Overall, ride and handling was drawing ever nearer to that of car-like dual-cabs that cost at least $10,000 more than this.
Our test vehicle was shod with Savero HT Plus 265/65 R17 tyres, which were generally fine on bitumen, gravel and off-road, however, we’d opt for ATs for off-road touring.
Visibility is mostly good, except for the chunky A-pillar and window shield combination, which eats into the driver’s view, and the shallow slit of a rear window, again not an unfamiliar feature for ute drivers everywhere. (The window shields are dealer-fit accessories).
Off-road, the Tunland is more than capable. It has an unladen ground clearance of 200mm, the BorgWarner dual-range transmission and LSD at the rear.
We took it through a couple of shallow water crossings (the air intake is up high in the engine bay), over a section of knee-high jagged and staggered rocks, along a heavily rutted bush track, through sand and along washed out dirt roads. Some of it was very slow going, challenging stuff. The Tunland handled everything with ease.
Working through 4WD modes is simple enough: the driver uses buttons just in front of the gear stick to shift between 4x2 High and 4x4 High at speeds of up to 80km/h. You have to stop the vehicle to engage low range.
Underbody protection includes a steel plate sump guard, which is standard on the Tunland 4x4.
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.
Foton Tunland 6/10
The Tunland has a three-star ANCAP rating, and was last tested in 2013.
As standard there are driver and front passenger airbags (no front side airbags); height-adjustable, front seat belts with pre-tensioners, as well as ABS and EBD. Our test vehicle also had the ESC package, which includes disc brakes all around.
There is only a lap belt for the middle passenger in the rear and there are no curtain airbags.
There are no top tether points in the rear seats for child-seat restraints, but those are coming in the 2017 model, Mr Stuart told CarsGuide. Only booster seats, which don’t require those top tether points, should be used in the 2016 models.
Those safety flaws are substantial, but it seems Foton plans to have them sorted out in the next-gen Tunland.
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.
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.