Mitsubishi Triton VS Volkswagen Amarok
- Five-star safety
- Value for money
- Versatile drivetrain
- Load tub overhang
- Cramped rear seat
- Annoying chimes
- Monster diesel V6
- Ultra-refined (for a ute)
- Massive tray and interior
- No advanced active safety
- No rear airbags
- LED headlights would be nice
As the popularity of 4x4 dual cab utes continues to grow, so too does demand for premium models. And it’s not just family/recreational buyers driving this demand. Top-shelf utes are increasingly common on construction sites, where competition amongst tradies to win job tenders is often matched by a battle for bragging rights over who owns the best ute.
This goes back a long way. It really took off in the 1970s and early 1980s during production of Holden’s legendary HQ-WB One Tonner. They sold in huge numbers, but because they were produced in a very basic work-focused specification, it was only a matter of time before tradie owners wanted some individuality on the worksite.
Initially it was just a set of chrome 12-slotters and fat tyres with raised white lettering on the sidewalls. However, this showmanship quickly expanded into custom metallic paint jobs and leather interiors, Statesman or Caprice front-ends, jarrah trays with exquisite joinery showcased under 50 coats of clear and numerous other tweaks. Eventually some became too nice for work and joined the show car circuit instead - which defeated the whole point of the exercise! But that’s competition for you.
The Holden One Tonner era may be long gone, but rivalry between Aussie tradies for best ute honours remains strong. So we recently spent a working week in Mitsubishi’s stylish premium-grade Triton to see how it measures up in the premium ute market.
Read More: Mitsubishi Triton 2020 review
|Engine Type||2.4L turbo|
Volkswagen turned the tables on its competitors when it flexed its corporate muscle and reached into its parts catalogue to offer a 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6 in its Amarok range.
The Amarok, once scoffed at by some die-hards for its European roots and its 2.0-litre engine, had surged to the front of the pack as the most powerful dual-cab ute you could buy in Australia.
The only catch? To get the gruntiest '580' engine option you’d need to spend north of $70k for the Ultimate trim level.
Now, though, Volkswagen has made the bigger engine more affordable than ever, offering it in the lower ‘Highline’ trim.
So we were shipped thousands of kilometres from the nearest major city, to the middle of the Simpson Desert, to put this new Highline 580 through its off-road paces.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
Compared to its more expensive mainstream rivals, the lavishly-equipped GLS Premium offers unmatched value for money.
For less than $53K it has more than everything you need in terms of safety and features, plus proven Mitsubishi performance, reliability and build quality. Premium by name and premium by nature, it can more than hold its own in any battle for best ute bragging rights. And there’s no chrome 12-slotters or hand-made jarrah trays required.
The latest addition to the Amarok lineup is easily one of the best you can buy.
While it would be nice to see some more modern safety features, LED headlights and a bigger multimedia screen, there’s no getting past the fact that this truck is capable, comfortable, and packs what is essentially a Porsche engine in the highest state of tune at the lowest price across VW’s entire lineup by far.
Do you think the regular V6 is enough, or is the 580 the only way to go? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
The conspicuously long rear overhang is a Triton design signature, which contributes to its expansive 5409mm overall length that’s almost line-ball with a Ford Ranger equivalent.
However, in stark contrast, the Triton’s relatively short 3000mm wheelbase results in sharp steering response. Combined with a compact 11.8-metre turning circle and 1815mm width, it all adds up to impressive agility in all conditions, from tight bush tracks and inner-city parking to rugged worksites with difficult access.
The 4x4 models with the latest 18-inch wheel stock have 220mm of ground clearance and improved approach (31 degrees), ramp break-over (25 degrees) and departure (23 degrees) angles.
Triton rear seating has always been tight, particularly for three adults. Tall ones sitting in the higher central position can have their heads pressing into the roof lining. By contrast, that same roof lining also has wide slot-type air circulation vents, which are superior to console-mounted vents in directing cooling air to the faces of rear seat passengers.
The most annoying noise award goes to the ‘Steering Wheel Unlocked’ warning, which chimes loudly every time the driver stops and departs the vehicle.
The Amarok has always looked good, and it continues to look good even after this many years on the road. Although VW design has moved on with new curves and edges, it hasn’t quite moved far enough to make the Amarok look dated.
The dual-cab still carries all the major VW design pillars, toughening them up with a few extra squared-off angles to make the most of its ladder chassis underpinnings.
Sure it may not look as truly rugged as the Ranger or HiLux, but it also looks more refined and stylish. As at home in the city as it is on a dirt trail. There’s a lot to be said for that.
Of course, VW confirms that most owners go on to spend a small fortune making their vehicles look even tougher with a suite of aftermarket accessories. Our test car for this trip looked extra tough, for example, just with a small set of genuine accessories fitted.
Inside, you’d almost think you were sitting in an SUV. There’s nothing industrial about the Amarok’s interior. It’s a comfortable, passenger-friendly place to be. It has all the familiar switchgear from the VW family, from the leather-bound steering wheel to the Golf-style indicator stalks and cloth seats.
This 580 version then spruces it up a little with the black headlining giving the cabin a moodier feel.
It’s so SUV-like I’d almost feel bad sullying it with tools or mud or sand or dirt. A victim to it’s own classy fit-out, perhaps. The Ultimate goes even further with 14-way heated and electrically adjustable leather seats, colour multifunction display and paddle shifters. Nice, but it all comes at a significant price-hike.
With its relatively light 2045kg kerb weight and 2900kg GVM, the GLS Premium has an 855kg payload rating. It’s also rated to tow up to 3100kg of braked trailer and with a GCM (or how much you can legally carry and tow at the same time) of 5885kg, that means you only have to reduce your payload by 115kg to do it. Or you could just lower your towing limit by the same amount (to 2985kg) and keep your full payload.
Either way, this is a realistic set of numbers to play with, because most 4x4 dual cabs with 3500kg tow ratings have to reduce their payloads by half a tonne or more to legally do it. Which is totally impractical of course, meaning most 3500kg tow ratings are more like 3000kg or less in the real world. And most people don't need to tow more than 3000kg anyway.
The load tub is 1520mm long and 1470mm wide with a depth of 475mm. There’s 1185mm between the rear wheel housings, so you can’t squeeze a standard 1165mm-square Aussie pallet in between them, but a smaller Euro 1200 x 800mm pallet can fit. There’s six tie-down points (would be better if they were closer to floor height) and a full tub-liner.
Cabin storage consists of a bottle holder and storage bin in each front door plus an overhead glasses holder and single glovebox. The centre console has a small storage cubby at the front, two small (500ml) bottle or cup holders in the centre and a lidded box at the back which doubles as a driver’s elbow rest.
Rear seat passengers get a bottle holder but no storage bin in each door, flexible storage pockets on each front seat backrest, a pull-down centre armrest with two cup holders plus an open cubby in the rear of the console for small items. The base cushion is fixed, with no storage space beneath or the ability to be stored vertically for more internal carry space, like some rivals.
The Amarok is one wide unit, which means even among dual-cab utes it’s about as practical as you can get.
First, it’s one in a very limited pool (including the Mercedes-Benz X-Class) of dual-cabs that can carry a full-size pallet in its standard tray. So, already a win there.
The 580 engine also allows for a max payload of 911kg for a GVM of 3080kg, and also a max towing capacity of 3500kg braked/750kg unbraked for a GCM of 6000kg.
For those interested, the Amarok also has a max towball download of 300kg, and a max roof load of 100kg.
Most impressive is the rear seat, which genuinely offers room for three adults in decent comfort, each with individual seat contours. Legroom is decent, although bested slightly by the Ranger on a recent comparison, and headroom is excellent thanks to the Amarok’s big square roofline.
Rear passengers get a single 12-volt power outlet and decently sized bottle holders in the doors, but no air vents.
Up front there’s loads of room for occupants, nice soft trim features for your elbows on the door and a massive centre console. There are a set of two 12-volt outlets and a massive trench in front of the shift lever, a set of two cupholders next to the old-school handbrake and small trenches in the doors.
The big dash-topper is augmented by a wide storage bin which has an extra 12-volt outlet to make use of the space. The driver benefits from a telescopic manual adjust for the steering column.
The Amarok feels like a spacious and practical place to be, and although hard plastics adorn many of the internal surfaces, they will be a little more hard-wearing for those venturing to the worksite or off-road.
Price and features
Our test vehicle is the MY20 GLS Premium which is the top rung on the Triton model ladder. With a list price of $52,490, it represents outstanding value for money given that premium versions of its mainstream 4x4 dual cab ute competitors are priced above $60,000.
Beyond its black nudge bar, sports bar, load tub-liner, side steps and rear-step bumper, there’s chunky six-spoke 18-inch alloys with 265/60R18 tyres and a full-size spare. Plus LED dusk-sensing headlights and daytime running lights, halogen fog lights, chrome door handles, chrome door mirrors with integral heating and turn indicators, speed/rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, reversing and 360-degree cameras plus a rear diff lock.
Keyless entry reveals a sumptuous interior with dual-zone climate control, rear privacy glass, leather-appointed seats with heating up-front, leather-bound steering wheel/gearshift/handbrake and height/reach adjustable steering column. There’s also 12-volt/USB connections and a six-speaker system with 7.0-inch touchscreen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, DAB radio and multiple connectivity including Bluetooth.
Like we said, it’s fully loaded, but if subjected to a working role it wouldn’t take long for muddy boots and dirty grit-filled shirts and shorts to make that fancy leather and carpet look pretty second-hand. Tough canvas-type seat covers and dirt-trap rubber floor mats might be a good idea if you want to preserve such niceties.
Okay, here it is; the 580 engine is now available in the cheapest package across the entire Volkswagen Group, at an MSRP of $64,990. Yes, you can get the regular 165kW/550Nm V6 in the even cheaper Amarok Core, but this is now the cheapest way to get the same '580' engine that appears in the Audi Q7 and the Porsche Cayenne. That fact alone gives the Highline 580 a nice leg-up in terms of its value offering, and it also undercuts the only other 580 variant, the Ultimate, by roughly $8000.
The 580 version of the Highline can be told apart from the regular V6 version by the inclusion of a once limited-edition ‘black pack’, including gloss-black bumpers front and rear, 20-inch gloss-black alloy wheels, a slightly redesigned front grille, black interior headlining, as well as black side bars and sports bar.
The car we tested, the one which appears in the video and pictures, had all-terrain tyres, a rolling hard tonneau cover, and a roof platform fitted. All of which are optional, but are genuine VW accessories.
Other standard features carried across from the regular Highline include bi-xenon headlights, LED DRLs, a tyre pressure-monitoring system, manually adjustable seats with cloth trim, dual-zone climate control, as well as a 6.33-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity and built-in nav (a must when we were out in the middle of nowhere, with no phone coverage).
It’s a great set of features for any dual-cab ute, and its thumping V6 engine makes up for the fact that it’s missing a few small items that its major price rival, the Ranger Wildtrak, gets.
It would be nice to see a bigger multimedia touchscreen given the width of the Amarok’s cabin. In a normal passenger vehicle, this size would be enough, but it just seems dwarfed by the Amarok’s big dash. Electrically adjustable seats would be nice at this price, too.
To see what mechanical features you get, check out the Engine and Transmission part of this review, and for more on the Amarok’s safety features, check out the Safety subhead.
Engine & trans
The venerable 4N15 four-cylinder turbo-diesel is still one of the best in the business, with strong all-round performance that belies its relatively small 2.4 litre capacity. It produces 133kW at 3500rpm and a competitive 430Nm of torque, which is served full strength at 2500rpm but remains plentiful from as low as 1500rpm.
The six-speed torque converter automatic transmission matches the engine’s impressive refinement, with over-driven fifth and sixth ratios for economical highway cruising and a manual shift mode using steering wheel paddle-shifters.
The excellent Super-Select 4WD-II system offers a choice of rear-wheel drive high range (2H) and full-time 4WD high range (4H) with centre diff unlocked, which is ideal for sealed and unsealed road use. The centre diff locked 4WD high range (4HLc) and centre diff locked 4WD low range (4LLc) settings are aimed at the rough stuff.
There’s also a choice of four off-road driving modes to maximise traction and stability on Gravel, Mud/Snow, Sand and Rock. And if that’s not enough to get you out of trouble, there’s also a rear diff locker.
This is what you’re paying for. The 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6 in ‘580’ tune.
That ‘580’ is incidentally the amount of torque (Nm) this engine produces, alongside 190kW of power. Not to be outdone, this engine is also capable of ‘Overboost’, which temporarily disables some restrictions to allow the engine to reach a whopping 200kW.
This engine also appears across VW’s more premium offerings from Audi (the Q7) and Porsche (the Cayenne diesel), and outdoes the regular V6’s 165kW/550Nm power outputs by a healthy margin.
Is the added 25kW/30Nm worth the almost $4k extra spend over the regular Highline V6? If you believe comment sections anywhere, the resounding answer from Australian ute consumers is a resounding yes.
This allows VW to correctly assert that the Amarok has beyond class-leading power figures - the Ranger Wildtrak Bi-Turbo draws 157kW/500Nm from its 2.0-litre twin-turbo engine, while the X-Class Power 350d, comes much closer with its 3.0L V6 (producing 190kW/550Nm).
The Volkswagen makes do with a simple eight-speed torque converter auto. That’s right, no dual-clutch here.
It’s also worth noting that the Amarok has no transfer case or manually selectable low-range options. It has a constant ‘4MOTION’ all-wheel drive system with a 40:60 front/rear split.
It sounds suspiciously simple, but thanks to smart software and fit-for-purpose hardware (including a mechanical rear diff lock) it punches well above its weight when you need it to. For what it’s worth, the new Touareg uses this system to great success also.
Mitsubishi claims a combined figure of 8.6L/100km. The dash display was showing a slightly higher 9.7 figure when we stopped to fill the 75-litre tank after just under 500km of testing. That wasn’t far off our own figure of 10.7 based on fuel bowser and trip meter readings, which means you could expect a realistic driving range of around 700km.
We were surging up hills and plowing through sand and gravel, so it seems hardly fair to pitch our Highline 580’s 11.0-plus litres per 100km against its claimed/combined 8.9L/100km figure.
It’s worth making note of the fact that the Amarok will get fairly close to that 8.9L/100km rating on the road in the real world as per our previous V6 tests, and that’s not a bad thing at all considering its lower-capacity rivals will produce similar real-world figures.
The GLS Premium’s ride quality when empty or lightly loaded is not as jiggly as the lower-grade GLX+ we've previously tested. We can only put this down to the increased sprung weight of the top-grade model, which being almost 100kg heavier results in a noticeable improvement in suspension behaviour. It just feels more composed when empty or lightly loaded and therefore nicer to drive on a daily basis in cities and suburbs.
The power-assisted steering response and turning weight is good, being light at parking speeds and increasingly firm as speeds rise. Braking from the front disc/rear drum combination is reassuringly strong and consistent under all loads.
Around town it’s quiet and comfortable with more than adequate performance thanks to its healthy torque to weight ratio. The short wheelbase and tight turning circle also make parking and other low-speed maneuvering a breeze.
It’s a comfortable and relaxed highway cruiser too, with low engine, tyre and wind noise allowing conversations without raised voices. The over-driven sixth gear allows the 2.4 litre turbo-diesel to maximise fuel economy, loping along with only 1650rpm at 100km/h and 1800rpm at 110km/h.
You can talk numbers and figures all day, but it’s behind the wheel of the 580 where you suddenly see exactly what it is you’ve paid for.
The 3.0-litre V6 absolutely hammers. You can go as fast as you like, press that accelerator down as far as you want, and it feels like it just has an infinite well of torque to pull from. That’s all well and good on the straight of course, but is also means glorious scrabbling power when you’re contending with rocks or sand up hills.
Despite its apparent lack of traditional off-road running gear, the Amarok more than makes up for it with brute force. Driving up the Simpson Desert’s Big Red dune, with its soft red sand, was a cinch with the VW.
You will need to turn on “off-road mode” and disable traction control for the most hairy of situations, but even when I forgot to do so it didn’t let me down (I did wonder where the thundering torque had disappeared to, however).
What will shock you the most, though, is the refinement of the whole package. In terms of sound and responsiveness you could tell someone it was a naturally aspirated petrol and I think many would believe you. It’s almost unbelievably quiet, even under load.
The suspension and steering are so well sorted you almost forget that there’s a ladder chassis underneath you. It’s really like being at the helm of one of VW’s SUV offerings, and that’s big praise.
We’ve talked at length about how the Amarok’s slightly less powerful V6 variants handled in both towing and load scenarios (spoiler: they handled it with ease), so make sure you check out our comparison tests for more on that.
All in all, the Amarok is so well-refined on the road, you’ll almost forget how capable it is on the rough stuff.
Maximum five-star ANCAP rating (last tested 2015) and the latest active safety features including AEB, lane departure and blind-spot warnings, rear cross-traffic alert, trailer stability assist and lots more. There’s also seven airbags including full side-curtains, plus ISOFIX and top-tether child seat anchorage points for the two outer rear positions.
V6 versions of the Amarok do not have current ANCAP ratings, and given the lack of active safety items, and especially the lack of rear airbags, it would be a stretch to imagine it getting more than the 2.0-litre version’s four stars, given ANCAP’s more stringent 2019 rating criteria.
Although major competitor dual-cabs like Mitsubishi’s Triton, Toyota's HiLux, and Ford’s Ranger are rolling active safety tech like auto emergency braking (AEB) as standard, the majority of dual-cabs still lack active safety of any kind. It’s the fact that the Amarok still has no rear airbags in 2019 that’s the real shame here.
VW’s representatives tell us it’s likely we’ll be waiting for the next-generation ute to see these kinds of updates.
Volkswagen has made some strides here in recent months, now offering a permanent five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, up from its previous three-year offering.
The Amarok is also covered by a capped-price servicing program, costing between $482 and $923 per 12 month/15,000km service. The total cost over five years is $3115 for an average annual cost of $623.
Although this is pricey, Volkswagen says its fixed-price service program is all inclusive and has no extras, and on top of that, your Amarok should be returned to you cleaned and vacuumed.