Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?
The Amarok breed comprises a variety of 4x4 models at different price points. Our test vehicle was the entry-level Core Edition TDI 420 automatic dual cab which at $45,990 plus on-roads compares favourably with Toyota and Ford equivalents including the HiLux Workmate 2.4 litre auto ($45,990) and pricier Ranger XL 2.2 litre auto ($47,290).
As you’d expect for entry level money, there’s basic cloth trim, a tough rubber floor covering and lots of blanks in place of missing switches and buttons.
You do get a quality six-speaker sound system with a 6.3-inch colour multimedia touchscreen.
However, you do get a quality six-speaker sound system with a 6.3-inch colour multimedia touchscreen and multiple connectivity including Bluetooth, leather trim, multi-function steering wheel with phone and audio controls, high level brake light and cargo area lighting, four 12 volt sockets (including one in the cargo area), electrically adjusted/heated door mirrors, climate control air-con, cruise control and more.
With a tare weight of 2020kg, the Amarok is relatively wide at 1944mm compared to its length of 5254mm resulting in a tough and purposeful posture. It looks even better with larger wheels and tyres than the Core’s standard issue 16 x 6.5-inch alloy rims and 245/70R16 general purpose tyres.
The Amarok is relatively wide at 1944mm compared to its length of 5254mm.
The fully galvanised steel body sits on a separate ladder-frame chassis with a 3095mm wheelbase, double-wishbone front suspension and a well behaved leaf-spring live rear axle.
There’s also power-assisted rack and pinion steering and front disc brakes, but unlike its sportier V6 cousin the more work-focused Core Edition sticks with rear drums for the extra load-restraining bite they provide when the handbrake is applied.
Proven off-road credentials include 192mm of ground clearance, approach angle of 28 degrees, departure angle of 23.6 degrees, ramp-over angle of 21.4 degrees and a relatively shallow 500mm wading depth.
The Amarok has a relatively tight and rather upright rear seat compartment.
Another noticeable design trait is how much longer the front doors are than the rears and how that impacts on fore-aft rear seat comfort for adults, with a relatively tight and rather upright rear seat compartment. The rear-biased location of the B pillar also results in a relatively narrow rear floor ‘pathway’ between the pillar and rear seat which can snag larger Blundstones on entry and exit.
Its wide-body dimensions allow an expansive 1222mm between the rear wheel arches which means it can carry a standard 1160mm-square Aussie pallet. The cargo tub’s load floor, which is 1555mm long and 1620mm wide, is also equipped with four sturdy tie-down points.
The Core features a full-size spare.
With a tare weight of 2020kg and GVM (gross vehicle mass) of 3040kg, the Core Edition is a genuine one-tonner with a payload capacity of 1020kg. It’s also rated to tow up to 3000kg of braked trailer but with a local ‘hot country’ GCM (gross combined mass) of 5550kg it requires a sizeable 490kg reduction in payload to do it.
Driver and front passenger storage options include a bottle holder and map pocket in the base of each door, inset storage tray in the middle of the dash-pad, a centre console with small front cubby, two centre cupholders and a rear lidded box, single glove box and overhead sunglass holder.
Driver and front passenger storage options include a bottle holder and map pocket.
Rear outer seat passengers also get a bottle holder and small storage pocket in the base of each door. The 60/40-split lower seat cushions also swing up into a vertical position for carrying larger items.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?
If you equip a small diesel engine with a pair of sequential turbochargers (smaller primary for low rpm, larger secondary for high rpm) you effectively give it the breathing capacity of a large one. That’s what VW achieved with the Amarok’s 2.0 litre common rail ‘Bi-Turbo’ four which although being 1.2 litres smaller than the Ranger pumps out a class-competitive 132kW at 4000rpm and (with auto trans) 420Nm of torque at a low 1750rpm.
The Amarok pumps out a class-competitive 132kW and 420Nm of torque.
The Amarok’s smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission is still unmatched in this segment and with such close ratios is always in the right cog for maximum engine efficiency and fuel economy. There’s also a sequential manual-shift option if required and the over-driven seventh and eighth ratios provide excellent economy at highway speeds.
Outstanding traction on and off-road comes from the permanent '4MOTION' single-range all-wheel drive system, which provides a constant 40/60 torque split between the front and rear axles via a torque-sensing electronically-controlled centre diff.
For extreme off-road use, console switches also allow engagement of a mechanical rear diff lock and ‘off road mode’ ESC protocols, plus cancellation of the bitumen-biased stability control. It is a remarkably capable off-roader.
VW claims a combined figure of 8.3L/100km but our numbers based on ‘real world’ fuel bowser and trip meter readings worked out at 10.9L/100km. Based on our consumption figures, which included a variety of payloads and driving conditions, expect a range of about 730km from its 80-litre tank.
We don’t usually equate one tonne utes with driving pleasure but if there was ever a vehicle of this type that could be called ‘the driver’s ute’ it’s the Amarok. It still has no peer in terms of driver engagement and feels more car-like behind the wheel than any other dual cab ute we’ve tested.
When empty or lightly loaded it’s a spirited performer in stop-start city and suburban traffic. The sequential turbos provide linear and lively throttle response throughout the rev range, matched with well sorted suspension tuning, nicely weighted yet direct steering, and reassuringly strong braking.
It’s just as impressive with a big load on its back. We pumped the tyres up to the recommended placard settings and filled the cargo tub with 860kg, which, with a 92kg driver and full tank of diesel equalled the Amarok’s 1020kg maximum payload.
We filled the cargo tub with 860kg, with a driver and a full tank of fuel, this brought it close to the 1020 maximum load.
The nose rose 10mm and the rear dropped 70mm yet the Amarok maintained a near level ride height due to the long wheel travel of the rear suspension, which still had ample bump-stop clearance.
The Amarok handles its maximum payload with consummate ease. Acceleration still remains relatively brisk with no reduction in steering feel or braking effect. The multi-leaf rear spring packs are well designed for this maximum sprung weight, soaking up bumps as though we were riding on a cushion of air.
Refined highway performance is outstanding, with low tyre and wind noise matched by low engine noise, thanks in no small part to the tall 0.667:1 overdriven top gear which at 100km/h keeps the twin-turbo four ticking over at just 1750rpm, which handily is also bang in the middle of its torque curve. At 110km/h it’s only nudging 1900rpm.
It also easily conquered our set climb, effortlessly pulling fourth gear at 60km/h and 2600rpm all the way to the top of a long 14 per cent gradient. Engine braking wasn’t good on the way down though, with the minimal retardation we’ve come to expect from relatively small engines like this one trying to restrain a one tonne-plus payload. With manual shifting down to second gear, we still had to brake regularly to stop the engine spinning freely to its 4000rpm redline on over-run.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?
The Amarok scores a maximum five-star ANCAP crash safety rating. The electronic stability control menu includes active roll-over prevention, multi collision brake, hill hold and hill descent control, brake force distribution and trailer sway control to name a few, but no AEB.
There are also front and side airbags for driver and front passenger but no airbag protection for those in the back seat, where you will find three full lap-sash seatbelts and headrests and three child restraint top tethers with ISOFIX on the two outer seating positions.
Although it’s been around since 2010 with few changes, if we had to take a dual cab ute straight off the showroom floor and do a lap of Australia, it would still be this one. Even at entry level, the ‘core’ of the Amarok’s build quality, engineering refinement, on and off-road performance, driving comfort and enjoyment still shine through as industry benchmarks, even if its local sales don’t reflect that. Go figure.
Is the Amarok on your 4x4 dual cab ute shopping list? Tell us what you think in the comments below.