Volkswagen Amarok VS LDV T60
- Great V6-manual combo
- Superb ride and handling
- Genuine off-road chops
- Short on key safety gear
- Old multimedia set-up
- Expensive to service
- Improved suspension
- Packed with features
- Sharp pricing
- Flat seats
- Can be noisy
They say good things come to those who wait, and perhaps this is the best demonstration of that truism… in the automotive world, that is.
Aussies have asked for it for years, and Volkswagen has finally delivered. Yep, the Amarok is available with a V6 engine and a manual gearbox!
Now, we all know the Amarok has made waves since it became available with a bent six, but that didn’t stop some people from asking, ‘What if it came with a clutch pedal?’
Years later, they don’t need to wonder anymore. Let’s get shifting.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
The LDV T60 was rather a pleasant surprise at its Australian launch in 2017. It was a Chinese-built dual-cab ute that actually looked pretty good, seemed well-built, drove nicely, was adequately capable off-road and it was sharply priced and well-equipped.
Now, a few years down the track, the big news is that all new LDV T60s on-sale now should come equipped with Australian-tuned suspension, which was only available previously in the limited edition Trailrider version of the LDV T60. Better still, the suspension tune-up was devised by Walkinshaw Automotive Group, the company responsible for long-time HSV production.
Has this change – aimed at improving the ute’s ride and handling and thus bolster its appeal to a ute-loving public – actually been successful?
We drove an LDV T60 Luxe, the top-spec of the two-variant T60 range, to find out.
|Engine Type||2.8L turbo|
Can you believe Australia is the only market in the world that gets access to the manual Amarok V6? Given how good the automatic version is, it should come as no surprise that the manual adheres to the same high standard.
Yes, the Amarok V6 is getting a little long in the tooth, and that means it falls well short on the safety and multimedia fronts, but it’s still the best drive in the ute segment. Needless to say, those Aussies that cried out for a manual version have been rewarded for their patience.
Is the manual Amarok V6 the best dual-cab pick-up on the market? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
For what it is – a Chinese-built ute – the LDV T60 has been a sharply priced, well-equipped and rather decent work-and-play vehicle since its 2017 launch.
Now, a few years later, it’s still quietly impressive and with Walkinshaw-tuned suspension, I’m happy to say, it’s even a little bit better than it was.
It still lags behind the class-leading light commercial utes in some areas, but it's a sign of the times that a Chinese product is so well built and feature-packed. The new suspension has only served to boost the package.
The LDV T60 makes a very strong case as a feature-packed budget buy.
The Amarok might be nudging its 10th year in market, but it’s still a boxy but muscular looker, which is something you can’t say about many dual-cab pick-ups.
Picking the manual out from the Amarok V6 crowd is a little tough, though. Trainspotters will notice its 17-inch 'Posadas' alloy wheels, and let’s not forget its rims are shared with its automatic entry-level counterpart. Either way, that’s it.
Okay, there is more to it than just that. Buyers can add the no-cost 'Enduro' options package, which bundles in a bonnet protector, black side decals and a black sports bar. And why wouldn’t you tick that box? We would, if signwriting wasn't on the agenda.
Despite the drivetrain change, dimensions are the same as any Amarok V6, measuring 5254mm long (with a 3095mm wheelbase), 1954mm wide and 1834mm tall.
Inside, heavy-duty rubber floor coverings and hard-wearing cloth upholstery are giveaways you’re dealing with an entry-level Amarok V6, ready to work hard.
Not really, but not every vehicle has to be a stylistic champion – sometimes it’s nice for a ute just to be a ute with few pretensions.
The T60 manages to strike a reasonable balance between being a bit retro, a little bit stylish and being mostly like a work-truck.
Indeed, the manual Amarok V6 is a rough and tough ute, so you won’t find much in the way of luxurious finishes. Granted, its steering wheel, gearshift and central armrest are trimmed in leather, but hard plastics abound for most other major touchpoints.
The cabin is well-designed, with plenty of space for loose items (see the cut-out in the middle of the dashboard and the cubby hole in front of the gearshift), and then there’s the more secure glove box and central storage bin, both of which are decently sized.
A pair of cupholders is predictably located between the front seats, while all four door bins are large enough to house drink bottles. There isn’t a flip-down rear armrest with cupholders in the second row, though.
Once a class leader, the multimedia system looks and feels old in 2020. It doesn’t help that it powers a 6.33-inch touchscreen, which is very small these days.
The first row features a 12-volt power outlet, a USB port and an auxiliary input, while the second row misses out on all three.
Don’t expect a lot of legroom in the rear. Behind my 184cm driving position, my knees brush up against the front backrests (which have map pockets). That said, the Amarok V6’s width means there’s more than enough shoulder room, even with three adults abreast.
Three top tether and two ISOFIX anchorage points are on hand for installing child seats, making the Amarok V6 a viable option for parents, although the lack of rear air vents might prompt complaints from the smaller members of he family.
And being a dual cab pick-up, you can expect a large tub. In this instance, it measures 1555mm long, 1620mm wide (including 1222mm between the wheelarches, which is enough width to accommodate a standard Australian pallet) and 508mm tall.
The T60, one of the biggest dual-cab utes, is 5365mm long, 2145mm wide and 1887mm high. And it feels roomy inside to match those exterior dimensions. It also feels kind of classy inside, at least it does until you notice expanses of plastic and hard-wearing trim and it all strikes you as a bit cheap-looking.
The interior is all sweeping lines and big surfaces, made for real-world life. And you know what? You get what you paid for and the T60’s price-tag is pretty reasonable, remember?
The massive dash-top and the ute’s 10.0-inch touchscreen entertainment unit dominate the cabin.
The touchscreen is clear and bright but it’s fiddly to operate, proven to glare and the camera views represented on it are often dark and muddy-looking.
The cabin itself is tidy with storage space for driver and front-seat passenger; a flip-top centre-console bin, big door pockets, a dash-height cupholder for driver and front passenger and a bits-and-pieces tray, replete with two USB ports and a 12V socket.
Rear-seat passengers get ISOFIX and top-tether points, door pockets, a centre armrest with two cupholders and a 12V socket.
The front seats are comfortable enough but lack support, especially at the sides; the rear seats are flat and workmanlike. There’s plenty of room though, which is a big plus.
Interior fit and finish is good for the price and these build-quality positives, as before, may build on the ute’s appeal.
Price and features
Priced from $49,590, before on-road costs, the manual Amarok V6 appears pricey. But when you consider it’s the most affordable way into a V6 dual cab pick-up in this market, it starts to make a lot more sense.
In fact, all of its rivals in the same price range (Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger, Mitsubishi Triton, et al) make do with four-cylinder engines that fall well short of it in the power and torque stakes, but more on that in the next section of this review.
The manual Amarok is only offered in one entry-level specification, dubbed Core. For the spend you get a part-time transfer case with low range, a rear mechanical differential lock, underbody protection, fender flares, ventilated disc brakes, mud flaps, power-adjustable side mirrors (with heating), power-operated windows, a full-size steel spare wheel and a matt-black rear step bumper.
Inside, a six-speaker sound system, a monochrome multi-function display and single-zone air-conditioning feature.
Auto headlights and rain-sensing wipers are extra-cost options alongside the six paintwork options: 'Candy White', 'Mojave Beige', 'Indium Grey', 'Reflex Silver', 'Starlight Blue' and 'Deep Black').
As you’d expect, there’s also a plethora of dealer-fit accessories available.
The LDV T60 Luxe automatic costs $37,331 (driveaway). Our test vehicle had metallic paint (premium paint an option, $500) and a tow bar/harness kit (list price $769.45 excluding GST, fitting and labour varies per dealer.) The base-spec is the Pro, which also comes in manual or automatic.
All T60s now have the new suspension tune fitted as standard.
The top-spec Luxe gets a whole bunch of stuff for such a sharp price including 10.0-inch colour touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, leather seats and a leather-bound steering wheel, electrically six-way adjustable and heated front seats, automatic climate control, ’Smart Key' system with Start/Stop button, 4WD with high and low range, 17-inch alloys with a full-sized spare, side steps, and roof rails, 360° view camera, adaptive headlights, as well as an automatic locking rear differential as standard.
Engine & trans
That said, the three-pedal set-up does have one key downside: a 50Nm loss in maximum torque. Indeed, the manual version produces 500Nm from 1250-3000rpm, instead of its automatic counterpart’s 550Nm from 1500-2500rpm.
And while peak power is shared, at 165kW, the manual develops it over a narrower band (3250-4500rpm versus 2500-4500rpm in the automatic), so there’s also that.
Either way, you get up to 180kW on overboost, which is available for 10 seconds when the accelerator is depressed beyond 70 per cent in third or fourth gear, making it ideal for highway overtaking.
So, when it comes to outright grunt, the manual Amarok V6 still blows the competition away, so there’s not much to be upset about here.
Maximum braked towing capacity is also down in the manual, at 3000kg, instead of the automatic’s 3500kg. That said, the former does have the biggest maximum payload of any Amarok V6, at 1004kg, which makes it a genuine one-tonner.
For reference, the manual Amarok V6’s maximum unbraked towing capacity is 750kg, while its towbar load limit is 300kg.
The manual Amarok V6’s claimed fuel consumption on the combined cycle test (ADR 81/02) is 9.7 litres per 100 kilometres, which is 0.7L/100km more than its automatic counterpart drinks.
During our launch drive, consisting mainly of highway driving and off-roading, we averaged a little less, at 9.4L/100km, but expect that figure to climb above 10.0L/100km in mixed usage.
For reference, fuel tank capacity is 80 litres. There’s also a second tank that stores up to 13.0L of the required AdBlue.
Carbon dioxide emissions are claimed to be 254 grams per kilometre, meaning the manual chugs out 18g/km more CO2 than the auto.
LDV T60s have a 75-litre fuel tank. The LDV T60 Luxe auto has a claimed fuel consumption of 9.6L/100km for the auto; an average of 9.5L/100km was registering on the dash display.
We recorded an actual fuel consumption on test of 9.9L/100km after more than 400km of driving and that included about 30km of off-roading, with about 5km of that in low-range.
When it comes to sheer driving pleasure, the Amarok V6 sets the standard for utes.
Part of that success is thanks to its previously exclusive automatic transmission, and at long last we’re happy to report its manual counterpart is just as good.
Sure, first gear is short, but the engine produces peak torque just above idle, so it’s easy to come off the line in second if you want/need to, especially when low-range is engaged. But more on off-roading in a moment.
Conversely, the throw is relatively short, which is nice, while the gate is surprisingly smooth – two key characteristics of a good manual transmission.
Even better, though, is the clutch, which is well-weighted. Indeed, in a world where most manual utes feel suitably agricultural, the Amarok V6 does its best impression of a sports car.
Naturally, the V6 helps matters by being the perfect dancing partner. You hardly notice the manual’s aforementioned torque deficit because there’s still so much to play with.
And a brief moment after maximum torque departs, peak power arrives and pushes you towards the redline. Yep, this is an engine that doesn’t really run out of puff.
Now, there’s much more to this Amarok V6’s story than just its manual gearbox. As mentioned, it also ushers in a transfer case that plays a key role in its part-time four-wheel drive system with low-range – a first for Volkswagen’s hardest-hitting ute.
Yep, if you want rear-wheel drive antics (and better fuel efficiency), they’re possible by leaving the manual in 2H. If you want unflappable AWD grip, switch it over to 4H by engaging neutral and pressing one button.
But if you need the capability of low-range to get you out of a sticky situation, press that button one more time and 4L arrives to save the day. And if that’s not enough, there’s still a rear mechanical differential lock on hand, as in the automatic.
Needless to say, our off-road expedition proved this set-up works really well. Again, a lot of this Amarok’s success can be put down to its mighty V6 engine, which serves up more than enough torque to get the job done. Capable, indeed.
But credit should also be sent the way of the 'Off Road' drive mode, which slackens off the ABS and ESP to make braking and accelerating more off-road-friendly, but only in 2H and 4H, of course.
The version of hill-descent control employed here is also brilliant, automatically engaging when tackling a steep decline, with its speed adjusted by the accelerator and brake pedals, instead of buttons on the steering wheel, which can feel unnatural.
Off- and on-road performance is helped by the Amarok V6’s hydraulic power steering, which is a brilliant throwback to the time before the electric revolution. As such, feel is one of its strong points.
The steering is weighty but not heavy, making it great in hand. That said, it is a tad hefty at low speed, and a 12.9m turning circle isn’t exactly tight, but we’re talking about a ute after all.
Suspension-wise, the Amarok V6 and its ladder-frame chassis have double wishbones up front and leaf springs at the rear, the latter dealing with an unladen tub better than you might think. Yep, there’s very little skittishness going on here.
Generally speaking, lumps and bumps are dealt with well on road, while the ride is just as settled off-road. This is a ute that doesn’t feel like a ute – and that’s a good thing.
Speaking of which, the way in which the manual Amarok V6 shifts its 2076kg frame is remarkable. Sure, it can’t defy physics, but it exudes relative composure when being pushed around a corner with intent.
The 2060kg T60 gets around pretty well, though there are a few things you have to get used to. We did more than 400km in it, most of that on bitumen with about 50km of off-roading, and about 10km of that in low-range.
It’s never been the most lively of dual-cab utes to drive and often feels underpowered, but it still ticks along evenly enough, relaxed and under-stressed.
The engine is slow to respond and it can be noisy when pushed particularly hard, but generally the T60 is on the right side of quiet – inside the cabin, anyway.
The six-speed auto is mostly a smooth-working unit and produces no abrupt shifts up or down.
The suspension set-up is still double wishbone at the front and leaf springs at the rear, but Walkinshaw has worked its magic to improve ride and comfort. The Pro suspension was previously very firm (to cope with heavy loads), and the Luxe’s tended to wallow, due to its Comfort setting.
I can’t speak of the Pro’s* changes as a result of the tune because I haven’t been in one yet but the Luxe certainly feels more controlled, more comfortable than it did before, although it still feels like it errs slightly on the firmer side of the suspension equation. Damping control has been tweaked to improve general unladen ride quality – the result is not quite coil-sprung-like but it’s getting close. (Pro variants have heavy-duty rear springs for work duties.)
Steering is generally on-point, although there is pronounced understeer on tighter corners, but otherwise the ute holds well through tight corners and longer, sweeping bends.
The T60’s all-terrain tyres – Dunlop Grandtrek AT20 (245/65R17) – are on the mild side of aggressive and do a solid job.
The T60 has disc brakes all-round, which yielded plenty of bite during our “Watch out for that roo!” emergency-braking tests, one on bitumen, one on dirt.
Nit-picking: it’s annoying to adjust the rear-view mirror, as there’s a ceiling bulge that gets in the way; as mentioned, the parking camera and 360-degree view offer up quite a muddy on-screen view of the world outside; and, most worrying, there was a massive thump in the transmission while I was driving about 30km/h down a slight decline at the time, as if there’d been a violent shift between 2WD and 4WD. That happened on different days on different roads.
The Amarok range was awarded a five-star ANCAP safety rating way back in 2011, but a lot has changed in the nine years since.
For example, while you get dual front and front-side airbags, you don’t get curtain airbags for the second row, making rear occupants more vulnerable in crashes.
These active safety features can be had in many of the Amarok’s rivals, albeit to varying degrees.
You do, however, get cruise control (not adaptive), a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, hill-start assist and hill-descent control as well as the usual electronic stability and traction control systems, with the former even accounting for trailer sway.
The LDV T60 range has a five-star ANCAP rating, as a result of testing in 2017.
As standard, the Luxe has six airbags, two ISOFIX and top-tether points in the back seat, blind-spot monitor, EBA, 360°-view camera, rear parking sensors, hill-hold, a tyre-pressure monitoring system and more.
The Amarok range comes with Volkswagen’s five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is on par with most of the mainstream brands. Some (we’re looking at you, Kia and SsangYong) up the ante to seven years.
One year of roadside assistance is also included with the ute.
Also on par are the service intervals, which are every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. What isn’t, though, is their cost.
Even with a five-year/75,000km capped-price servicing plan, the average charge per visit is $609. Needless to say, that’s pretty pricey.