Volkswagen Amarok VS Nissan Navara
- Great V6-manual combo
- Superb ride and handling
- Genuine off-road chops
- Short on key safety gear
- Old multimedia set-up
- Expensive to service
- Brutish looks
- Improved load-lugging in the dual-cab
- Faster and more accurate steering
- Cheaper cars feel more work than play
- No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
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|
I don’t need to tell you this, I’m sure, but Australia knows a thing or two about utes. They’re our best-selling vehicles for a reason, and there’s is really nowhere else on the planet where load-luggers are as revered as they are Down Under.
Well, except perhaps America. But that's a weird and largely deep-fried land dripping with Trumps, semi-automatic weapons and aluminium foil hats, so let's ignore them for the moment.
And so, when the Nissan Navara dual-cab came under fire for underwhelming coil spring rear suspension and steering slower than a forming stalactite, Nissan knew it had to do something. And when the updated 'Series II' car, which arrived in March last year, failed to completely fix the issue, it knew it had to something else entirely.
Consider this, then, Nissan's big and brutish Goldilocks - the one they hope is finally just right.
|Engine Type||2.3L 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.
Kudos to Nissan for listening to its customers, and even more kudos for actually acting their complaints. The changes to the ride and handling (and the tweaking of the technology offering) have made the dual-cab Navara a much better vehicle to put to work.
Is the Navara on your work, play, or family ute shopping list? Tell us why or why not in the comments below.
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.
Ah, do you like the look of the current Navara? Then we’ve got good news for you; nothing has changed this time around.
The exterior design still looks tough and muscular, and is probably at its best (which is also probably why it’s the most popular version) in dual-cab ST-X guise, what with its silver roof rails and side steps (the latter of which form a kind of 3D body kit). A chrome rear step bumper is standard across the dual-cab range, too.
Inside, it’s probably not the most modern-feeling interior, but the dimensions are good and it’s clean and functional, and the ambience is raised considerably with the optional leather seats. The cheaper models clearly focus on function over form, but the more expensive models - with their clear and easy-to-use touchscreen (5.0 or 7.0-inch size) in the centre of the dash - are a better bet if you don’t plan on visiting too many worksites.
There’s a a huge number of soft and hardtop tray covers in the options list, but no extra underbody protection listed.
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 single- and king-cab Navara’s dimensions both stretch 5120mm, while the dual-cab version betters that slightly at 5255mm, which means 'boot size', or load lugging ability, varies slightly, too.
Obviously the cab chassis version with its steel tray prioritises heavy lifting, and your payload is a listed 1356kg in 2WD versions, and 1193kg in 4WD versions in single-cab guise. In the king-cab, those numbers fall slightly to 1256kg and 1178kg in 4WD versions. In the dual-cab cars, expect 1144kg (manual) or 1127kg (automatic). Buyers can opt for a soft or hard tonneau cover or a ute canopy, too.
The roof rails (standard from the dual-cab ST-X) unlock a world of roof rack options for extra storage space, too. But possibly the biggest practicality perk is the addition of two ISOFIX attachment points (one in each window seat in the second row) to the dual-cab versions of the Navara, finally meaning it can be used as a genuine family vehicle with proper child restraints.
All but the entry-level RX single-cab nab three power sources (the dual-cab pick-ups get a fourth in the tray), and dual-cabs also make use of four cupholders and bottle storage in the doors.
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.
It’s the usual complicated range for this updated Navara, which can be had in a staggering 26 different flavours across a full McDonald’s menu of models, be it single-cab, king-cab or dual-cab, and in a pick-up or cab chassis body style.
The cheapest option is the 4x2 RX single-cab, which starts at $25,990, vs the most expensive model, the ST-X Dual-Cab four wheel drive with its list price of $54,490. And there’s a Navara to fill every possible gap in between, with a price guide that’s just slightly longer than <i> The Lord of The Rings. We won’t publish every cost here (and that’s just the RRP, let alone the drive-away price…). Suffice it to say, how much you pay is up to you - it all depends on where in the model comparison you land.
The easiest way to break down this review is to sort them by trim levels, so hold onto your hats as we dive straight in.
The Navara single-cab chassis with four-wheel drive is the only configuration in which you’ll find a DX, and it features 15-inch steel wheels, cloth seats, auto headlights, manual air conditioning and cruise control.
Expect a simple stereo set-up with a single CD player (not a CD changer) and Bluetooth audio streaming, but no DVD player, DAB radio or a fancy sound system with all that subwoofer business.
The RX (which you can have in single-, king- or dual-cab) gives you 16-inch steel wheels, chrome around the front grille, door handles or mirrors, keyless entry and central locking, powered windows and a reversing camera that beams its image onto the rearview mirror as there’s no multimedia screen at this level. The dual-cab RX also gets updated suspension (which we’ll come back to), six speakers and two new ISOFIX attachment points.
A dual-cab-only SL model then splits the range, adding a LED headlights with daytime running lights/driving lights (but not HID, xenon or projector), improved tech with a five-inch infotainment screen, sidesteps and an electronic locking rear differential/diff lock on 4WD-equipped cars.
Next, the ST (available in king- or dual-cab) adds plenty of niceties like 16-inch alloy rims, leather-wrapped steering wheel and handbrake and an upgraded multimedia set-up courtesy of a bigger 7.0-inch touchscreen. The ST-X (available in king- or dual-cab) adds push-button start, dual-zone climate control, 18-inch alloys (yep, we’ve skipped 17 inch alloy wheels) and rear parking sensors. With no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, you won’t be able rely on your iPhone’s GPS as a navigation system, but worry not - sat nav is standard from the ST on up.
Also new is a digital speedo that will be standard on all SL, ST and ST-X grades from June. No word yet on a N-Sport sports edition, but watch this space.
Now, if you thought the model list was an epic, just wait until you get a hold of the accessories list. Every conceivable bull bar, snorkel, ladder rack, sports/nudge bar and floor mats are on offer here, along with too many clever ways to carry your tool kit.
A dual battery system, though, will be an aftermarket job, as will specialist all terrain tyres or off-road tyres and flares or wheelarch extensions. Speaking of options, leather seats only arrive as part of a leather option pack, along with a sunroof in the sunroof option pack.
So, colours; 'Cosmic Black', 'Burning Red', 'Brilliant Silver', 'Deep Sapphire' (or blue, to us common folk), 'Hornet Gold' (the closest you’ll come to orange), 'Slate Grey', 'White Diamond' and 'Polar White' are on offer across most of the range, with premium paint an extra $550.
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.
There are two diesel engines on offer here; a twin-turbocharged diesel good for 140kW at 3750rpm and 450Nm at 1500pm, and a 2.3-litre diesel engine equipped with a single turbocharger that will generate 120kW at 3750rpm and 403Nm of torque at 1500rpm. Those engine specs don't seem that dissimilar, sure (and yes, the engine size is identical), but the extra horsepower makes a difference on the road.
Both can be paired with a six-speed manual transmission or seven-speed automatic transmission, feeding power to two or all four wheels, depending on whether you opt for a 4x2 or 4x4 model. There is no petrol on offer, and you can forget hybrid or LPG.
A diesel particulate filter (DPF) is fitted, of course, and should you see the warning light pop on, a cruise at more than 80km/h will be required to burn off the nasties.
The biggest news here is the overhaul of the rear suspension in most of the dual-cab cars (a significant cause of complaint in the outgoing model). New and stiffer dual-rate springs on SL, ST and ST-X dual-cab cars have massively improved this Navara’s driveability when carrying a load, and the steering has been made significantly faster, too.
Expect a towing capacity of 750kg (unbraked) and 3500kg (braked) across the Navara range - which are good pulling statistics - and a towbar pack will set you back around $1000. The gross vehicle weight is 2910kg across the range.
Nissan doesn’t quote performance figures (like 0-100 acceleration or top speed), but then, this isn’t a car you’ll be lapping Mount Panorama in. So instead, let's focus on ground clearance (max 230mm) and turning circle (11.8m).
In the question of timing belt or chain, the Navara uses a chain, but for other ownership issues, like engine issues (say you’re blowing black smoke), automatic gearbox problems, clutch, injector or gearbox issues or for oil type or capacity, keep an eye on out Navara owners page.
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.
The claimed fuel consumption (diesel) for the single turbo engine is between 6.4L/100km and 7.1L/100km, depending on which model you plonk it in, while the claimed fuel economy (diesel) for the twin-turbo option is between 6.5L to 7.0L/100km on the combined cycle.
The Navara’s 80-litre fuel tank capacity promises a long range no matter the engine, with the mileage near enough identical.
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.
This big news here is what’s happening under the skin. Nissan is being refreshingly upfront about the owner complaints surrounding the old car. Namely soft suspension that just couldn’t handle a heavy load, and steering that felt slow and cumbersome.
And so that’s exactly where they focussed their attention this time around. For one, the rear suspension has been completely re-worked, with stiffer dual-rate springs at the back, which made light work of the 650 kilograms we towed at launch - and that’s honestly not something you could say about the out-going car, in which a heavy load would make the Navara feel overly bouncy, and not exactly confidence-inspiring.
And the steering is now significantly faster, too, which makes you feel far more connected with the front tyres, removing the vagueness the old car served up.
They’re the big changes, and they’ve genuinely changed the character of the dual cab cars for the better. We’ve now towed more than a tonne, attacked some twisty stuff without a load on-board and we’re now carrying some weight in the back, and it’s really handled everything with ease.
The only real downside is that for every action there’s an equal and opposite opposite reaction, and so it will come as no surprise that stiffening the suspension has made the Navara feel a little harder without a load on board, and it can feel like it’s skipping over bumps in the road, which you can feel lightly tugging on the steering wheel. But across the board, the changes have been a real bonus for anyone who is going to be putting their Navara to work.
Our time behind the wheel was largely road (and some pretty straightforward gravel), so we’ll leave the off-road ability review to our own Marcus 'Crafty' Craft a little later. Hell, even Melbourne’s perennially dodgy weather held up, so we couldn’t even challenge the wading depth.
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.
New stuff? Well, there’s the new ISOFIX attachment points in the back of the dual-cab cars, adding two legitimate child seat anchor points that can transform the Navara into a family car. The backseat is more than big enough to fit two baby car seats, too, but I wouldn't want to be squeezed between them.
There’s a new reversing camera, too, which features on everything from the Navara king-cab RX model and up. Beyond that, expect an airbag count of seven (two front, two front-side seat, two side-curtain and driver’s knee) as well as the usual suite of traction and braking aids including, ESP, ABS, and EBD.
Only the Dual-Cab ST-X get rear parking sensors, along with hill descent control and hill start assist in four-wheel drive cars.
The Nissan Navara (single-cab) was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when assessed in 2015.
So, where is the Nissan Navara built? Ours arrive from Thailand.
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.
The Navara range is covered by a three-year/100,000km manufacturer warranty (though there are dealership extended warranty programs available), and will require a trip to the service centre every 12 months or 20,000km.
The 'myNIssan Service Certainty' capped price servicing Navara program limits the service costs for the first six services to between $547 and $744 per dealership visit.
There's a full-size spare tyre, too. Handy when you get a flat. And the owner's manual is filled with handy hints.
For all problems, including reliability ratings, common faults, issues, complained and defects, keep an eye on our Navara owner’s page.