Volkswagen Amarok VS Volkswagen Crafter
- Great V6-manual combo
- Superb ride and handling
- Genuine off-road chops
- Short on key safety gear
- Old multimedia set-up
- Expensive to service
- Great safety standard
- Designed for work
- Easy to operate
- Rubber floor can be slippery
- Some options could be standard
- Pedal position a little high
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 person who delivers your new golf shoes or stretch denim jeggings isn’t just a nameless delivery driver – they’ve got families and friends to go home to, as well.
Their offices are often exposed to more danger than most, though, so Volkswagen decided to build its all-new Crafter commercial range to offer the same level of safety – and similar levels of comfort – as its passenger car range.
|Engine Type||2.0L 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.
The medium commercial space is set to heat up in the next few years, and Volkswagen’s uncompromising approach to the Crafter should stand it in good stead. It’s a bit hard to get a read on the car after such a brief test, so we’ll add to our knowledge base in the coming months.
There’s a Crafter option for every application, though, and VW claims its service network will stand behind the product right across the country… which it will need to do if it’s to take the fight to arch-rival Mercedes-Benz.
Which Crafter grade would you pick for your business? Tell us what you think in the comments section 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.
VW will also sell the Crafter with an optional Trendline styling package, but it won’t include a body kit, rear spoiler, side skirts or front spoiler. Instead it offers chrome garnishes for the interior, an additional 12-volt socket and hub caps.
Interior dimensions are vast even in the medium-wheelbase version, with familiar controls across the dash and steering wheel plucked from VW’s passenger car range. The van can be ordered with a regular or high roof, as well as with a so-called super high roof version.
The rear barn doors can also be upgraded to versions that open to 270 degrees on the medium- and long-wheelbase versions. They come standard on the biggest version.
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 Crafter comes in two styles, three lengths and three powertrains, and will eventually expand to a range of 59 variants by the time all models come on stream by early 2019.
The van comes in a three-seat single cab chassis style, while the dual cab is only offered in a seven-seat dual cab version.
A variety of roof heights is also offered, and it’s worth noting the higher roofs lower the roof rack load limit of 300kg on the standard height van.
VW is making a lot of the fact that it has worked the Crafter over from the ground up with feedback from real tradies, right down to making sure that there’s enough light in the cargo area for parcel couriers to read labels in the dark.
The interior, too, is festooned with storage compartments small and large right across the dash and through the cabin.
The new FWD version offers a 100mm lower loading area than the AWD and RWD models, too.
Load capacity, of course, varies from model to model. In the medium wheelbase van line, it’s the more powerful TDI410-powered rear-drive model with dual rear wheels that can carry the most across all vans at 2024kg, while the entry level Runner can carry 1384kg.
In the cab-chassis line, single-cab dual-wheel TDI410 takes the overall crown with 2392kg of payload ability.
If you want to add a towbar, the Crafter can tow up to 2500kg.
Overall, the ergonomics are quite good. It goes without saying there is a load of headroom, and there are small storage containers above the driver and passenger area.
The windscreen is massive, though the sealed off driver compartment does restrict visibility through the rear vision mirror. The Crafter also features aids like hill-start assist as well as hill-descent assist.
Crafters also feature a bench seat arrangement in the single row versions that can seat three people. The centre seat back can be folded down to form a tray table with two cupholders as standard. There's also an additional pair of cupholders on the dash, and huge door pockets on either side that can accept large bottles or Thermos flasks.
Other hidey holes for day-to-day gear are scattered through the cabin, including small trays in the doors and on the dash itself.
The steering wheel is polycarbonate, as is the gear shift knob. Don't forget these vehicles are built for hard work, not necessarily for luxury. A higher brake and accelerator pedal placement is quite a common feature of vans, and it places the foot at a slightly unusual angle if you're used to driving a regular car.
It's a more upright seating position, and does take a little bit of finessing to get the best fit. The sealed driver's compartment in our medium van tester allowed the seat to be ratcheted back to suit this 187cm driver, although we wonder if an XL-sized owner would be able to comfortably fit behind the wheel given the restriction of the rear bulkhead.
An 8.0-inch multimedia system has Apple CarPlay or Android Auto as standard, and it can be controlled from the steering wheel. You can also have two phones connected at the same time via Bluetooth. If you’re hanging onto the 1990s, unfortunately there’s no CD player any more, nor is there a DVD player… but the DAB radio is pretty good.
VW claims the Crafter’s 'App Connect' is a first for the category. Volkswagen also fits a 'Customer-Specific Functional Control Unit' (CFCU) to each Crafter. For example, the lights and siren on an ambulance can be controlled through the on-board CFCU, or if you have a digger unit on the back, the car can be programmed not to move while the digger arm is in motion.
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.
Sitting above the Transporter in size, the Crafter will actually become the single most complex range in VW’s local line-up, with up to 59 variants set to go on sale by January 2019… so there’s a lot to look at.
In basic terms, it’ll come in three main chassis types, comprising medium, long, and long-with-rear-overhang (basically, there’s more van behind the rear axle). That’s then divided into unibody vans and cab-chassis variants, while the latter is divided further into single- and dual-cab models.
The price list starts at $48,490 for a six-speed manual-equipped medium wheelbase van, and covers 36 price points all the way through to a long-with-overhang high roof van with dual rear wheels, a twin-turbo 2.0-litre diesel and eight-speed ZF auto, as well as range-topping 5.5-tonne GVM (gross vehicle mass, or maximum weight of Crafter and cargo) limit, at $71,490.
Of those 36 price points, seven are offered with a single-turbo EA288 Nutz (VW’s designation for commercial engines) 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel, while the rest feature a twin-turbo version of the same engine. Seven are also offered in six-speed manual guise.
All models are equipped with single-zone climate control, tilt- and reach-adjustable steering column, daytime running lights, an 8.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system with digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, voice control, a four-speaker sound system and Bluetooth.
There is also lots of USB and auxiliary connectivity, rubber floor mats, cruise control, heated and powered external mirrors, power lumbar support for the driver seat, and front power windows.
There are also a host of options for the driver’s compartment, including upgraded multimedia, automatic wipers, better seats and more driver aids, while LED headlights, GPS sat nav, wooden floor coverings and plywood panelling for vans are also on the long options list.
If you’re looking for accessories like a nudge bar, bullbar, awning or a light bar, you’ll need to source them yourself, and the same goes for leather seats.
When it comes to colours, there’s a surprisingly wide variety on offer, including black, blue, white, orange, silver, red and grey.
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.
Two specs of the same engine size are offered in the Crafter. The (EA288 Nutz) 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel comes in both single and twin-turbo configurations; the single spinner is known as the TDI340, puts out 103kW/340Nm, and the TDI410 twin huffer grunts out 130kW/410Nm.
It’s best to check your manual for oil type and capacity, while injector problems haven’t been noted as an issue in the Nutz (commercial) version of the EA288. It uses a timing chain rather than a timing belt for longevity. VW has fitted the driveline with an AdBlue system, along with a diesel particulate filter.
No petrol version of the Crafter is available. There are no reports of injector problems.
The AWD version uses a Haldex system, a mechanical diff lock and hill descent assist, and offers a 4000kg GVM as well. It’ll cost $4500 more than the FWD system, which VW claims is a quarter of the cost of similar systems from its key competitors.
A six-speed manual gearbox has been the only option up to this point, but VW believes the market for vehicles like the Crafter will swing from 90 per cent manual to 80 per cent automatic within a couple of years.
The ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission is a key upgrade to the Crafter, and it dates back to 2008. A derivative of the unit used in the Amarok (and the Bentley Continental GT, as it happens), it’s available on all three drivelines. Automatic gearbox problems aren’t an issue with the ZF.
A second battery and/or alternator is also available from the factory, to help power any and all devices you might want to mount.
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.
Our drive program was far too brief to comment meaningfully on fuel economy figures, but we noted a figure of 10.2 litres per 100km after a 65km test period around the streets of Auckland aboard an auto TDI410-equipped van.
Volkswagen doesn’t supply fuel consumption figures because of the sheer variance in size and spec across the range. None of its competitors do, either.
All Crafters have a fuel tank capacity which measures 75 litres in size.
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.
There is nothing aboard that makes it difficult for the average operator to jump in and use it. It's really just like a regular car to drive, except for its sheer size.
Ease of use is vital for a van that's often used on the road for 12 hours a day, or more. And the Crafter has been designed from the ground up to make life as easy for its driver as possible.
Climbing abroad, the ability to adjust the steering wheel for reach, and height instantly gives you the impression the Crafter is going to be a very user-friendly device.
Volkswagen has worked hard to make the standard seats as comfortable as possible, and there is the ability to option them to an even higher level.
The medium wheelbase automatic we tested also featured automatic parking, which, for a large van in an urban environment, is an absolute bonus. And it works amazingly well. There's nothing like a five metre-plus van reverse-parking itself as the driver holds his hands in the air to make passers-by gawk in amazement.
Throttle response is linear and easy to manage, as is the electrically assisted steering, though you have to wind on a bit of lock to get around a corner. Disc brakes all round give the Crafter a good middle pedal feel, too. A brief drive in a manual reveals a light clutch and shift action.
The ride is well controlled even when it’s unladen, if verging on a little stiff – but it’s possible to uprate the suspension to suit loads of up to 2.4 tonnes, depending on variant, so a spin around Auckland’s CBD aboard a Crafter with 500kg of low-slung weight isn’t going to tell us too much.
We can tell you that if you’re looking for a 4x4 with air suspension and off road-ready all-terrain tyres that’s begging for a lift kit, this is not the place. The Crafter only comes with steel wheels, and its 0-100km/h acceleration speed isn’t especially important.
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.
VW has taken standard safety for a commercial vehicle to a new high. Front, side and curtain airbags for front-row passengers, 'Front Assist' with AEB, post-crash multi-collision braking, crosswind assist, front and rear parking sensors and reversing camera are all standard. It would be great to be able to turn on the rear view camera just to check what is behind the Crafter without reverse engaged, but that's a minor quibble.
Optional systems include park assist, adaptive cruise control, rear traffic alert, active lane keep assist and sensor-based side assist. You’ll have to leave the youngest tradies at home, though – there are no ISOFIX points in the Crafter.
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.
Service intervals of 20,000km or 12 months are recommended, and Volkswagen’s fixed service program applies. The first five services to 100,000km will cost $3279 in total; just keep the owner’s manual up to date.
A three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty is offered, along with three year’s free roadside service.