Volkswagen Amarok VS Volkswagen Transporter
- Great V6-manual combo
- Superb ride and handling
- Genuine off-road chops
- Short on key safety gear
- Old multimedia set-up
- Expensive to service
- Amazing personalisation on offer
- Grunty high grade diesel engines
- Cabin redesign is pretty nice
- Vent placement not great
- Can get expensive to tailor-build
- No rear safety on barn door/cab chassis models
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 Volkswagen Transporter range has been revised for 2021, with the new T6.1 line-up - as VW calls it - retaining an array of options for business buyers.
There’s the traditional vans in both short and long wheelbase, as well as a Crew Van option, and cab-chassis ute versions.
As has long been the case, VW Australia has gone with a relatively complex line-up of models, but also with a huge array of personalisation options for customers to tailor their vehicle to their specific requirements.
As well as that, the new model offers enhanced safety, technology, and a revised look. Is it enough to keep the mid-size VW van in the mix against the impressive Toyota HiAce, Ford Transit Custom and Peugeot Partner? Let’s find out.
|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.
There are more affordable vans out there to purchase and own. But not many offer the level of personalisation and quality, not to mention ease-of-use and drivability as the VW T6.1 Transporter range.
My pick would be a TDI340 DSG van in LWB, but there are several choices that would suit multiple different user cases.
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.
There have been some subtle changes to this facelifted version of the Transporter. You mightn’t be able to tell them if you’re not looking closely, but that’s only going to help resale values of the existing model…
But the distinct little lines that run back from the headlights (like mascara, I’m told) that say “Transporter” in them are a nice touch, and it’s overall a really neat design. Always has been.
Now, let’s consider some of the other implications of design, namely on the vehicle’s dimensions. Here’s a table to make it easier to digest.
LWB High roof
Single Cab Chassis
Dual Cab Chassis
As you can see, there’s a lot of precision measurements there.
What about the cargo area, then? Here’s a rundown of those figures.
LWB High roof
Single Cab Chassis
Dual Cab Chassis
2572mm (without partition)
2975mm (without partition)
Width between arches
392mm (tray depth)
392mm (tray depth)
The Crewvan versions have a second row in the back, so load length is lessened - there’s 1600mm in the SWB and 1967mm in the LWB. SWB models have six tie-down lashings, while LWB models get eight. The cargo volume for the normal roof SWB Crewvan is 3.5m3, and the LWB Crewvan offers 4.4m3 of cargo space.
That’s all the dimensions taken care of, but you might also be interested in some ‘off road dimensions’ especially if you’re going for a 4Motion version. The vans range between 201mm and 202mm of ground clearance, while Cab Chassis models run 202mm unladen.
There are also optional off road suspension setups available with revised shocks and springs, and even stabilizer bar upgrades if needed. No changes to ride height or approach, departure and breakover angles, though.
What about payload capabilities? Here’s a rundown of load capacity for the vans and cab chassis models, including towing capacity.
Van (SWB, LWB, Crewvan)
951kg to 1220kg
853kg to 1056kg
Gross vehicle mass (GVM)
2800kg (TDI250), 3000kg (all others)
Gross combination mass (GCM)
5500kg (all variants)
750kg unbraked / 2500kg braked
Next, let’s take a look inside the revised cabin of the T6.1 Transporter.
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 cabin of the VW Transporter has always been a thoughtful place, a suitable workspace for those who don’t just drive places, but also do paperwork in their ‘mobile office’.
That comes down to a clever level of storage, amenities and comfort.
Let’s start with storage, as there are caddies and cubbies for loose items, documents and more. On the dash top there’s a folder holder, and there’s a shelf section above the glovebox. There are cup holders on top of the edges of the dash, too, and the door pockets have huge storage trenches with bottle holders.
Seat comfort is excellent, with good adjustment for the driver, and reach/rake adjustment for the leather-lined steering wheel, which is standard in all grades. The only thing missing is a grab handle to haul yourself into the seat if you’re shorter.
There’s a manual handbrake down on the floor to the left of the driver which is a reach for shorties, too (I wonder if the next-gen model might finally get an electric park brake?), and the new dashboard design has repositioned one of the driver’s air-vents a long way from them. The air-conditioning in one of the test vans was also a bit weak for a warm Aussie day.
But the dash design is attractive and certainly more modern than before, with more angular finishes and new media screens across the range. Though they aren’t that new compared to the brand’s non-commercial offerings, with the 6.5-inch touchscreen unit still offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and two USB-C ports (so you’ll need an adaptor or a new phone cable).
In the Crewvan the back seat space was comfortable but lacking a few features. At the very least, for tradie mums and dads there are dual ISOFIX child seat anchor points with two top-tether attachment hooks in the rear door area above the cargo hold. The back seat is removable if you only need it sometimes, too.
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.
This is going to be complicated.
There are so many ways to build your VW Transporter T6.1 that you almost need a maths degree to ascertain the number of possible combinations and permutations.
Suffice to say, though, that the range starts under forty grand for a basic, low-powered manual front-wheel drive (FWD) short wheelbase (SWB), through to a high grade 4Motion all-wheel drive (4WD) long wheelbase (LWB) with a dual-clutch (DSG) automatic transmission.
To make it easier - we hope! - here is a table to break down the Transporter van line-up for you. All Transporter vans come with a two-seat layout as standard, but you can option a bench front passenger seat (pushing accommodation to three seats) for $610 more. The cab-chassis single-cab and dual-cab versions both have a three-seat front setup (so, total three seats in single cab, six in dual cab).
VW TRANSPORTER T6.1 VAN RANGE
5-sp manual FWD
6-sp manual FWD
7-sp DSG FWD
7-sp DSG AWD
7-sp DSG FWD
7-sp DSG AWD
6-sp manual FWD
7-sp DSG FWD
7-sp DSG AWD
7-sp DSG FWD
7-sp DSG AWD
There’s also the Transporter Crew Van range, with those versions getting a five-seat layout with a removable second-row bench. The bench has dual ISOFIX points built into the outboard positions, and there are top-tether restraints in the rear roof.
VW TRANSPORTER T6.1 CREW VAN RANGE
7-sp DSG FWD
7-sp DSG AWD
7-sp DSG FWD
7-sp DSG AWD
You may have noted that the entry-level and higher-spec powertrains aren’t available in the Crew Van, but they are the go-to options for the cab-chassis versions of the Transporter.
Below is a price list of the Transporter Single Cab and Transporter Dual Cab models, all of which come with a factory fit tray.
VW TRANSPORTER T6.1 CAB CHASSIS RANGE
LWB Single Cab
7-sp DSG FWD
7-sp DSG AWD
LWB Double Cab
7-sp DSG FWD
7-sp DSG AWD
Okay, so what about standard equipment for the Transporter range? All grades have standard halogen headlights and daytime running lights, and 16- or 17-inch steel wheels (with optional alloys for the TD340 and TDI450), cloth interior trim, LED interior lighting for cabin and cargo area, rubber floors in the cabin, a multimedia system with a 6.5-inch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, two USB-C ports and Bluetooth connectivity. You can option navigation for $1600, but there’s a standard auto-dimming rearview mirror, auto headlights, and auto wipers.
Standard safety tech is improved compared to the previous version - a full rundown can be found in the safety section below - but there’s a reversing camera on all van models (if not equipped with barn doors), while the cab-chassis versions miss out on this important technology.
VW has long forged a position of “build it the way you want it” in the van market, and the T6.1 range is no different. There are hundreds of potential variations on the theme, though note that the standard layout for van models is a kerb-side sliding door and a tailgate. You can option a driver’s side slider ($1300; with power latching - $1520), a kerb-side power latching sliding door ($290), fully electric doors ($860 kerb only, $3600 kerb and driver), side windows ($420 per), sliding side windows ($920 per side), a fixed partition with window ($710), rear airconditioning setup ($1220) or the Transport Package, with a fixed partition (no window), full side plywood trim, two additional tie-downs and side lashing points ($1690).
Choose a van and want the High Roof pack, and you must have barn doors at the back, which deletes the availability of a reversing camera, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. And it’ll cost you between $1790 and $2090, depending on the variant.
A lot of vans may be white, but colours are important for business buyers. There are multiple colour options, including five solid paint options at no cost: Candy White, Ascot Grey, Cherry Red, Luminous Orange and Pure Grey. If you’re willing to pay $1300 you can have your vehicle coated in any of the following hues: Reflex Silver, Indium Grey, Starlight Blue, Ravenna Blue, Deep Black, Mojave Beige, Copper Bronze, Fortana Red or Bay Leaf Green.
Note, for full colour coding it will cost you an additional $1130 (bumpers, mirrors, handles, grille) for vans, and a little less for the cab chassis models to have colour-matched bumpers ($800).
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.
Plenty of options here.
You guessed it - it’s easier to show you in the below table.
2.0L turbo-diesel four-cylinder
2.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder
2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel four-cylinder
81kW at 3500rpm
110kW at 3250-3750rpm
146kW at 4000rpm
250Nm at 1250-3100rpm
340Nm at 1500-3000rpm
450Nm at 1400-2400rpm
6-sp man/7-sp DSG
Having three different outputs to choose from could be a compelling argument for some. If you know you’re okay with a low output manual, then why spend up to a more powerful unit?
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 fuel consumption figures for the different models in the range vary depending on the application.
Again, rather than run though it all van by van, here’s a breakdown in a table.
Combined cycle fuel consumption - van models
6.9L/100km (FWD man)
7.5L/100km (FWD man)
8.3L/100km (FWD/AWD DSG)
7.3L/100km (FWD DSG)
Combined cycle fuel consumption - cab-chassis models (FWD)
7.6L/100km (single cab FWD DSG)
7.5L/100km (dual cab FWD DSG)
Combined cycle fuel consumption - cab-chassis models (AWD)
8.4L/100km (single cab AWD DSG)
8.3L/100k m (dual cab AWD DSG)
Fuel tank capacity for the base model TDI250 is 70L, while the rest of the range has 80L fuel tank size.
The TDI250 has engine start stop-technology, but doesn’t have AdBlue. The manual TDI340 and 4Motion TDI340 and TDI450 models doesn’t have either of those efficiency measures. The TDI340 DSG FWD is the only one with AdBlue and start-stop.
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 drive experience is very good.
At the launch event of the new T6.1 Transporter range, I drove a selection of different models some with weight and some without.
First was a TDI340 Crewvan with 260kgloaded in, and it was a really nicely sorted drive.
There was very good ride compliance and comfort. The suspension setup didn’t feel fussy or clunky, and it rode very well. The steering was excellent and very easy to judge, and it was easy to park thanks to its rear side glazing and good sized mirrors - though they aren’t dual pane like some rivals but there is blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, as well as a good reversing camera that made reversing into tight spots easier than it probably should be.
The TDI340 powertrain offers a really sweet combination, with the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic allowing quick and clever shifts. There’s not much to complain about here, and the powertrain is easy to judge even at takeoff from a standing start - the engine’s start-stop system, DSG and diesel lag wasn’t too inhibitive. It felt really well sorted and certainly powerful enough for the vast majority of van drivers’ needs.
One complaint on our 25C degree test day was that the air conditioning was a little weak, not quite as cold as we would’ve thought it should be.
I also drove the base model TDI250 five-speed manual as well. This one didn’t have any weight in it and that was probably a calculated move on VW’s PR team’s part, as it is perhaps a little bit underdone in terms of grunt. With no load it was adequate in terms of the pulling power on urban streets but I do think it might struggle at payload limit.
I also tested the LWB TDI340 DSG unladen, which was easy to steer despite the extra length, offered great ride compliance and comfort (thanks to the extra 400mm of wheelbase), and good steering as well. For me, the TDI340 is the sweet spot for engines – you don’t really need the TDI450 as the 340 is perfectly suitable.
If you do want extra everything, or if all-wheel drive is a must for your vehicle, then the twin-turbo TDI450 is the go. VW’s 4Motion system is excellent at helping you pull a lot of mass without fuss. I drove it in the crew cab chassis, which was surprisingly speedy with 500kg in the tray.
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.
There have been advancements to the Transporter’s safety technology list, but the current generation model doesn’t have an ANCAP crash test safety score, and nor did the pre-facelift vehicle.
All models now come with low speed (up to 30km/h) autonomous emergency braking (AEB) designed for city driving, though it doesn’t have pedestrian or cyclist detection like some rivals. There is blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and a reversing camera on van models with the tailgate fitted (barn doors and cab-chassis models miss out on the camera, blind spot and RCTA).
There’s a driver fatigue detection system, and van models score crosswind assist as part of the traction control and stability control system, while all models get the brand’s electronic differential lock to prevent slippage. There’s also multi-collision braking, which ensures you won’t careen into other vehicles after an impact.
Those who want it can option lane keep assist with lane departure warning, though similarly priced vans from rival makers don’t ask extra money for that.
There are dual front, front side and curtain airbags for all models. There is no second-row airbag coverage for Crewvan and dual-cab-chassis models.
If you’re looking for a van with more safety technology, be sure to take a squiz at the Toyota HiAce, Ford Transit Custom and Peugeot Expert.
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.
As with most van sellers in Australia, VW offers a competitive five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.
There’s one year of roadside assist included for all new models sold. That can be refreshed if you service with VW, up to 10 years.
The cost of maintenance depends on the drivetrain that you choose in your Transporter. We took an average of the five year Price service plan to give you an idea of annual costs of maintenance, but just remember these are set at 12 month/15,000km intervals. The TDI250 and TDI340 models will cost you $588.40 per annum on average. That’s high. But choose the TDI450 in FWD and the average cost is $636.40 per annum, and the 4Motion model is dearer again at $678.80 (avg).
Comparatively this is an expensive van to own.