A wolf in wolf’s clothing
VW Amarok 3-litre V6 TDi
At its launch in 2010 the VW Amarok set a new benchmark in the pick-up sector, particularly in the burgeoning business/leisure market that was being fuelled in part by a tax break that concedes that if a pick-up can carry a one-tonne load, HMRC will consider it a commercial vehicle. This allows businesses to claim the VAT back.
The Amarok – named after the Inuit word for ‘wolf’ – captured a sizeable chunk of the top end of that market with its looks, build quality and performance. But since its launch, model upgrades for the likes of the Ford Ranger, Nissan NP300, Mitsubishi L200, Isuzu DMax and, most recently Toyota Hilux, have closed the gap.
There are the newcomers, too, with Fiat launching its Fullback this year and Renault and, crucially for VW, Mercedes bringing their own pick-ups to market in 2017.
So Amarok’s first update after six years is an important one and at its core is a new powertrain, VW’s beefy 3-litre V6 Euro 6 engine, bucking the trend towards smaller, leaner engines. And it’s a delight: powerful and responsive on the road and absolutely assured on a dry and gravelly off-road course. Although there are three power outputs, only the top of the range 224hp with eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard will be available in the UK at launch. The 163hp (manual) and 204hp (manual or auto) versions are expected in 2017 although the 224hp is predicted to be the best-seller. Published figures give it a top speed of 120mph and 0-60 in 7.9 seconds.
Despite these lively performance figures, VW says its BlueMotion technology (which includes stop-start and battery regeneration) helps the 224hp Amarok deliver 37.2mpg on the combined cycle and CO2 emissions of 199g/km. In comparison, published figures for the current top of the range 180hp 2-litre bi-turbo are 35.3mpg and 211g/km.
The Amarok has always had a commanding presence and the update sees some new styling touches at the front end which reinforce its bold, powerful looks. There’s a new grille and front bumper and also new alloy wheels and a third brake light.
Our first drive was in Germany where Amarok is being launched with a range-topping special edition called the Aventura. UK specifications have yet to be finalised, but it is likely to be offered in Startline, Trendline and Highline models as currently. Some features, including automatic post-collision braking, will be standard across the range, while others will be model specific.
Inside, the cab is more functional than luxurious, a reflection that this is after all a workhorse. The Aventura is fitted with ergoComfort driver and front passenger seats, infinitely electrically adjustable which live up to their name. Roomy door pockets go a little way to compensate for otherwise limited cab storage. The dash incorporates the VW infotainment system with touchscreen, radio, and navigation options according to model. Bluetooth will be standard.
Behind the wheel of the Amarok – both on winding country lanes and busy motorways – the driver sits high up with superb visibility. The powerful six cylinder engine is flexible and reassuring, the auto smooth and precise. You have to check yourself for that feeling of invincibility.
Off road, it’s another reassuring story. Four-wheel drive is standard on the 224hp and while purists may well be dismayed at the thought of tackling a serious off-road course in an automatic, if you’re happy to relinquish control the Amarok never puts a foot wrong.
The V6 powers it effortlessly up the most challenging inclines while hill hold assist automatically takes over on steep descents, reducing engine speed and applying the brakes when they’re needed. On really uneven surfaces, selecting the differential lock will shift the power to keep the pick-up moving even with two wheels off the ground.
It’s a shame but few Amaroks will be tested to their considerable limits.
Prices are still to be confirmed and the new Amarok is expected to reach UK showrooms in September.
VanUser August 2016
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