21 May 2018 Last Updated: 30 May 2018

Full Volkswagen Amarok (11 on) Model Review

by CJ Hubbard, Editor, Parkers Vans

VW Amarok Dark Label review - V6 limited special edition pickup put to the test
  • Limited edition pickup based on Highline driven
  • Unique visual features and extra equipment
  • Smooth 204hp V6 and eight-speed auto as standard
Volkswagen Amarok (11 on) 3.0 V6 TDI (204bhp) A33 D/Cab Pick Up Dark Label BMT4M Auto - Road Test
Dark Label may sound like a brand of instant coffee, but it is in fact a special edition version of the VW Amarok pickup truck.

Dark Label may sound like a brand of instant coffee, but it is in fact a special edition version of the VW Amarok pickup truck.

This V6 version (there was an earlier Amarok Dark Label with the four-cylinder engine) was first announced back in September 2017 as a European limited edition; it was then confirmed for sale in the UK in early 2018, ahead of starring on the Volkswagen stand at the CV Show in April.

Now we’ve got our hands on one for a review – read on to find out whether it’s likely to be your cup of tea…

What’s special about the VW Amarok Dark Label?

Limited edition pickups with blacked out paint and accessories seem to be very much on trend at the moment.

We’ve already driven a similar Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian SVP, we’ll be bringing you a review of the Ford Ranger Black Edition very soon (you’ll see it in some of the Amarok pictures below), and Isuzu has gone nuts and launched an all-black Arctic Trucks Stealth variant of the D-Max that costs a remarkable £44k before VAT.

VW Amarok Dark Label review - rear view

The Amarok Dark Label is very much of this breed – except that in its purest form it eschews the standard actual black paint finish in favour of a Carbon Steel grey metallic finish that’s exclusive to this model.

You can have a black one, though, and if you really want to make carwash day a pain in the backside, an Indium Grey matte paint option is available, too.

Other obvious visual mods include a rather intricate set of 18-inch ‘Rawson’ alloy wheels (you’ll need to get the toothbrush out to keep those properly clean), Dark Label graphics down the side, so-called ‘underbody styling’ elements (fake skid plates, basically) and a matte black rear styling bar.

VW Amarok Dark Label review - side graphics

This last is complemented by side bars below the doors, door mirrors, door handles and rear bumper that are all also finished in matte black.

VW says ‘the Dark Label model has exceptional road presence’. We’re not about to disagree, but it certainly isn’t subtle, either.

Any interior upgrades for the VW Amarok Dark Label?

Oh, yes. The seats are covered in suede-like Alcantara – upgraded to Vienna leather in our test vehicle – the rings round the air vents are coated in ‘chrome silk gloss’, and the ceiling is lined in black, a detail borrowed from the new range-topping 258hp Amarok.

Dark Label floor mats spruce up footwells, the front seats get lumber adjustment and the dashboard gets Deep Inox trimmings.

VW Amarok Dark Label review - cab interior

But perhaps most significantly, standard equipment includes VW’s Discovery Media infotainment system with 6.33-inch touchscreen and sat-nav – plus automatic lights and wipers, heated power-folding electric door mirrors, and an upgraded instrument cluster.

The Dark Label is based on the existing, generously specified Highline trim level, so buyers will also enjoy front and rear parking sensors with rear-view camera, cruise control, air-conditioning and bi-xenon headlights.

 

What’s the VW Amarok Dark Label like to drive?

The Dark Label is only available with the 204hp V6 TDI turbodiesel engine – so you can’t buy a 224hp version – but that’s one of those uses of the word only that should really have quotation marks round it. This is still among the fastest, most effortless pickup trucks you can buy today.

The effortless part is helped by the eight-speed automatic gearbox, which is fitted as standard on this model, and the engine’s considerable 500Nm of torque. The auto means you get permanent four-wheel drive as well.

VW Amarok Dark Label review - what's it like to drive?

As with all Amaroks, ground clearance is a little more limited than it is with some other pickups, but it will certainly cope with tough off-road conditions within this constraint – and on-road the VW remains one of the most pleasant pickup experiences available.

The engine and gearbox contribute a great deal to this – the smoothness and the power making even long-distance journeys nothing to fear. The gearbox isn’t perfect, but if it feels ponderous in the standard drive mode you can always shift it into Sport, which wakes it up just enough.

The suspension is comfortable enough for most road surfaces, too, and though the softness here does mean it rolls around a bit in the corners that’s a trade-off we’d be prepared to make for day-to-day comfort. The slow-ish steering doesn’t really encourage high-speed cornering, anyway.

How does the VW Amarok Dark Label compared to the Ford Ranger Black Edition?

Compared to the likes of the Ranger Black Edition – which is only available with Ford’s 2.2-litre 160hp four-cylinder engine – the Amarok doesn’t feel as sharp or wieldy in the bends. But the VW is far more refined and has much less annoyingly jiggly ride-quality when unladen.

VW Amarok Dark Label review - compared to the Ford Ranger Black Edition

That said, at £33,650 basic (before tax and on-the-road costs), the Amarok Dark Label is considerably more expensive than the £27,995 you have to pay for an automatic transmission version of the Ranger Black Edition.

The Dark Label is still cheaper than the top-spec Mercedes X-Class Power, though, which costs £34,100 basic and only sports a 190hp Nissan engine (at time of writing).

Verdict: Should I buy a VW Amarok Dark Label?

VW is only planning to sell around 200 Dark Label Amaroks in the UK – so if you haven’t already ordered you might be too late to get one new.

If you can find one in dealer stock, however, we think the £2,750 extra it costs over an equivalent 204hp Amarok Highline is more than acceptable for the additional equipment, unique features and exclusivity you get in exchange.

On the other hand, if you can’t get one, it’s not as if an ordinary Highline is a poor alternative; a 224hp version costs less than the Dark Label, too, which ought to be enough to compensate for the less eye-catching appearance.

Advice for buying a used VW Amarok Dark Label

If you’re looking at a used example, in addition to all the usual second-hand vehicle advice, make sure all the unique Dark Label features – such as the floor mats – are present and correct, and that you consider the price carefully.

VW Amarok Dark Label review - buying advice

We’d expect a slight premium over an ordinary Highline model, but make sure this properly reflects the condition of the vehicle in question, and isn’t out of line with depreciation of the original cost difference detailed above.

VW Amarok Dark Label rivals to consider:

Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian SVP

Ford Ranger Black Edition

Mercedes-Benz X-Class