05 December 2016

Full Volkswagen Amarok (11 on) Model Review

by Adam Binnie, Deputy Road Test Editor

VW Amarok, off road, blue
  • VW Amarok, rear side, blue
  • VW Amarok, front driving, blue
  • VW Amarok, rear driving, blue
  • VW Amarok, front off road, blue
  • VW Amarok, driving rear side, blue
  • VW Amarok, load bed
  • VW Amarok, Aventura dash
  • VW Amarok, rear seats
  • Facelifted pickup comes with new, 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine
  • Aventura launch edition comes packed with kit, including sat-nav
  • Not cheap but as close to luxury as a pickup gets
Volkswagen Amarok (11 on) 3.0 V6 TDI (220ps) A33 D/Cab Pick Up Aventura BMT 4M Auto - Road Test
Volkswagen reckons its changes to the Amarok are more organ transplant than facelift. It looks broadly similar from the outside but there are big changes under its skin, and particularly beneath the bonnet.

Volkswagen reckons its changes to the Amarok are more organ transplant than facelift. It looks broadly similar from the outside but there are big changes under its skin, and particularly beneath the bonnet.

Having previously offered a variety of power outputs from the same 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine, the VW now boasts something unique in the UK pickup market – a burly, 3.0-litre V6.

The 3.2-litre unit offered in the Ford Ranger is bigger but has one less cylinder, and the Amarok boasts more impressive refinement and power reserves.

Changes inside and out for VW Amarok

Times are good for the Amarok, which has sold 14,800 models since launch in 2011 and celebrated its most successful year in 2015.

Offering the closest thing to luxury in this segment (at least until the Mercedes Benz X-Class arrives) it has attracted operators looking for the cabin and road manners of a car, with the heavy-duty capability of an off-road pickup.

This updated model features interior and exterior improvements including a revamped dashboard and infotainment system that makes it more car-like than ever, plus a new front bumper and grille, a third rear brake light, and of course the larger powerplant.

Around the back is the same 2520mm square cargo bay (measuring 1550mm long and 1620mm wide) with enough room between the wheel arches for a Europallet and a lashing ring in each corner.

A gross vehicle weight of 3,290kg means a payload of 1,114kg on this model. The 3,100kg towing capacity of lags slightly behind rivals.

Mighty 3.0-litre Amarok is the sole V6 pickup

There’s one engine choice, an EU6-compliant six-cylinder diesel which was first used in the Audi A6 and A7, available with a choice of power outputs and gearboxes.

From launch you’ll be able to pick either 204hp or 224hp with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, while a 163hp version with a six-speed manual will follow in 2017. Priced from £26,225 basic excluding VAT, this will mark the entry point to the range when it arrives.

Volkswagen says a combination of BlueMotion fuel-saving tech (stop-start and battery regeneration) plus a 13-litre AdBlue tank (which has a minor impact on payload) means you can expect similar economy to the outgoing Amarok’s smaller engine.

The top-spec 224hp version we drove had an overboost function, deploying an extra 20hp for up to ten seconds in response to hard acceleration. As such it’s a seriously rapid machine, dispatching 0-62mph in 8.0 seconds, and making light work of overtaking manoeuvres.

More impressive, however, is the sheer in-gear grunt, due to the larger capacity of the engine. It’s less reliant on the turbocharger so boasts 550Nm of torque from a lowly 1,400rpm. Press the accelerator pedal halfway to avoid the gearbox kicking down and the Amarok hauls itself horizonward with impressive urgency and hushed refinement.

Driven like this the VW is quiet and smooth. There’s a bit of diesel clatter at low revs, particularly under partial accelerator load, and it's noisier at the top end. In the mid-range the only noise is a bassy burble from the exhaust and a whistle from the turbocharger.

This Amarok promises 204g/km of CO2 and 36.2mpg - the latter figure is lower than mid-40mpg rivals, but then again it is considerably more powerful.

Luxurious interior and tough off-road ability

VW says the Amarok is largely bought by people who already own one of its cars so it’s no surprise to find it has the same sort of quality, well screwed-together cabin.

The new-look dashboard is constructed from tough, hard-wearing plastics that have a quality feel and appearance, and our car features the larger 6.3-inch touchscreen with sat-nav, smartphone connectivity, and Car Net – an online service featuring news, traffic and fuel prices,

There are four 12-volt sockets dotted around for charging tech, including one in the cargo area, and another in a recessed slot in the dash suitable for housing a tablet or laptop. All four door pockets can fit big bottles of water and there are two pairs of cupholders - one in front and one in the rear - plus a large storage bin under the padded central armrest.

In the UK the Amarok is double cab only and there’s a reasonable amount of legroom in the rear for three passengers. It’s a bit of a squeeze sitting behind a tall driver, though.

Heavy-duty operators will be pleased to see the 4Motion system has been carried over, offering permanent four-wheel drive with a 40:60 split on automatic Amaroks and a selectable system for manuals. There’s an off-road mode and electronic differential lock to help find grip when the going gets rough, plus an optional mechanical diff if you plan to go into the wilderness.

Either way, the Amarok can scale steep inclines up to 45 degrees, even when fully loaded, and features clearance angles of 29 degress at the front and 24 degress at the rear. We drove around a technically tricky and tight off-road course and were impressed by the Amarok’s ability to heave itself out of boggy mud and chassis-twisting ruts.

Launch model features massive specification

Let’s get this out of the way at the start – our limited edition Aventura model (only 240 units will make it to the UK) costs £31,995, basic ex VAT.

It sits above the two standard trims called Trendline and Highline (an entry Startline will go on sale in 2017) and comes with:

  • 6.3-inch Discover Media touchscreen
  • DAB radio
  • Sat-nav
  • Bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights
  • Front cornering fog lights
  • Load compartment cover
  • Front and rear parking sensors with rear-facing camera
  • Ravenna Blue metallic paint
  • Air-con
  • Cruise control
  • Leather gearshift, wheel and seat covers
  • Heated front seats
  • 19-inch alloys
  • Hill-start and hill descent control

As standard on all Amarok models you get four airbags, stability control and an automatic post-collision braking system to help avoid further accidents following a crash.

Verdict

It’s hard not to enjoy driving this powerful pickup but you’d need to have a serious think about whether you need such performance from a workhorse like this.

For on-road refinement though it’s hard to fault, and an impressive ability off-road means there’s no compromise in utility.

That near-£40,000 bottom line might be a bit wince-inducing but you’d be hard-pressed to find anything that offers such a combination of luxury and pragmatism this side of a posher and more expensive SUV.