05 October 2017

Full Volkswagen Amarok (11 on) Model Review

by CJ Hubbard, Vans Editor

VW Amarok Highline 3.0-litre V6 TDI review on Parkers Vans
  • VW Amarok Highline 3.0 V6 review - rear
  • VW Amarok Highline 3.0 V6 review - grille and badge
  • VW Amarok Highline 3.0 V6 review - dashboard
  • VW Amarok Highline 3.0 V6 review - front seats
  • VW Amarok Highline 3.0 V6 review - rear seats
  • VW Amarok Highline 3.0 V6 review - eight-speed gearbox
  • VW Amarok Highline 3.0 V6 review - bike carrier
  • VW Amarok Highline 3.0 V6 review - sport bar
  • VW Amarok Highline 3.0 V6 review - rear
  • VW Amarok Highline 3.0 V6 review - load bed / area
  • VW Amarok Highline 3.0 V6 review - interior
  • VW Amarok Highline 3.0 V6 review - front
  • Range-topping VW pickup tested
  • 224hp, 550Nm, eight-speed auto, 4WD
  • Can the X-Class possibly be better than this?
Volkswagen Amarok (11 on) 3.0 V6 TDI (220ps) A33 D/Cab Pick Up Highline BMT 4M Auto - Road Test
Make way, proles – this here is the range-topping Volkswagen Amarok Highline, and we’ve got it in for review as a timely reminder that the forthcoming Mercedes X-Class isn’t quite as ground-breaking as the hoopla surrounding its introduction would have you believe.

Make way, proles – this here is the range-topping Volkswagen Amarok Highline, and we’ve got it in for review as a timely reminder that the forthcoming Mercedes X-Class isn’t quite as ground-breaking as the hoopla surrounding its introduction would have you believe.

VW Amarok Highline 3.0 V6 review - rear

For when it comes to properly premium pickups, VW most certainly got there first. And what the VW badge lacks in ultimate prestige versus that aspirational three-pointed star, the Amarok more than makes up for with its individual platform and now exclusively 3.0-litre V6 engine range.

After all, while the X-Class may say Mercedes on the back, it’s proving hard for some people to ignore that underneath the veneer of glamour it is still basically a Nissan Navara in a frock that isn’t quite as fancy as they were hoping.

The X-Class also doesn’t get its headline V6 power until sometime in 2018, whereas the Amarok is available to buy right now.

Let’s take the Highline model for a ride.

What is the VW Amarok Highline?

The Highline is top of the standard Amarok range – replacing the limited edition Aventura as the best version of VW’s pickup you can get. Although, this isn’t actually saying that much as the moment, as the only other Amarok model you can currently buy in the UK is the mid-spec Trendline.

VW Amarok Highline 3.0 V6 review - grille and badge

However, at the time of writing, the Highline is available with two versions of the Amarok’s 3.0-litre V6 TDI turbodiesel – one with 204hp and 500Nm, as fitted in the Amarok Trendline too, the other with 224hp and 550Nm, as tested here.

Each of the above features permanent 4Motion four-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Already you start to see why it commands such high prices.

As such, while the Amarok V6 was runner up in the Best Pickup category in the Parkers New Car Awards 2018 – just losing out to the Nissan Navara – if you can justify the expense we don’t think you’ll disappointed.

What’s good about the VW Amarok V6 Highline?

Looks are always subjective, but honestly, is there a more handsome truck on the market? And while it can’t quite match the Navara’s sharp handling, in every other respect the Amarok Highline’s driving experience is practically sublime.

VW Amarok Highline 3.0 V6 review - interior

The engine has so much torque it’s almost silly. The suspension is quite soft, so it can speedboat a bit if you really gun it – pointing its nose to the sky as you hurry to meet motorway speeds down a slip road – but it’s unlikely you’ll ever find yourself wishing it had more performance.

Nothing else presently available in the pickup truck sector gets close to this motor – and though the X-Class V6 will eventually offer more horsepower, with a promise of 258 ponies, Mercedes has been forced to cap its engine at the same 550Nm to stop it turning the Navara-derived driveshafts into Curly-Wurlys.

So you’ll never be hard done by in the VW.

VW Amarok Highline 3.0 V6 review - front seats

More than this, that softish suspension delivers a surprisingly comfortable ride – not just for vehicles fitted with old school leaf springs but pickups in general. Some may find it a touch floaty, but for us this suits the Amarok’s generally laidback attitude.

If you’re coming from a car, it’ll still seem a little jittery, but this and the sheer size of the Amarok aside, you’re unlikely to find the transition too jarring.

What’s bad about the VW Amarok Highline?

Some moan about the quality of the interior you get for the money – though for us this has significantly improved alongside the introduction of the V6 engines. And besides, we’d happily trade the occasional hard plastic finish for the Amarok’s excellent ergonomics and ease of use.

VW’s infotainment systems always work very well, for example, and the seats are nicely supportive front and rear. Sorry, this is supposed to be bad stuff, isn’t it?

VW Amarok Highline 3.0 V6 review - rear seats

Ok, well, on the more practical side, though the Amarok impresses with the biggest load-area of any double cab pickup and a hefty payload rating (see below), it remains disappointing that the VW isn’t able to tow 3.5 tonnes like the class leaders.

To be clear – it can tow 3.5 tonnes, because it’s rated to do so in Europe, but in the UK it’s not legally allowed to.

This is partially down to its monster kerbweight – which at 2,178kg for the Highline also means it’s legally restricted to van speed limits on single and dual carriageways.

Van and pickup speed limits explained

Similarly, while the four-wheel drive hardware is more than capable of tackling moderate off-road work, modest ground clearance means the rest of the Amarok isn’t so interested. There is a mechanical differential lock on the options list if you’re determined to maximise this capability, however.

VW Amarok Highline 3.0 V6 review - bike carrier

Speaking of options, the roof-mounted bike carrier in the pictures causes a great deal of whistling noise at motorway speeds. Hardly unusual, but it spoils the VW’s otherwise hushed refinement.

VW Amarok load area dimensions and payload

The Amarok only comes as a double cab, so all models have the same load area dimensions:

  • Maximum load length: 1,555mm
  • Maximum load width: 1,620mm
  • Width between the wheelarches: 1,222mm
  • Total load area: 2.52 metres square
  • Sidewall height: 508mm

It almost goes without saying that this is mahoosive – but then, so is the rest of the Amarok, being well over 5.3m long and very nearly 2.0m wide.

VW Amarok Highline 3.0 V6 review - load bed / area

Payload rating for the Highline is 1,092kg, while maximum braked towing capacity remains a disappointing 3,100kg or 3.1 tonnes.

VW Amarok Highline standard equipment, costs and value

With an ex-VAT on the road price of £31,405, this Amarok is not a bargain basement choice. Yet you do get a substantial amount of fitted kit for your money in addition to those hunky looks and that performance.

These are just the highlights of the Highline’s standard equipment:

  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • Front and rear disc brakes (most pickups use drums at the rear)
  • Bi-Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights
  • Front and rear parking sensors
  • Rear bumper with integrated step
  • Stainless steel sidebars
  • Air-conditioning
  • Cruise control
  • 6.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, DAB radio and VW App-Connect
  • Four 12v sockets, including one in the load area
  • Heated front seats with storage beneath
  • Leather upholstery
  • Six airbags
  • Automatic post-collision braking system
  • Electronic differential lock
  • Electronic stability control
  • Hill-start assist
  • Hill descent control
  • Off-road ABS
  • Trailer stabilisation system
  • Remote locking
  • Thatcham Category 1 alarm and immobiliser

Note that you do still have to pay extra for sat-nav – although that’s a comparative snap at £654 – not to mention automatic lights and wipers.

VW Amarok Highline 3.0 V6 review - dashboard

As for other costs, the Amarok meets the latest Euro 6 emissions regulations with an AdBlue system, so you’ll need to keep the 13-litre tank for that topped up in addition to feeding it diesel.

Claimed fuel economy is 36.2mpg – which is a fair way behind the best in the sector (stand up, once again, the Nissan Navara). But that big engine is so unstressed that unless you’re running around with a tonne in the load bed all of the time and driving like an absolute lunatic, you actually stand a fair chance of getting close to it.

VW Amarok Highline 3.0 V6 review - eight-speed gearbox

The eight-speed gearbox helps with this, just as it also allows the Amarok to go 0-62mph in 8.0 seconds.

Verdict

We want one. If we could afford one, we’d buy one. The refinement, the ride comfort, the performance and the enormous load area all count in the Amarok’s favour – and aside from needing plenty of room to park, it’s mostly like driving a Golf. Albeit one that could beat the traffic in front by going over it. And the Highline is the cream of the current crop.

There are cheaper pickups – both to buy and to run – and obviously if you need to tow 3,500kg this VW isn’t for you. Which is why the Navara is a better all-rounder.

But there’s nothing else on the market quite like the Amarok, and the X-Class needs to be seriously good to out do it.

Rivals to consider:

Nissan NP300 Navara – full review on Parkers Vans

Mercedes-Benz X-Class – full preview on Parkers Vans

Ford Ranger – full review on Parkers Vans

Also Read:

Van and pickup winners in the Parkers New Car Awards 2018

The Parkers Vans pickup group test – every major model compared

New pickups coming soon – including recent launch round up

VW Amarok Highline 3.0 V6 review - front