First Drive: Volkswagen Amarok facelift

Date: Friday, July 29, 2016   |   Author: James Dallas

If you’re looking for a no frills, sparsely specified workhorse of a truck that’s happy to do the dirty work off-road but rattles bones and threatens to burst eardrums in revenge for being introduced to a stretch of tarmac then look elsewhere.

Equally, if you are after a modestly-powered single or extended cab pick-up then you are wasting your time heading off to the local VW Van Centre to cast your eyes over the Amarok range, and not just because the revised model won’t be there until just before the end of the year.

The facelifted version, even more so than the original launched in Europe in 2010, is targeted unerringly at the premium end of the market and it is strictly double-cab only.

What’s more, flying in the face of the current trend for downsizing engines, the decidedly upmarket Amarok will be offered solely with a 3.0-litre V6 TDI powertrain.

Toyota, taking a more conventional route, is downsizing to a 2.4-litre 148hp engine from the current 2.5 and 3.0-litre units, which generate 146 and 173hp, in its new Hilux, which also arrives this year.

The new Euro6 Amarok engine, with outputs of 163, 204 and a mighty 224hp, replaces the 2.0-litre TDI with outputs of 140 and 180hp that VW currently uses in its pick-up.

The VW Group first used the engine in the Audi A6 and A7 passenger cars in 2014 but decided the latest ‘Generation II Evo’ unit would be an ideal fit for the updated Amarok.

The brand’s decision to focus on power is likely to have been driven more by demand in the burgeoning South American markets than by the fuel consumption-obsessed European sector - marketing head Bram Schott says most of the 455,000 Amaroks sold since 2009 have gone to the Southern hemisphere - but VW is confident the Amarok’s sophisticated SUV-like characteristics will also find favour with lifestyle customers in markets such as the UK. VW sold 3908 Amaroks in the UK last year, which it says was up 25% on 2014.

The first version to come to the UK will be the flagship 224hp-powered truck with eight-speed automatic transmission. In 2016 VW will introduce the 163hp engine with a six-speed manual gearbox only and the 204hp unit with a choice of either the manual or auto systems.

Customers will be able to choose from selectable all-wheel drive on manual trucks or permanent four-wheel drive 4Motion on automatics.

The manufacturer has not yet confirmed UK prices or specifications but the revised model is expected to follow the current line-up’s pattern and be available in Startline, Trendline and Highline levels.

Always a muscular-looking vehicle, although perhaps not so butch as the Nissan Navara or Ford Ranger, the Amarok now gets a new front bumper and a tidy headlight unit incorporating front fog lights into a wrap-around radiator grille design. It also gets new alloys and a third brake light with LED technology.

The updated cabin reflects the functional but classy interiors of the latest Transporter and Caddy vans. The centre console houses touchscreen radio and navigation, which can be controlled via the multi-function steering wheel and Bluetooth is now standard.

We tested the 224hp automatic in what will equate closely to the Highline trim coming to the UK, which meant we got to enjoy the new 14-way adjustable electric seat with height-adjustable lumbar support, reversing camera, front and rear sensors and automatic Climatronic air-conditioning.

This version combines the engine’s awesome power impressively to the eight-speed transmission and jaw-dropping torque of 550Nm, which kicks in at less than 1500rpm. The seamless response of the transmission is comparable to the Himatic system Iveco employs in its new Daily van.

The steering is sharp and reassuringly weighty and in terms of handling, the Amarok is up with the best, including the Ford Ranger, although in common with most pick-ups, there is a degree of understeer when cornering.

We would not dispute VW’s claim that the 224hp Amarok can reach 62mph from a standstill in under eight seconds and when moving on to motorway cruising the engine is quietly civilised, with the long top gear reducing engine revs.

If the worst does happen, the Amarok is now equipped as standard with its manufacturer’s Automatic Post Collision Braking system, which reduces the severity of a second collision in an accident.

Off-road the automatic Amarok handles rough terrain competently, although the ease with which the permanent all-wheel drive system copes without any fuss may not please 4x4 purists who prefer more driver input. Hill hold assist enables the truck to tackle extreme gradients by holding speed at a walking pace.

With a towing limit raised from 2.2 to 2.5 tonnes, the Amarok now matches the Ranger and the 224hp version can perhaps only be compared to the 3.2-litre auto version of Ford’s pick-up. With official fuel consumption of 37.2mpg and CO2 of 199g/km the VW betters the Ranger’s figures of 31.7mpg and 234g/km. But, unlike VW’s 3.0 V6, this is not Ford’s core engine – it also offers the higher volume 2.2-litre Ranger.

 

Volkswagen Amarok Euro6 3.0V6 224hp automatic

 

Price (ex VAT)                             tbc                        

Price range (ex VAT)                    tbc          

Insurance group                              tbc                                 

Warranty                                            3yrs/100,000mls           

Service intervals                                   10,000mls       

Load length                                           mm                 

Load width      min/max                           mm/mm   

Gross payload                                              kg            

                                        

Engine size/power                                         2967cc/224hp

On sale                                                   November 2016            

Combined fuel economy                          37.2mpg                

CO2                                                               199g/km            


Verdict


The Amarok offers awesome power and impressive refinement but its lack of engine and bodystyle choice will limit its appeal.

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