The Amarok is certainly as handsome and imposing a beast as any pick-up on the market when viewed from the outside, but Volkswagen’s interiors have often been criticised as being a little dull when compared to others – the dashingly stylish cabin of the Ford Ranger Wildtrak is one that springs to mind.
Nevertheless, all the materials inside the Amarok are of high quality, and when it comes to user-friendliness and functionality there is much to recommend it. I’ve previously mentioned the efficiency of the reversing camera and all-round parking sensors that promptly spring into life when reverse gear is engaged and which provide much appreciated peace of mind when negotiating tight spots in London.
But I have also been impressed by the Discover Media navigation system with incorporated Bluetooth connectivity. Pairing my iPhone with the system to allow hands-free conversation while on the move was a simple and pain-free procedure, which is more than can be said for some of the alternatives on the market that require close scrutiny of the manufacturer’s handbook to figure out.
Another plus is that connected smartphones can be operated via controls on the steering wheel and lists of contacts and recent calls can be viewed on a display within the instrument panel directly in the driver’s eyeline, as well as on the six-inch touchscreen. You can also set this digital display to provide information about average and real-time fuel consumption, distance travelled and journey times.
The satnav is simple to programme and provides updates of congestion hotspots, although these tend to come when you’re already stuck in traffic. The navigation system will, however, re-route to avoid problems, and more usefully give a list of tailbacks on roads where you are likely to experience delays.
Our Aventura comes with cruise control, which takes the strain out of long motorway hauls, but alas it is not the far safer and traffic re-active adaptive cruise control version that is available on the new Crafter and various Transporter models.
The front seats in our vehicle are moved manually but are height-adjustable and go a long way backwards and forwards so provide ample comfort, which is enhanced by contoured side bolsters that hold you firmly in position when cornering.
For a model that sits peerlessly at the top of the well-upholstered lifestyle wing of the pick-up sector (at least until Merc joins the party next year), our Amarok has been spending a lot of time recently in the more humdrum and, as I can attest, non-leisure-related role of lugging loads about.
Last month we reported on how the truck took the strain out of web reporter Daniel Puddicombe’s flat move and this time out I can vouch for how the Amarok has proven invaluable in clearing the decks before another change of address. Over the past few weeks the truck has taken a redundant exercise bike to a new home, carted several boxes of books to charity shops, and transported a variety of broken furniture and loft-dwelling junk to a south London recycling centre. The biggest strain with all pick-ups is in lifting stuff into the back.
The Amorak has a loading height of 508mm, which is pretty much par for the course and compares to the Toyota Hilux Invincible X 2.4D 150hp Auto’s 480mm and the 511mm of the Ford Ranger Wildtrak 3.2 TDCi 200hp Auto.
These assignments have all taken place in urban streets and we are happy to report that, with all the inevitable stopping and starting this entails, the previously inconsistent stop/start system, which cuts the engine when idling, is now working efficiently.
For such a hefty vehicle the Amarok’s ability to smoothly negotiate tight spaces is impressive, helped by the most civilized of automatic transmissions and an excellent reversing camera and all-round sensors, which means a turning circle of 12.9m holds few hazards.
Third report: (Daniel Puddicombe)
Volkswagen markets the Amarok as a lifestyle vehicle, with many a nod towards surfboarders and outdoorsy types in the vehicle’s publicity documents. Some may accuse VW of taking the latest Amarok away from the core pick-up purpose of being a workhorse and aiming it more towards those who are after an SUV – indeed, the German manufacturer openly admits it is looking to attract those who may be considering buying a more conventional 4x4 passenger car.
Plus, with its highly refined 240hp 3.0-litre V6, it’s hard to imagine our Adventura spending its days toiling away on a building site or getting muddy on a farm, a point we touched on in previous reports. To find out if the luxury nods detract from the vehicle’s load-lugging abilities, I borrowed editor James Dallas’s long-term model for a weekend to help me move house (well, between flats).
To cut a long story short, the Amarok swallowed all of my worldly possessions (and plenty of tat) as well as a fridge with ease. The fridge, in particular, stayed in place thanks to some tough nylon rope attached to the built-in tie-down points – handy for keeping a surfboard in place too, I guess.
Keeping my stuff protected from the elements was the optional £1,960 (ex VAT) Truckman hardtop that, at a first glance, you would assume is part of the vehicle design and not an add-on, such is the way it fits harmoniously and snugly over the back of the Amarok.
We found the split tailgate to be extremely useful – if a little high up for my parents who required steps to access the back of the pick-up – with it able to hold up without any fuss or bother when stood upon while loading and unloading the vehicle.
On driving duties over the course of the weekend was my dad, who found the Amarok to be a purposeful, solidly built vehicle. Like editor Dallas (see May 2017 report below), however, he found the stop/start system to be intermittent and a little slow to kick in on other occasions.
VW’s suite of parking features also aided the move, with Puddicombe senior finding the large pick-up a doddle to take around the narrow streets of south-east London, although at one point the reversing sensors were overly keen to make us stop despite the coast being clear, save for a bit of hedge that hadn’t been trimmed outside my new place.
The high spec of the V6 diesel Amarok also impressed my mother, who found the rear seats to be comfortable – high praise indeed, as she does not normally travel in the second row. However, both my parents struggled to get in and out of the pick-up. This probably wasn’t helped by them (a) lacking in the height department and (b) having less than perfect ankles and knees, with the small steps on the side of the vehicle being inadequate.
VW’s eight-speed automatic gearbox also came in for some praise, with it providing “smooth, almost imperceptible” gear changes. In addition, the Amarok’s ride quality was so impressive that we didn’t notice any differences between an empty load and one with the fridge et al aboard.
Problems over the weekend? Aside from the aforementioned palaver of getting in and out of the truck, we found the wind and noise to be a bit loud, but that’s about it.
So, to answer my question, has moving the Amarok more upmarket affected its ability to carry large loads? No, not really, but you pay for the privilege if a load-lugger is all you’re after.
It’s fair to say not many customers would be drawn to the Amarok because of its conservative mpg performance. It’s actually something of a shock to discover the diesel-powered, 224hp 3.0-litre V6 truck is equipped with a stop/start function.
Cynics may be tempted to conclude this feature is included as a sop to sharp-eyed environmentalists. During the post-Christmas winter months when the chilly temperatures demanded we took to the road with seat heaters switched on, cabin fans blasting
out hot air, and radio whacked up high to make itself heard above the din, it was no surprise to find the fuel-saving system failed to cut out the engine at traffic lights and junctions, but now that the mild spring weather is upon us it still seems to behave erratically.
Sometimes it efficiently turns off the power as soon as I stop in traffic at the start of a journey, but quite often it stubbornly refuses to activate even when the engine is nicely warmed up and I’ve pressed down the foot brake and selected ‘P’ (park) mode on the auto ’box.
Apart from the gentle thrum of the engine ticking over you can tell the stop/start has not kicked in because there’s a diagonal line crossing out the ‘A’ on the dashboard display in
front of the driver.
This temperamental behaviour is manifested, so far as I am aware, despite all requisite conditions being met: I am wearing a seatbelt, the driver door is closed, the bonnet is closed, there’s no trailer on the back, the engine is warm, the heater is off or on low, the vehicle is not on a slope, it’s not in reverse, I’ve not engaged the diff lock, nor activated the off-road function.
When the stop/start function does decide to engage the only way to keep it activated seems to be to apply firm and consistent pressure on the foot brake. Any slight shift in weight and the engine fires up again – eager to be off showing off what it does best – delivering class-leading power and refinement.
As well as indicating whether the stop/start is on or off, the aforementioned display on the dash imparts useful information such as journey time, miles covered since you set off, average speed, range until a refuel is required and when an AdBlue top-up will be necessary.
It also gives you both real-time and average fuel consumption for the current journey, as well as an accumulated figure for a longer period. On mainly urban routes with a bit of dual-carriageway thrown in I am managing about 30mpg at best – short of the official 32.8mpg for urban routes. This is in the same ballpark as the average mpg I recorded over long periods, covering similar roads, with both the 190hp 2.3 Nissan Navara and 180hp 2.4 Mitsubishi L200. Overall, however, the Amarok is averaging nearer the mid-20s mark.
Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles makes no bones about where it is positioning its Amarok in the pick-up sector.
Powered by a new 3.0-litre V6 TDI Euro6 diesel engine, which replaces the pre-facelift 2.0-litre TDI, the double-cab-only Amarok is a luxury commercial vehicle aimed at the lifestyle sector. Andy Waite, VW’s head of LCV sales operations, happily concedes the Amarok does not penetrate into the fleet market, and adds: “We sell predominantly Highline (VW’s usual top trim) and special-edition pick-ups.”
Until Mercedes enters the market with an upmarket pick-up based on Nissan’s Navara in 2018, the top-of-the-range, 224hp eight-speed automatic Amarok Aventura that has joined our long-term fleet will have few direct rivals other than, at a push, Ford’s Ranger Wildtrak or Nissan’s flagship Navara, the Tekna. But while the Wildtrak costs £26,245 and the Tekna £25,710, the Aventura will set its aspirational buyers back £31,995 (all prices exclude VAT).
Other than the Aventura, the Amarok is offered in VW’s usual three trims – Startline and Trendline as well as Highline – but Waite reckons the high-specification auto derivatives will account for 80% of sales. In fact, the entry-level 163hp Startline will not join the line-up until later this year.
It’s hard to imagine the Aventura sloshing about in farmyards or clambering over bricks and planks on building sites, but it remains a robust truck that is more than capable off-road, with the automatic derivatives equipped with VW’s permanent all-wheel drive 4Motion system.
It may appeal to wealthy farmers, master builders or landscape gardeners enjoying the fruits of their labours but is more likely to be used as an alternative to an SUV during the week and then employed to facilitate outdoor leisure pursuits at the weekend. The Amarok is the sort of vehicle people get excited about, with performance to take the breath away – it elicits emotional responses not usually associated with light commercial vehicles.
On day one of my time with the Aventura I was congratulated upon my good fortune to be driving it by a delivery driver in the car park of a Co-op supermarket in south London. It is a handsome beast – the facelifted Amarok distinguishes itself from the previous model with a new front bumper and radiator grille design, including front fog lights. It also gets a third brake light with LED technology. And then there’s that V6 badge on the tailgate.
What’s more, on top of the Highline specification, the Aventura sports bi-xenon headlights with integrated LED daytime running lights, and special features such as 19-inch alloy wheels with 255/55 wide tyres and arch extensions.
But style is backed up by substance, and it’s out on the open road that the 224hp Amarok comes into its own. With 550Nm of torque channelled through its eight automatic cogs, the big truck, with a gross vehicle weight of 3,290kg, delivers blistering pace. It can bomb from 0 to 62mph in 8.0 seconds flat, according to its manufacturer, and can then surge on to a claimed top speed of 119mph.
It’s debatable whether many pick-up operators either want or need this sort of performance, but it could be argued that VW, with its high-powered, luxury vehicle, is simply targeting the market demand, albeit in the most extreme form seen yet, for high-specification, dual-purpose models.
With so much power available it’s hard to resist the temptation to tap into it, and so far at least I am falling way short of the manufacturer’s official combined cycle consumption of 36.2mpg, averaging around a slightly shameful 25.0mpg. In my defence I would cite a proliferation of urban routes, which cuts official consumption to a still unattainable 32.8mpg, and a prolonged cold snap, which necessitates the use of seat heaters and heating, and delays the kicking in of the stop/start function when idling.