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.