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.