I first drove the Amarok when it was launched in the UK back in September 2011. They arrived in the UK from Argentina where they are still built & although these first models looked & felt like a Volkswagen, the interior & ride comfort felt a little inferior to the Volkswagens I had driven which were manufactured here in Europe. Fast forward to late 2016 & Volkswagen launched a heavily updated new Amarok, featuring a more muscular profile, higher specification & a brand new 3.0 litre V6 engine.
The new Amarok is reassuringly a Volkswagen, with interior fixtures & fittings which are similar to those found in VW passenger cars & certainly don’t look or feel inferior because this is a pick up. There are 3 trims available from the basic Startline, the mid range Trendline & the top of the range Highline. At launch, there’s also a special edition the Aventura on offer, the model that CCV was lucky enough to be testing.
The Amarok offers three power units; 161bhp, 201bhp & 221bhp versions of its 3.0 V6, with a choice of 8-speed automatic or 6-speed manual gearboxes. Positioned at the upper end of the UK pick-up market from launch, the new version comes with a far more more powerful engine than previously, not only to help maintain it’s position in the sector, but also to get a head start with high-end pick-up customers before Mercedes launch their X-Class in 2018.
Currently, the Amarok’s main competition can’t match it for power, with the Nissan Navara offering 2.3-litres & 187bhp, Ford’s Ranger 2.2-litres & 197bhp, the Mitsubishi L200 2.4 litres & 178bhp & Isuzu’s new D-Max out in April, with a new 1.9 litre engine which comes with 164bhp. Nor, from our week behind the wheel, do any of these competitors offer it’s quality, with the upgraded dashboard, seat & door materials & switchgear a definite best in class.
The special edition Aventura, is offered in Ravenna Blue Metallic, a colour not that dissimilar to the blue of the “Azzuri,” the Italian national football team. Bi-xenon headlights with separate LED daytime lights & a large VW logo in the centre of the radiator grille, give the front some character, whilst the colour coded door handles blend seamlessly into the sides. The chrome rear bumper comes with a built in step & the taillight assemblies feature dark coloured lenses. Compared to the Ranger & L200 though, it’s a fairly conservative effort with just the small Aventura badge adorning the rear sides of the vehicle.
Although you know you’re in a pick-up, the interior has a distinctly car-like ambience, with much of the design & layout familiar from other Volkswagen products. The Aventura has heated Vienna leather seats, a leather gear shift & multi-function steering wheel, which further enhance the feeling of being in a car. Carpet covers the floor of the cab, there’s climatronic air-con, cruise control & a useful four 12v sockets in the cargo area. There’s decent sized storage bins in all the doors. These contain a moulding to hold a can or bottle. There’s also a lidded bin & two cup holders between the front seats, in front of an armrest, with even cup holders for the rear occupants. There is also a cubby hole at the bottom of the dash & a tray on top of it with a 12v power point. Throw in a lockable glove box, a sunglasses compartment & storage drawers under the front seats & you really are spoilt for choice. The drivers seat & steering wheel are height adjustable & the rear centre passenger bench seat comes with a proper 3 point seat belt. This bench can also be folded back & held in place with straps to create a larger space if needed. It also features three head rests.
Customers want goodies & even the base Startline features heated electric mirrors, electric windows, semi-automatic air-conditioning & a CD/Radio. Upgrade to the Trendline & you get cruise control, a multifunction trip computer, a six-speaker stereo & two-zone automatic air-conditioning. And ,as with the Aventura, the steering wheel & gearlever are trimmed in leather, there’s carpet floor coverings & storage drawers under the front seats, while on the outside are 17” alloys – The Aventura rolls on 19” alloys. Range topping Highline models add 18″ alloys, leather upholstery, heated front seats, front & rear parking sensors & privacy glass.
The new more powerful 221bhp engine is very responsive & enjoyable to use & is more refined the the previous 180bhp version. Put your foot down & the Aventura will hit 62mph in just 8 seconds. Despite it’s size, the Amarok handles surprisingly well, with the commercial vehicle lurching around corners I had experienced six years ago, almost ironed out in the new-build model. The rear is mounted on leaf springs, but it’s not as comfortable in the back when compared to the multi-link suspension used on the Navara NP300.
Acceleration is smooth & surprisingly quiet, coming as it does from the permanent 8-speed auto-box fitted to my test model. The ride too is improved from the launch model & the previous face lifted version from 2013. Where the original could be described as the “Maradona”’ version & felt bumpy on road, the new version, the “Messi” is more forgiving & more comfortable all round. I took my wife & children out in the Amarok & they found it perfectly acceptable & almost as comfortable as an average family car. This is helped by the easy access into the cab itself & excellent head & leg room in the rear.
Safety is also paramount on this latest Amarok..My test vehicle came with amongst others ESP, ABS, TCS, EDL, Hill Hold Assist, which I love, Hill Descent Control & Trailer Stability Control. Security includes a Thatcham 1 alarm, remote central locking, driver & front passenger air bags, front, side & curtain airbags & a seatbelt reminder. Aventura also offers front fog lights, a trip computer, electric front & rear windows, electrically adjusted & heated wing mirrors.
Also fitted to the Aventura, is the Discover Media navigation system with a 6.33” touchscreen & voice enhancer. DAB radio & Bluetooth connectivity are also part of the system, which graphically, was clear & concise as well as simple to use. My i-Phone connected first time through Bluetooth, which is always a good sign.
For serious pick-up aficionados, the Amarok offers an increased payload of 1,114 kg. I used the load bed just once, for this months trip to the tip, to take an old filing cabinet away & was able to easily secure this to the four lashing rings located in the rear. Aventura also features a rolling hardtop tonneau cover to secure the load bed. As a bonus, the sturdy tailgate was simple to lower & raise & it also made a useful seat for my son to change into/out of his rugby boots, without getting the interior of the truck dirty.
Talking of the load bed, in the Amarok it is one of the largest of any double-cab pick-ups available in the UK, with a volume of 2.5 square metres & because the double-cab offers 1.22 metres between the wheel arches, you can fit a Euro pallet in sideways. All versions of the face lifted Amarok now carry in excess of 1 tonne, so customers can reclaim VAT if they’re registered. The Ford Ranger though beats this with a 1240kg carrying capacity.
All versions will also tow a 3000kg trailer, with the top-spec versions, including my test version Aventura with permanent 4Motion, capable of pulling up to 3100kg. All Amarok’s though, lag behind the pulling power on offer with the Toyota Hilux which will tow 3200kg, as well as the 3500kg towing output which you’ll get if you buy an Isuzu D-Max, Nissan Navara or Ford Ranger.
The Amarok is protected by a 3 year 60,000 mile warranty, 3 year paint & 12 year body protection & includes UK & European road side assistance. The engine is fitted with LongLife synthetic oil, aimed at reducing servicing from 12,500 mile to up to 25,000 miles, which has to be a good thing. Sensors in the vehicle work out when a service is due & VW maintain that using LongLife oil will increase fuel economy by an average of 2.7 %.
After a really fun on-road week in the Amarok, I believe that the latest model has raised the bar even further in the UK pick-up-sector, particularly with it’s car like drive-ability, high spec equipment & much-improved build quality. I had the previous model from 2013 level with the old Ford Ranger,but both the latest Ranger & Nissan Navara had surged ahead of that Amarok. The new one put’s it back on top with all three still the best pick-ups in the UK, based on their car like handling & driver comforts.
Although it’s more expensive than most of it’s competitors- the Aventura will set you back £32,865 + vat OTR, you get what you pay for with the Amarok & you do get an awful lot. To my mind it’s the most comfortable pick-up & comes with best-in-class build quality & creature comfort. Whilst lagging slightly behind the Rangers carrying capacity as well as the Hilux, D-Max, Navara & Ranger’s pulling power, pulling 3100kg is still impressive & if given the choice, I would still pick it above them all.
Pick-up an Amarok 4/5.