Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, Tata, Mitsubishi and Mahindra all have one bakkie. With the SAbound Mercedes-Benz X-Class and Alaskan Bakkie already bashing on our doors, it didn’t come as a surprise to me when Volkswagen sent me an invite to attend its top of the range V6 Amarok launch.
Finally, I said to myself. The Amarok was Volkswagen’s new kid on the block that first hit our shores in 2010, joining the infested bakkie market, and the German manufacturer has taken its updated Amarok to a whole new level. If you can’t outsmart the competition, out-gun them.
When the Amarok first hit our market, it was only powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder range of turbo diesel and petrol engines. But, despite being an efficient and capable offering, the Amarok has had a limited chance of dethroning the top-end bakkies of all time.
Volkswagen’s solution to all that stiff competition is to go bigger, swapping the four-cylinder for a 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel, endowing the Amarok with the largest engine in the class with the most power and most torque. The new engine is the only six-cylinder diesel engine in the segment.
This is a major mid-life upgrade so the Amarok has also received updates to its styling – both externally and in the cabin – plus new equipment and a restructured model line-up. Available from launch are three derivatives, Comfortline (previously Trendline), Highline and Highline Plus. Before all the styling changes, the real story of the new Amarok is the engine.
The 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel is based on the same unit found across the Volkswagen Group – including the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne. It is comfortably the most potent engine in the pick-up class now with 165kW of power and 550Nm of torque. That’s an 18kW advantage on the 3.2-litre five-cylinder in the Ranger (and Mazda BT-50).
If that’s not enough grunt, there is an over boost function that adds an extra 15kW for short bursts under acceleration. And despite that extra performance, the V6 also undercuts its key rivals on fuel efficiency, using just a claimed 9.0-litres per 100km.
VW also claims the Amarok V6 can dispatch the 0-100km/h sprint in just 8.0 seconds to a top speed of 193km/h which makes it comfortably the quickest in its class, but the new bakkie impresses for more than just its pure acceleration performance.
The V6 Amarok is available in 4MOTION with permanent all-wheel drive. The good thing about the V6 is that it can go from highway cruising to steep off-road work without having to touch a lever, switch or dial, something that rivals lack. There is an ‘Off-Road’ button that tweaks the gearbox-shift and ETC protocols as well as activating the hill-decent control, but left to its own devices the Amarok largely works it out anyway.
The off-road section of VW’s launch drive was moderately tough in parts but not sufficiently tough to require the rear locker to be engaged, which, in the case of the Amarok, keeps the traction control active on the front axle.
In terms of design and styling, the new Amarok’s external changes seem subtle. Inside the bakkie, you get height-adjustable front seats with fine chrome frames. Comfortline and Highline derivatives come standard with 6.33-inch Composition Media radio system with touchscreen and capacitive colour display.
Furthermore, the system has proximity sensors with the display that supports swipe gestures, and 200 watt speakers in the front and rear. Composition Media also has an SD card slot, USB port and AUX IN interface. Highline Plus and the soon-tocome Extreme derivatives are offered with 6.33-inch touchscreen Discover Media satellite navigation system as standard.
Included with both Composition Media and Discover Media is a digital voice enhancement function. Below the infotainment units are the controls for the heating and air conditioning systems. Manual conditioning systems are only available for the Comfortline and automatic Climatronic comes as default for the rest of the range.
Rear occupants are well looked after. The seats are flatter and headroom and shoulder room are adequate. There are 12-volt plug sockets and USB sockets for electrical accessories.
On the outside, it sets itself from the model it replaces with a tweaked front bumper and radiator grille that features front fog lights, new alloys and a third brake light with LED technology.
— Ntsako Mthethwa (@Ntsako_Mthethwa) April 24, 2017
Just like the entire new fleet of VW models, the Amarok’s front fascia features horizontal lines and edges borrowed from the new Caddy, Transporter and forthcoming Crafter. Unique in the segment, Amarok’s cargo bed is 1.55 metres long and 1.62 metres wide, allowing a Euro pallet to be loaded diagonally. The load height is lowest in class at just 708mm.
The V6 feels extremely strong from behind the wheel, not only pulling strongly off the mark but also having plenty of punch through the middle of the rev range. While it isn’t as quiet or refined as a Porsche or Audi, it is smooth for a bakkie.
The engine is mated exclusively to an eight-speed automatic transmission, a first in its class, and it is a well-matched gearbox, getting the best from the engine and shifting smoothly and seamlessly most of the time. Volkswagen has also accounted for the extra performance by increasing the size of the front brake rotors to 332mm and adding disc brakes to the rear; ditching the drum rears used by most rivals.
While the suspension has been slightly modified to account for the different weight of the engine, it is largely carried over from the previous model.
Our test route contained some long stretches of off-road track. The Amarok handled water crossings, rocky climbs and slippery trails without trouble. On tarred road, the Amarok has proven to be one of the best bakkies available with responsive handling and SUV-like steering, although the ride can be a bit wobbly at the rear without any weight there.
Despite the upgraded engine, towing capacity remains unchanged from the 2.0-litre four-cylinder models at 3 300kg braked and 750kg unbraked. Another nice touch that carries over from the out-going model are a pair of LED lights embedded in the back of the cabin that illuminate the tray if you are using it in darkness.
— Ntsako Mthethwa (@Ntsako_Mthethwa) April 25, 2017
A comprehensive list of safety equipment comes as standard, including four airbags, Electronic Stabilisation Programme and Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, Hill Descent Assist and Off road ABS.
A reversing camera plus front and rear parking sensor are standard on both V6 models too.
- Amarok 3.0 TDI V6 165kW 4MOTION Auto Highline R665 700
- Amarok 3.0 TDI V6 165kW 4MOTION Auto Highline Plus R716 600
- Amarok 3.0 TDI V6 165kW 4MOTION Auto Extreme R748 600
Service and Warranty The Amarok model range comes standard with a three-year/ 100 000km manufacturer warranty, five- year/90 000km Automotion Service Plan and six-year anti-corrosion warranty. The service interval is at 15 000km.