First fang of the all-new Amarok Aven­tura V6 TDI.

With a 550Nm V6TDI on board, the Amarok gains the en­gine it should have had from the start.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - WORDS BARRY PARK

AUSSIES like their things ex­tra-large. The Big Ba­nana, north­ern Queens­lan­ders’ hats, schooners ver­sus pots; the list goes on. It’s no sur­prise, then, that not ev­ery­one has warmed to the Volk­swa­gen Amarok. In a land of big, torquey diesels, the VW ute’s 2.0-litre four-cylin­der en­gine was some­thing of a con­ver­sa­tion killer around the camp­fire, even if its bi-turbo per­for­mance punched well above its weight. Yet that never stopped the Amarok from be­ing the con­sec­u­tive win­ner of the 4X4 Aus­tralia Ute Of The Year award, and it re­mains one of our class favourites.

That’s all about to change. From late this year the Amarok will fi­nally get the en­gine that ev­ery­one bar VW wanted from the start: a pow­er­ful, torquey six-cylin­der.

In a way, it’s a pyrrhic vic­tory for ev­ery­one who’s wanted a Vw-badged ute with more growl. The 165kw/550nm 3.0-litre V6 – the most pow­er­ful en­gine in its class – is only here be­cause the bi-turbo 132kw 2.0-litre ver­sion – tuned to pro­vide ei­ther 400Nm or 420Nm, de­pend­ing on the depth of your pock­ets – will be banned from sale in Europe come Septem­ber be­cause it won’t meet tougher Euro 6 diesel emis­sions stan­dards. How­ever, the V6 launched in 2014 does.

Buy­ers will have to dig a bit deeper for the V6 Amarok. A spe­cial edi­tion, V6-en­gined Amarok Aven­tura will land here for a lim­ited time with a price tag nudg­ing $70,000, mak­ing it the most ex­pen­sive one-tonne ute on sale.

There’s an­other sting, too. Be­cause Aus­tralia has that big, dry, sandy patch in the mid­dle, in VW’S eyes we’re a hot coun­try and it must pro­tect its as­sets. That means the V6 Amarok’s tow­ing ca­pac­ity falls from 3.5 tonnes in Euro spec­i­fi­ca­tion to just 3.0 – the same as for the 2.0-litre en­gine.

Cast com­po­nents on the new donk are cov­ered in Audi, Volk­swa­gen and Volk­swa­gen Group stamps. It’s the en­gine used in ev­ery­thing from the Audi A4 to the A6/

Smooth, quiet and re­fined at any revs, the Amarok’s V6 growls rather than roars un­der load

A7, the 197kw/580nm Porsche Cayenne Diesel, and even the 200kw/600nm Audi Q7.

In the Amarok it’s pretty much the same work­horse as in the more lux­u­ri­ous ap­pli­ca­tions, but the oil pan has in­creased in size to hold an­other 1.5 litres, and its tune leans to con­serv­ing longevity over out­right pace.vw says the ex­tra oil also low­ers main­te­nance costs, stretch­ing ser­vice in­ter­vals out to 40,000km de­pend­ing on use.

The six-cylin­der en­gine adds 80kg over the front wheels com­pared with the four-pot. Big­ger discs with two-pot calipers up front and, in a seg­ment first and aimed at rop­ing in the 195km/h top speed, discs with sin­gle-pot calipers down back re­place the more tra­di­tional drums, adding fur­ther weight.

Com­bined with 14-way leather seats bor­rowed from the Pas­sat, the top-spec Aven­tura will sit at the top of the Amarok range above the only other V6-en­gined model in the line-up, the High­line. With all the fruit on board, it weighs in at 2320kg. Do­ing some sim­ple back-of-the-nap­kin maths on the 2.0-litre’s 3040kg GVM, it only leaves 720kg for pas­sen­gers and lug­gage. Pack light.

The Aven­tura, which should sneak in un­der $70,000 when it ar­rives in Novem­ber, will sit on 20-inch al­loys, while the High­line will sit on 19s. An off-road cir­cuit in an old quarry out­side Mu­nich – part of the in­ter­na­tional first drive pro­gram – used a fleet of High­lines fit­ted with 17-inch al­loys, so it’s good to know that the more rea­son­able wheels will fit over the V6’s big­ger brakes.

The drive track wasn’t too chal­leng­ing and the VWS tack­led

the climbs, moguls, de­scents, whumps and lat­eral in­clines eas­ily. You get the best out of the eight-speed auto by flick­ing the gear shifter into man­ual mode and us­ing the tiny steer­ing wheel­mounted pad­dle shifters to pick and hold ra­tios.

Nose it onto the road and the V6 pulls well, show­ing lit­tle of the lag the smaller-en­gined Amarok dis­plays on step-off. Smooth, quiet and re­fined at any revs, it growls rather than roars un­der load. Rolling ac­cel­er­a­tion – the main weak spot of the 2.0-litre en­gine – is ef­fort­less, in­stan­ta­neous and only im­proves with a forced down­shift. How about its 193km/h speed limit? En­tirely pos­si­ble on a Ger­man au­to­bahn.

Back to that off-road cir­cuit. The Amarok V6 doesn’t get a lowrange trans­fer box – that’s left to the four-cylin­der man­ual ver­sion – or a switch­able all-wheel-drive sys­tem. A rear diff-lock op­er­ated via a con­sole-mounted switch is on the op­tions list, but is ex­pected to be standard here.

What has changed sig­nif­i­cantly and for the bet­ter is VW’S hill de­scent con­trol, ac­ti­vated by a push of the off-road but­ton. VW says it has made con­tin­ual tweaks to the sys­tem, and it is now so seam­less and quiet you won’t know it’s work­ing.

The steer­ing, too, has im­proved. The Amarok feels heavy over the front wheels, and it be­comes more no­tice­able as speeds rise and the level of vari­able steer­ing as­sis­tance – VW claims this is a first for the seg­ment – drops off.

Speak­ing of heav­i­ness, vw says it has made no changes to the

ge­om­e­try of the Amarok’s front sus­pen­sion mod­ule to ac­count for the en­gine’s ex­tra weight. Pitch in a bull­bar – you’ll have to chase one of those up from a third-party sup­plier as VW’S con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tion to them still stands – and you’re look­ing at an ex­tra quar­ter of a tonne ahead of the fire­wall. VW’S chas­sis engi­neer­ing team says it still has time to work on this. Down the rear, the Aven­tura sits on VW’S com­fort-bi­ased 2-1 leaf springs.

Volk­swa­gen hasn’t yet started to chase its ri­vals in terms of driver aids. The Amarok still doesn’t in­clude side cur­tain airbags, and the only ad­vance on the safety front is post-col­li­sion brak­ing, mean­ing the ute will safely pull it­self up after hit­ting some­thing. It has added a trailer as­sist func­tion that will use the Amarok’s brakes to pre­vent a free­way-speed tank-slap­per.

The Amarok up­dates bring vis­ual bling, too. Ex­ter­nally, it has cleaner lines that bring the trade ute in line with the theme spread­ing across other com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles in the VW line, in­clud­ing the T6 Trans­porter and Mul­ti­van. Aven­tura takes things a step fur­ther, adding de­tails such as a fat-look­ing, tub-mounted style bar, bi-xenon head­lights and smoked tail-lamps.

Fuel use is un­of­fi­cially 7.6L/100km on the Euro­pean cy­cle – VW is yet to lock num­bers in – com­pared with a 10.2L/100km logged on bil­liard-smooth Ger­man roads.

In re­al­ity, the Amarok V6 feels like the car VW should have launched in 2009. Yes, it’s ahead on per­for­mance, but be­hind on just about any other mea­sure of what makes a tradie ute one of the most de­sir­able ve­hi­cles on the Aus­tralian mar­ket. Is it too lit­tle too late?

Amarok’s 165kw/550nm 3.0L V6 will be the most pow­er­ful donk in its class.

Top-spec Aven­tura rides on 20-inch al­loys.

New Amarok’s vis­ual bling in­cludes style bar and smoked tail-lights. Aus­tralian Amaroks are ex­pected to have a rear diff-lock as standard.

VW showed two matte colours at the launch, but nei­ther the matte grey or blue have been con­firmed for Aus­tralia.

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