THE AMAROK’S EIGHT-SPEED BREAKS ALL THE RULES, BUT IT’S BRILLIANTLY CLEVER AND CAPABLE. AND IN CORE SPEC, IT’S DIRT-CHEAP.
JUST in case you weren’t aware, the Amarok comes with two different gearboxes mated to their own 4x4 system. The six-speed manual comes with conventional dual-range, part-time 4x4. On paper this traditional 4x4 system looks like the pick, given the automatic doesn’t have a twospeed transfer case. But that’s not the case – far from it, in fact.
Importantly, the low first gear of the eight-speed auto and the torque converter’s high stall ratio help counter the lack of lowrange gearing. The 4x4 system mated to the auto transmission also has the benefit of a self-proportioning and self-locking centre differential, similar to what you’ll find in a Land Rover Discovery or Range Rover, which delivers off-road benefits as well as the on-road functionality of full-time 4x4.
The Amarok auto’s 4x4 system is so clever you can go from cruising down the freeway at any speed straight onto a steep and gnarly offroad climb without touching a lever or a single button. And the Amarok auto will get the job done as well as, if not better than, any other ute in its class. It’s simply astonishing.
If you do get into trouble the Amarok has a driver-switched rear locker to call upon and, unlike the rear locker on the Hilux and the Triton, activating the Amarok’s rear locker doesn’t cancel the electronic traction control, so it’s another win-win.
The Amarok has a smallish 2.0-litre engine, but thanks to its bi-turbo arrangement it still offers power and torque that’s competitive in its class. The engine stands out for its willingness to rev harder than those of its competitors, and it’s also strong off idle. That’s the benefit of having one smaller and one larger turbo.
By modern diesel standards the Amarok’s engine is smooth, quiet and refined, while the eight-speed auto is sweet in terms of shift quality, shift speed and shift timing. The Amarok’s chassis maintains the same polished performance as the engine and offers precise steering and surprisingly sporty handing.
The Amarok has a big, spacious and comfortable cabin with supportive front seats, tilt-and-reach steering wheel adjustment for the driver, and the widest back seat in its class. The Core spec is basic yet functional, but the deletion of the 12-volt outlet from the dash-top and another from the tub (both standard on other Amarok models) are notable negatives. The softer-riding ‘Comfort’ rear leaf springs (optional elsewhere on Amarok 4x4s) also aren’t available on the Core.
At the time of writing the automatic was a ‘special’ no-cost option, providing a saving of $3000. That’s almost too good to ignore.