VW slots V6 turbodiesel grunt into the Amarok...
Volkswagen’s V6 Amarok is the proverbial iron fist wrapped in a velvet glove.
VOLKSWAGEN’S much-anticipated 3.0-litre V6 diesel Amarok has arrived and with it comes a new performance benchmark in 4x4 dualcab utes. Initially available only in Ultimate and Highline specification, and only as an eight-speed automatic, more V6 models will arrive next year including a six-speed manual with dualrange, part-time 4x4. The Ultimate asks $67,990 (plus on-road costs), $4000 more than the current 2.0litre Ultimate. The Highline, at $59,990 (plus on-road costs), is a more modest $3000 premium over the current Highline. For that extra money you get 165kw (with 180kw available on overboost) and 550Nm in place of the 132kw and 420Nm that the current 2.0-litre fourcylinder bi-turbo-diesel makes when mated to the automatic.
POWERTRAIN AND PERFORMANCE
THE V6 turbo-diesel in question is a longserving and well-proven (more than ten years in service) VW family design that’s used in the Touareg, Porsche Cayenne and Macan, and Audi Q7; although it’s been beefed-up for the Amarok application.
Its 165kw is available from as little as 2500rpm and extends up to 4500rpm. The overboost function, which bumps maximum power to 180kw to provide
more urge in overtaking situations and the like, is activated on throttle applications of 70 per cent or more and for periods up to 10 seconds at a time with a five-second re-cycle time. At the other end of the rpm range, the 550Nm is on tap from as low as 1500rpm and extends to 2500rpm.
On the road the Amarok V6 is absolutely effortless at low and middle revs, yet punchy when needed. It will sprint from a standstill to 100km/h in just 7.9 seconds, something that will leave even the best of the competitor utes in its dust. Identical final-drive gearing to the four-cylinder models, plus the low first and second gears of the eight-speed auto, helps here.
This engine isn’t just a pedal-to-the metal brute because it also meets passenger-car refinement standards, is smooth, sounds very un-diesel-like, and has little or no telltale diesel rattle. Just what you’d expect of an engine used in a Porsche.
The refinement of the engine is matched by the super-slick ZF automatic that provides a wide spread of ratios for everything from low-speed rock crawling to effortless highway cruising. Despite carrying the same final-drive gearing as the four-cylinder models, the tall top gear still results in a calm and relaxed 1000rpm at 60km/h. With maximum torque on tap at 1500rpm, this means the engine doesn’t even think about slipping out of top gear on undulating country roads at legal highway speeds, which is a nice departure from the excessively tall gearing often used today in the interests of fuel economy.
THE V6 and eight-speed automatic is mated to single-range full-time 4x4 in a system similar to what’s currently available with the four-cylinder engine – although the gearbox is a heavier-duty unit to cope with the extra torque of the V6. The 4x4 system uses a self-locking electronic-clutch centre diff and provides a nominal 40/60 front-to-rear torque split on high-traction surfaces, but can vary the torque split as needed.
As with the four-cylinder Amarok with the eight-speed auto, the V6 can go from highway cruising to steep off-road work without having to select 4WD or lowrange. There’s an ‘Off-road’ button that tweaks the gearbox-shift and electronic-traction-control protocols, as well as activates the hill-decent control, but left
to its own devices the Amarok largely works it out itself.
There’s also a button to deactivate the stability control for mud or sand, while for gnarlier tracks there’s a driver-switched rear locker – which in the case of the Amarok V6 keeps the traction control active on the front axle.
With the locker engaged the V6 will outperform most competitor utes in steep off-road conditions, despite not having low-range gearing. You can put that down to the low first gear, the torque convertor’s high stall ratio and the ‘smart’ centre diff, which can send the drive to the axle that can use it best.
Not so good is the 500mm wading depth due to the engine drawing its intake air from behind the grille, or the fact that recovery hooks aren’t fitted; although there is a screw-in recovery eye. It does have excellent underbody protection, though.
Our test vehicle had the standard sidesteps removed – perhaps VW thought we were going to wreck them.
AS EVER, the Amarok offers first-class on-road ride and handing thanks to a steering and chassis balance that’s a cut above the rest. Despite the fact the Amarok is one of the bigger and heavier utes – up there with the Ranger and BT-50 – it feels small and nimble. If you want your 4x4 ute to handle and go like a sports car, then this is it.
AS standard the Highline comes with 18-inch alloy wheels while the Ultimate rides on 19s, both with HT tyres. The 19s carry identical-spec tyres to a Land Rover Discovery, so they’re not entirely useless off-road. However, our test vehicle was fitted with factory 17s with Pirelli Scorpion 245/65R17 ATS.
The 17s can be fitted despite the V6 having bigger front brakes than the fourcylinder, now the biggest front brakes in the class. Disc brakes, instead of drum brakes as fitted to all of the Amarok’s immediate competitors, are used at the rear. The 16-inch wheels available on four-cylinder models won’t fit over the larger front brakes, which cuts out 16-inch mud tyres and the like.
Despite the bigger and more powerful engine, the towing capacity remains unchanged from the four-cylinder models at 3000kg; although the GCM has been beefed up to 6000kg to match the best-in-class such as the Ranger, BT-50 and Colorado. With the higher GCM, the V6 can tow its max and still have a decent payload in the tray, which is not the case with the 3500kg tow-rated utes. The Amarok also has the only tub in the class able to carry a full-sized pallet between the wheelarches.
As dealer-fit options VW also offers a factory towbar, a hard tonneau cover and various other accessories. A factory
bullbar is in the works, but won’t be available until next year.
With no major alterations to the body and chassis, currently available aftermarket accessories should fit the V6 variant Amarok.
CABIN AND SAFETY
WHAT hasn’t changed with the Amarok V6 is the extra-spacious cabin, although there’s a new dash and the top-spec Ultimate brings new luxury with 14-way-adjustable heated leather seats. The Highline gets cloth seats, but both man-made faux leather and real leather cowhide are available as options, as are heated front seats.
Rear-seat passengers benefit from what is the widest cabin in the class, but the Ranger and BT-50 have more combined front and rear legroom – so more room in the back for knees if you’re sitting behind a tall driver or tall front passenger. The Amarok is also unique in the class by not having any rear-seat airbags.
WHILE the two new V6s will sell against the existing four-cylinder models for the time being, 2017 will see a shrinking of the four-cylinder range from four to two grades – Core and Core Plus – while the single-cab 4x4 may also be phased out.
The reduction of the four-cylinder range will make way for an expanded V6 range, including the special-edition Aventura due mid 2017. Expect the V6 to also make its way down the model grades, but in a lower state of tune from the current 165kw/550nm. No doubt these less expensive, low-tuned V6s will be able to be tweaked to 165kw/550nm, and both engines will no doubt have easy tuning capacity beyond 165kw/550nm.
Not that the V6 needs any more power, as there’s plenty on tap as it is. Plus the engine is wrapped in a chassis that’s brilliant on-road and excellent off it. Here at 4X4 Australia we have always been big fans of the four-cylinder Amarok, and this new V6 builds on all the fourcylinder’s strengths with a whole new world of performance that puts it in a class of its own.
We have always been big fans of the Amarok... the V6 builds on the strengths with a new world of performance
Dual-cab battle heats up as VW attains cylinder-count status.
Pallet-swallowing ability and three-tonne towing carries over.
No longer a crude work ute, the Amarok retains its wide, car-like cabin.
Apple Carplay and Android Auto form part of the standard kit.