Ro­bust at­tack on the HiLux

VW re­veals its lat­est weapon in war on Toy­ota, writesGRAHAMSMITH

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

APICKUP will give Volk­swa­gen a ve­hi­cle with which to stalk the best-sell­ing Toy­ota HiLux and ul­ti­mately chal­lenge the Ja­panese com­pany’s man­tle as the world’s lead­ing car­maker.

That was the im­pres­sion Stephan Schaller, global head of VW’s com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles op­er­a­tions, gave at the in­ter­na­tional re­veal of the Ro­bust con­cept at the Hanover Truck Show in Ger­many last week.

The Ro­bust Pickup ven­tures into an area of the mar­ket that has long been the un­chal­lenged do­main of the Ja­panese.

VW has cho­sen to bench­mark its new one-tonne ute on the Toy­ota HiLux at al­most ev­ery level, from on and off-road per­for­mance, fuel ef­fi­ciency, spec­i­fi­ca­tions and even pric­ing, which Schaller says will be very com­pet­i­tive with HiLux.

Schaller is also quick to dis­miss sug­ges­tions the VW pickup will be a pre­mium ve­hi­cle aimed at the life­style mar­ket rather than a work­horse for the broader mar­ket.

‘‘It will be a ve­hi­cle for life­style and for work­ing. If you look at our other com­mer­cials, we have al­ways been very good at build­ing ve­hi­cles that sat­isfy both ends of the com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle mar­ket,’’ he says.

The con­cept pickup shown at Hanover is said by in­sid­ers to be close to the real thing, dif­fer­ing only in a cou­ple of mi­nor styling is­sues from the pro­duc­tion ver­sion that will be here in 2010.

It was shown at Hanover as a dual-cab ute, but the pro­duc­tion ver­sion will also be built in sin­gle­cab and space-cab ver­sions and as a ute and cab-chas­sis.

The tough-looking pickup will be based on a new lad­der-frame chas­sis and have coil-spring sus­pen­sion at the front and leaf springs at the rear.

There’ll be a choice of petrol and diesel en­gines. The lat­ter is said to be a new range un­der de­vel­op­ment.

The Ro­bust will be avail­able in 4x4 (two ver­sions) and 4x2 vari­ants.

An on-high­way 4x4 vari­ant will use an on-de­mand all-wheel-drive sys­tem based on a sim­i­lar sys­tem used on VW and Audi SUVs. An off-road vari­ant will em­ploy a more tra­di­tional go-any­where four-wheeldrive sys­tem.

Though its good looks should be pop­u­lar with the life­style bri­gade, the Ro­bust Pickup is a real work­horse. It has a full one-tonne pay­load and the ca­pac­ity to ac­cept a pal­let be­tween the wheel arches.

The Ro­bust Pickup will make its de­but in fi­nal pro­duc­tion form at the Sao Paolo Mo­tor Show in Brazil late next year, by which time it will have a new name.

Work­ing class: the Ro­bust Pickup is a real work­horse with a full one-tonne pay­load.

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