Out of Africa
How tough is VW’S ute? Find out in the ultimate Amarok road test
novices. The ultimate road test? Too bloody right.
Aside from the sand dunes, volcanic rock, clumps of car-sticking camel grass and stepped riverbanks called Oueds, there is no marked route.
Based on old-style navigation, teams are sent off at each dawn to find a series of checkpoints, using only a compass and 60-year old black-and-white maps.
The Rally begins with a Prologue afternoon before eight 12-hour days, including two two-day marathon legs where you sleep where you stop at nightfall, proceeding at dawn to the next designated bivouac.
On the prologue, the Australian team found itself beached on camel grass in the dark.
Lesson one when the clock hits 7pm and the girls are allowed to join up and convoy back to the Bivouac, don’t follow a lifted Landcruiser and assume your standard Veedub will clear the same sandinfected grassy dunes.
Worse still, the usual 230mm ground clearance of the Amarok is reduced to 192mm with the 4Motion 4Wddiffs and underbody protection.
Our impromptu convoy, eager to get back home in the twilight and sadly lacking the Gazelle Spirit of coming to the aid of stricken fellow females, skirted around our vehicle and left us to dig for an hour to get the stranded Amarok off its mooring.
When the ute was finally freed using grippy sand mats and sweat, the rest of the camel grass was taken one dune at a time until the bivouac lights were thankfully spotted in the distance at 10pm.
It was not the ideal start to the rallye. But then again, it was about the only time the Amarok was tripped up.
The ride height in such extreme off-roading and the 2.0-litre four’s lesser engine
power proved to be the main weakness on this road test from hell.
Under a beating sun, the soft desert sand has a way of sucking the torque from the wheels as the dunes peak higher and higher, particularly with only 120kw/400nm at our disposal.
So the only way to attack dunes was to keep the Amarok in high-range4wd and punt it straight up the face of each dune in second gear, sometimes third, then pop the throttle to reclaim a lower gear at the summit and use engine compression to roll/belly-slide the ute back down again.
Girl power: The Amarok, as well as Sally and Samantha, managed to beat the desert