BORN TO BE WILD

NEW VW AMAROK PUT TO THE TEST

The Advertiser - Motoring - - Front Page -

SOME­TIMES you just have to give way to other traf­fic. When that traf­fic is a fully grown rhi­noc­eros stomp­ing across your path, it’s a to­tal no-brainer. So where do you run into – or not – a rhino?

In my case, it’s the Pumba Game Park near Port El­iz­a­beth in South Africa, dur­ing a test in the first right­hand-drive Volk­swa­gen Amarok ute.

The one-tonne HiLux ri­val is com­ing to Aus­tralia, ei­ther late this year or early next year.

We ran the Amarok to ground in South Africa while the World Cup is on and, thanks to a bit of pa­tience on the game-park trail, make it through the ex­er­cise with­out test­ing how the ute would sur­vive a col­li­sion with 3000kg of charg­ing rhino.

The rhi­nos are not alone and we also bump into – not lit­er­ally – other African ex­otics as we get close-and­per­sonal with a Euro­pean work­horse which could lift the bar in the one­ton­ner class.

The Amarok tour ac­tu­ally be­gins with a pas­sen­ger ride in a mod­i­fied Land Rover.

A park guide ex­plains what to do if we are charged by one of the many deadly an­i­mals in the park. I ex­pect some heavy-cal­i­bre pro­tec­tion but it turns out that guides re­spond to any threat of an at­tack by sim­ply honk­ing an air horn which will (hope­fully) re­pel the hun­gri­est and mean­est car­ni­vores on the re­serve.

The Land Rover takes us within a few me­tres of two big lions, gi­raffes and ele­phants as well as im­palas that look very ner­vous about be­ing in a game park with those lions.

Af­ter the tour, we take the Amaroks to a less-dan­ger­ous area of the park where it is less likely we will be torn limb-from-limb if we make a mis­take and are forced to aban­don the ve­hi­cles.

Still, when we change driv­ers we sprint around the Amarok faster than any Bathurst driver pair­ing in a V8 Su­per­car pit­stop, just in case. As it turns out, the most dan­ger­ous an­i­mals we see from the Amarok, apart from the rhino, are mon­keys and those hor­ren­dously ugly lit­tle warthogs with big fangs and mul­let hair. Af­ter ne­go­ti­at­ing a trail we ar­rive at a steep hill­side. Our guide points up and says sim­ply: ‘‘Go on then.’’ At first I think he is jok­ing, be­cause there is no track and it looks daunt­ing. But we en­gage low-range in the Amarok’s 4x4 trans­mis­sion and drive up over rocks and shrubs and mounds in first gear.

There is no sign of strug­gle be­neath the Volk­swa­gen badge.

We are driv­ing the twin-turbo diesel four-cylin­der ver­sion and, al­though it is only 2.0-litres, it has plenty of pull - 120kW and 400Nm of torque. The en­gine re­ally heaves when the tur­bocharg­ers are spin­ning, hap­pily lug­ging away at 1500 revs. It is a sweet en­gine, though it is very easy to stall when it drops off boost.

Turn­ing at low speed with four­wheel-drive en­gaged also re­quires more revs and slip­ping of the clutch or the en­gine will stall. There is no such prob­lem on the hill and the Amarok makes its way over sev­eral rocks and branches, barely threat­en­ing its 249mm ground clear­ance.

The Amarok is a se­ri­ously ca­pa­ble ute with rear and con­stant all-wheel drive but we are in the full-on lock­ing four-wheel-drive model with low-range gears. The ute man­ages ev­ery­thing we can throw at it, but we will re­ally need to do some sim­i­lar work with a full load at home be­fore pass­ing fi­nal judg­ment.

The new ute is rated to lug be­tween 663kg and 1137kg in the back and tow up to 2800kg. It is not known if Volk­swa­gen will bring a sin­gle-turbo 2.0 diesel (90kW and 340Nm) to Aus­tralia but it is al­most cer­tain to in­tro­duce a 2.0-litre turbo four­cylin­der petrol next year to suit peo­ple who just don’t like diesels.

The fuel con­sump­tion of the diesels should be good, with an of­fi­cial num­ber start­ing at 7.5 litres ev­ery 100km, which se­ri­ously un­der­cuts its ri­vals, and the petrol model is ex­pected to use 9.9 litres for ev­ery 100km.

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