Amarok ver­sus Amarok

A V6 bakkie (and a car­a­van) chal­lenges a 2.0-litre bi-turbo one

Leisure Wheels (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - Text: Danie Botha

EARLY in 2017, we hosted the inau­gu­ral #fast­bakkie chal­lenge. Rac­ing leg­end Hannes Grob­ler pi­loted eight dou­ble cabs against the stop­watch on a rally track to find out which bakkie re­ally is the fastest of them all. That proved to be the Volk­swa­gen Amarok 2.0BiTDI 4Mo­tion, much to, well, just about ev­ery­one’s sur­prise.

The twin-tur­bocharged two-litre diesel engine was well suited to this type of driv­ing, not mind­ing the higher engine rev­o­lu­tions as much as some of the other oil­burn­ers. An­other ar­row in the Amarok’s quiver is the Off-Road func­tion, ac­ti­vated via a but­ton next to the gear lever. This func­tion al­lows for the ABS brak­ing sys­tem to lock the wheels up more on a gravel road, ef­fect­ing shorter stop­ping dis­tances on that sur­face.

The free-revving engine, the ex­tra few me­tres of late brak­ing the ‘Off-road’ func­tion al­lowed and the com­posed han­dling saw the Amarok beat the likes of the Ford Ranger 3.2TDCi and the Toy­ota Hilux 2.8GD-6 against the stop­watch.

But a few months ago, VW played its trump card in the dou­ble cab seg­ment: it in­tro­duced the muchan­tic­i­pated 3.0TDI V6 model. This three-litre V6 tur­bod­iesel mill, which is used in Volk­swa­gen-re­lated mod­els such as the Porsche Cayenne, Audi Q7 and VW Touareg, is good for 165kW of power and 550Nm of torque, the lat­ter avail­able at a low 1 400r/min

And, for short over­tak­ing bursts, there is also an over­boost func­tion, for up to 10 sec­onds power is hiked up to 180kW, and torque to 580Nm. The V6 engine is linked to an eight-speed au­to­matic gear­box and VW’s 4Mo­tion per­ma­nent four-wheel drive sys­tem. The sum to­tal of all th­ese fac­tors is that this VW is fast. Very, very fast.

When our col­leagues at our sis­ter pub­li­ca­tion CAR tested the 3.0TDI V6, they recorded a 0–100km/h time of 7.82 sec­onds: not too long ago the hottest hot hatches would have been proud of such a time.

This is not just a shoe horna-lumpy-and-pow­er­ful-engine

into-a-bakkie-and-hope-forthe-best kind of deal ei­ther. The Amarok’s brak­ing sys­tem has been up­graded and it is the only dou­ble cab to run a full disc brake set-up (com­pared to tra­di­tional discs in front and drums at the back in other bakkies). Its stop­ping power is re­ally im­pres­sive, re­cod­ing times that are more in line with high per­for­mance ve­hi­cles than com­mer­cial ones.

This Amarok is no feath­er­weight: it weighs in at a hefty 2.2-tons. Com­par­ing the lat­est 2.0BiTDI 4Mo­tion AT to the V6 is a bit like, well, com­par­ing box­ing ri­vals Conor McGre­gor and Floyd May­weather against each other. Each is a cham­pion in his own right. But the hard-hit­ting V6 is pretty much in a league of its own in the per­for­mance stakes. There is no ques­tion about that.

For all in­tents and pur­poses, our test would de­ter­mine the mea­sure by which the V6 has moved the ‘fast’ goal posts, com­pared to our reign­ing #fast­bakkie champ.


The stock stan­dard VW Amarok 2.0BiTDI 4Mo­tion AT, driven by former SA drag rac­ing cham­pion Ray­mond Goble, pro­duces 132kW of power and 420Nm of torque (the lat­ter peak­ing at 1 400r/min).

Its ZF eight-speed au­to­matic gear­box is one of the best in the game. In the top two-litre ap­pli­ca­tion, one can choose be­tween Man­ual, Sport or the de­fault Drive modes. Chang­ing the gears ‘man­u­ally’ in the 2.0BiTDI re­quires the driver to push the gear lever for­wards for up­shifts, and pull it back­wards for down­shifts.

Af­ter some ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, Goble de­cided to let the gear­box sort out the shift­ing details, revving the engine to the red line in man­ual mode ac­tu­ally proved slower than let­ting the gear­box de­cide the ideal shift­ing points.

In the V6 we had also been ex­per­i­ment­ing. In the 3.0TDI model, the ZF eight-speed gear­box fea­tures pad­dle shifters be­hind the steer­ing wheel. Th­ese shifters proved more ef­fec­tive than most of th­ese su­per­fi­cial sys­tems. When you hit the pad­dle, the gear­box ac­tu­ally changes gear (un­less you are try­ing to gear down to first gear at 100km/h, of course).

Fol­low­ing a race meet­ing a cou­ple of days be­fore our test, the Tarl­ton strip was pretty sticky. Ray­mond men­tioned typ­i­cal drag rac­ing ter­mi­nol­ogy such as Track­bite and ‘the groove’ and stag­ing... all we knew was that there seemed to be enough grip to en­sure the V6 did not lose trac­tion de­spite all of 580Nm of torque at­tempt­ing to make the 19-inch wheels light up.

Af­ter a few tests runs we de­cided that short-shift­ing at around 4 000r/min – as our col­leagues at CAR mag­a­zine had also de­ter­mined – was the fastest way to get the Amarok V6 to the quar­ter mile light beams.

Also new was the use of the Tarl­ton Christ­mas tree, or start­ing lights. Since we had never used this light­ing sys­tem be­fore, ex­pe­ri­enced drag racer Goble gave us the low­down on what hap­pens when and where.

Af­ter ex­plain­ing the stag­ing part, where you slowly edge for­ward un­til both stag­ing lights for your lane are il­lu­mi­nated, you watch the ‘tree of lights’ – they are il­lu­mi­nated one by one from the top, and when you get to the green one at the bot­tom, you go. Then you sim­ply go as fast as you can for the next 400m.

So with the ba­sics taken care of, it was time to get down to busi­ness. Drag rac­ing cham­pion Ray­mond Goble had ‘the look’ in his eyes. You know, that kind of twinkle in the eye a big male lion gets just be­fore he goes in for the kill.

He’s quite an op­ti­mistic chap, we thought... up to 180kW ver­sus 132kW. We’d have to mess it up pretty badly to get this wrong.


In the Amarok V6 we se­lected the man­ual func­tion. We slowly edged for­ward, un­til both the stag­ing lights were il­lu­mi­nated.

Left foot on the brake pedal, right foot on the ac­cel­er­a­tor chas­ing the revs to the 2 000r/ min mark. Wait for the green light... wait for it... Go!

Off we blasted. Within the first 20 me­tres the V6 had al­ready pulled out a small lead. By 50m the lead was big­ger, as the rev counter nee­dle swung around the 4000r/min mark.

Hit the pad­dle shifter, 4 000r/ min. Hit the pad­dle shifter. Af­ter 200m we had pulled out a big lead on the two-litre.

We blitzed past the 400m marker. Our first run yielded a 15.7335 sec time, at a ter­mi­nal ve­loc­ity of 135.74km/h.

In the 2.0BiTDI 4Mo­tion the de­ter­mined Goble man­aged an im­pres­sive 17.9288 (at 118.61km/h).

We went for an­other run. In the Amarok V6 we were ever so slightly faster with each pass, as we got to grips with the Christ­mas tree busi­ness. Af­ter a few more runs we called it quits.

Goble had been ex­tremely con­sis­tent in his runs, but his best run re­mained that first pass, stop­ping the clock at 17.92 sec­onds while trav­el­ling at 118.61km/h. In the V6 we man­aged to crack a 15.52 sec­ond run, at a speed of 137.95km/h.

Num­bers are just num­bers right. So here are some com­pa­ra­ble quar­ter mile times in other ma­chin­ery, courtesy of myquar­ter­ 1990 Nis­san 300ZX 15.5 sec­onds 2003 Porsche Cayenne S 15.3 sec­onds 2011 Ford F-150 SVT Rap­tor 15.2 sec­onds

Back to the two Amarok bakkies. There was a gap of just un­der two-and-a-half sec­onds be­tween the new V6 and our #fast­bakkie. That is ap­par­ently quite a lot of time on a drag strip. In the real world, it’s prob­a­bly not quite as im­por­tant.


We de­cided to add a di­men­sion of prac­ti­cal­ity to the deal, and hook up a car­a­van be­hind

the Amarok V6. This af­ter some pun­ters lam­basted our #fast­bakkie con­cept, stat­ing that we should rather fo­cus on is­sues that real driv­ers en­counter… like tow­ing a car­a­van. Well, here you go. It’s not just any old car­a­van ei­ther. This is a spe­cial Jur­gens that was used to cre­ate the pro­duc­tion ver­sion of the new Penta. This unit was a tent mule, and car­ried more weight than its pro­duc­tion-ready sib­lings. It tips the scale at just over 1.8-tons. Which is quite a lot.

With the added weight of the Jur­gens and a slight head­wind, we were cu­ri­ous to see how the Amarok V6 – with its ex­tra 160Nm of torque – would fare against the stock 2.0BiTDI 4Mo­tion AT over the same quar­ter mile. For the record, the Amarok V6 has a tow rat­ing of 3 300kg (braked trailer).

One thing was for sure, when 2.0BiTDI driver Goble saw the Penta car­a­van in the flesh, and had a closer look at its sheer girth, he perked up no end.

“I tell you what,” he started, a smirk on his face. “I’ll give you a head start. Then I’ll take off about five sec­onds later… and I’ll still beat you. That is an air­brake you’re tow­ing there.”

He whipped out his best math­e­mat­ics for the oc­ca­sion, too. “In drag rac­ing we used to say that 100kg equals about halfa-sec­ond over the quar­ter mile. Not only is your bakkie heav­ier than mine to start with, you will also be drag­ging nearly two tons be­hind you. So you will be like, er, about, a lot slower than me. This race is soooo mine,” he said, brim­ming with de­light.

Mind you, he prob­a­bly had a point.

The jovial Mr Goble was not quite fin­ished yet.

“Maybe you should have or­gan­ised some­thing smaller to tow, maybe some­thing like a Ven­ter trailer,” he went on. There was just no con­tain­ing his ex­cite­ment at the prospect of a land­slide vic­tory.

To be quite hon­est, we were think­ing the same thing at that mo­ment. This Penta was a huge drag be­hind the V6; this was def­i­nitely go­ing to be a one­horse race. And that horse was go­ing to be the 2.0BiTDI 4Mo­tion AT, with a grin­ning driver be­hind the wheel.

Urgh. Let’s get it over with then.


We lined up on the start­ing line again, with the huge car­a­van in tow. We’re sure it looked com­pletely and ut­terly out of place.

The stag­ing lights lit up. Then the count­down light se­quence started. Red, yel­low, yell... Go!

Oh dear. This time our get­away was not nearly as elo­quent as ear­lier. With the ex­tra weight be­hind the Amarok V6, the wheels briefly started spin­ning, which caused the trac­tion con­trol sys­tem to be­lieve we were go­ing to have an ac­ci­dent. The com­puter cut the power, just enough for the Amarok to bog down ever so slightly be­fore tak­ing off again.

By this stage the sil­ver Amarok 2.0 was at least three car lengths in the lead. And it main­tained that lead all the way to the 400m mark, pulling away ever so slightly to fin­ish about three-and-a-half bakkie lengths ahead of our hefty train. Our train though, was run­ning silky smooth, track­ing dead straight, never feel­ing flus­tered.

Sure, we had been de­feated, but we had been much closer to the bakkie-with-no-car­a­van than we ever thought we’d be. Be­hind the 2.0BiTDI’s steer­ing wheel Ray­mond wasn’t smil­ing quite as broadly as he had been be­fore.

If we can just get the start on the money, it could be pretty close.

So we lined up again. This time we switched the trac­tion con­trol off. Watch the lights, watch the lights, nail it!

This time all four of the Amarok V6’s wheels spun briefly be­fore gain­ing trac­tion, the rev counter rush­ing around the clock at speed. Sec­ond. Third. Fourth. Fifth. And over the fin­ish!

We had been even closer to the two-litre. If we get the take-off just right… we switched lanes for the next run.

This time we got that take-off on the money. Hang­ing on to the twin-turbo two-litre’s tail, the smaller-en­gined bakkie pulled out a nar­row gap to the fin­ish­ing line. It was time to com­pare the num­bers.

The 2.0BiTDI 4Mo­tion AT had man­aged a best time of 18.03 sec­onds (at 109.43km/h), rac­ing in this round. The Amarok V6, with the huge car­a­van, had man­aged a best time of 18.74 sec­onds (at 109.52km/h).

The Amarok V6 and the Jur­gens Penta had been less than a sec­ond slower to the quar­ter mile mark than our #fast­bakkie cham­pion, the Amarok 2.0BiTDI. Ev­ery­one was im­pressed. Even Mr Goble.

“Jeez. This bakkie is im­pres­sive,” he nod­ded.

The rest of the con­gre­ga­tion gath­ered there was in agree­ment. The Amarok V6 and car­a­van had come un­ex­pect­edly close to match­ing the al­ready fast twolitre over the quar­ter mile.

It was mainly thanks to the V6 engine’s low-end torque, and short-shift­ing it at around 4 000r/min kept the engine tick­ing over right in the meat of all that torque.


Our #fast­bakkie win­ner, the two-litre Amarok with its twin-tur­bocharg­ers is fast. No ques­tion about that.

But this Amarok V6... it takes the fast to a whole new level. Some years ago, Nis­san in­tro­duced the V9X three­l­itre tur­bod­iesel in its Navara and Pathfinder. That engine was rated at 170kW, but the num­bers (sadly) never quite lived up to the real-world per­for­mance. It was brisk, but not re­ally fast. It was strong, but not like “jeez like!” strong.

The Amarok V6 is fast, and “jeez like!” strong. Of course, there is the ques­tion of the money; this bakkie is not cheap. But you know what they say about the good things in life, right?

And the VW Amarok V6 cer­tainly counts in that cat­e­gory.

Pho­to­graphs: GG van Rooyen

Above: 165kW and 550Nm vs 132kW and 420Nm. Okay, so like the May­weather and McGre­gor fight, the out­come was pretty ob­vi­ous. It was rather how much faster the 3.0TDI would be that was of in­ter­est. Be­low: Red Ds and Is in the TDI badges of both Amarok bakkies equate to high power ver­sions of the re­spec­tive en­gines.

Be­low: As ex­pected, the 3.0TDI V6, with that over­boost func­tion that hikes power to 180kW and torque to 580Nm for 10 glo­ri­ous sec­onds, was pretty im­pres­sive on its own over the quar­ter mile.

18.74s (109.52KM/H)

18.03s (109.43KM/H)

Be­low: Drag rac­ing cham­pion Ray­mond Goble was quite re­lieved when he (just) man­aged to beat the Amarok V6 and big car­a­van… in the Amarok 2.0BiTDI 4Mo­tion AT, with­out any­thing in tow.

Above: It was clear that the V6, with that big and heavy car­a­van (and a head­wind) would be slower than the 2.0BiTDI. But we never thought it would man­age to com­plete the test less than a sec­ond be­hind the two-litre! The 3.0TDI re­ally had taken the con­cept of #fast­bakkie to a new level.

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