Work Ute Re­view: Amarok V6 Sport­line

The Sport­line is the lat­est and most af­ford­able model in Volk­swa­gen’s Amarok V6 range,

Earthmovers & Excavators - - Contents - Fraser Stronach writes

Volk­swa­gen’s Amarok is the old­est of the main­stream pop­u­lar utes cur­rently avail­able in Aus­tralia, ar­riv­ing here in 2010, but has been kept fresh by var­i­ous up­dates, the most re­cent and the most sig­nif­i­cant be­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of a three­l­itre V6 turbo-diesel en­gine in late 2016.

The V6 is only avail­able in 4x4 mod­els and only with an eight-speed au­to­matic gear­box and a sin­gle-range full-time 4WD sys­tem. A man­ual V6 with dual-range 4WD has been promised for later in the year.

When it ini­tially ar­rived in late 2016 the V6 was only of­fered in the well-equipped High­line ($60,000+) and the even more lux­u­ri­ous Ul­ti­mate ($68,000+), but in late 2017 VW in­tro­duced the Spor­tine as the new price leader in the V6 range.

With fac­tory dis­count­ing it’s cur­rently $55,000 drive-away, which makes it cheaper than the pop­u­lar Hilux SR5 and Ranger XLT dual-cab 4x4s.

We have pre­vi­ously tested the more ex­pen­sive High­land and Ul­ti­mate V6s on their own and against its class ri­vals and have come away very im­pressed, so were keen to test this new ‘bud­get’ Amarok V6 model.

CLIMB ABOARD

With­out the side­steps and the chrome sports bar the Sport­line looks more like a work­ing ute than a flash recre­ational/fam­ily ute, but it’s still de­cently equipped. Stan­dard fea­tures in­clude dual-zone cli­mate con­trol, front and rear park­ing sen­sors, a rear-view cam­era, Ap­ple Carplay, four 12-volt sock­ets in­clud­ing one in the tray, four-wheel disc brakes and 18-inch al­loy wheels.

Com­pared with the High­line it loses the sat-nav, side­steps, chrome sports bar, tyre-pres­sure mon­i­tor­ing, bi-xenon head­lights and LED day­timerun­ning lights, so that’s where the cost is cut.

Inside, the Sport­line of­fers a re­served and nicely fin­ished cabin which is no­tably com­fort­able and spa­cious.

In fact, the Amarok has the widest cabin in its class, some­thing you’ll ap­pre­ci­ate if you have three adults across the back seat, even if the com­bined front and rear leg room isn’t as good as the Ford Ranger or the Mazda BT-50, which have the long­est cab­ins in the class. The Amarok also doesn’t have any rear-cabin airbags de­spite its five-star ANCAP safety rat­ing.

PER­FOR­MANCE

With 165kW (180kW on over-boost) of power and 550Nm on torque on of­fer, the Amarok’s V6 is the most pow­er­ful en­gine in its class and de­liv­ers on that prom­ise on the road, thanks in part to the rel­a­tively close ra­tios of its slick 8-speed au­to­matic gear­box.

Not only does the Amarok’s V6 of­fer the best re­sponse and pick up in its class, it’s also the smoothest, qui­etest and most re­fined diesel you’ll find in any of the main­stream utes.

This en­gine, al­though de­tuned and strength­ened for use in the Amarok, is a long-serv­ing VW fam­ily en­gine that’s been used in var­i­ous Audi and Porsche mod­els, which ex­plains why it’s more re­fined that the typical ute diesel.

And just in case you’re won­der­ing about the over­boost func­tion’s 180kW, it only kicks in with 70 per cent or more throt­tle and then only in third and fourth gears. Ef­fec­tively, it gives sharper over­tak­ing per­for­mance with­out any sense of the en­gine ever tran­si­tion­ing from nor­mal over-boost op­er­a­tion. It’s all to­tally seam­less.

Seam­less is also the best word to de­scribe the eight-speed au­to­matic gear­box, which of­fers near un­de­tectable and al­ways well-timed changes.

Sport­line V6s come with a diesel-par­tic­u­late fil­ter (DPF) but not with se­lec­tive cat­alytic re­duc­tion (SCR, or AdBlue), so com­ply with Euro 5 but not Euro 6 emis­sions stan­dards.

The orig­i­nal High­line and Ul­ti­mate V6s im­ported into Aus­tralia had AdBlue and met Euro 6 but this stan­dard is still to come into play in Aus­tralia. Not

hav­ing AdBlue with the Sport­line is def­i­nitely a pos­i­tive.

On test the Sport­line used 10.5 litres/100km, which is a fair bit more than the of­fi­cial ADR com­bined-cy­cle fig­ure of 7.8 litres/100km, but still equates to a rea­son­able range from the 80-litre fuel tank.

ON THE ROAD

The Amarok may be among the big­ger utes in its class but it cer­tainly doesn’t feel it on the road. In fact, it feels sur­pris­ingly small, nim­ble and com­pact.

What’s more, it has a re­as­sur­ing and sta­ble feel that no ute in its class can match, and ex­cel­lent steer­ing feel and re­sponse. Good ride qual­ity too with the front and rear sus­pen­sion well matched, some­thing that can’t be said of some of its com­peti­tors.

When not cart­ing a load the ride from the rear sus­pen­sion is still pretty firm but that’s un­avoid­able with any ute that can still muscle up with a de­cent load in the tub.

The Amarok V6 has an­other sig­nif­i­cant ad­van­tage over just about all of its com­peti­tors, and that’s full-time 4WD. It of­fers grip and safety on wet bi­tu­men, or any slip­pery sur­face for that mat­ter, that part-time 4WD utes can’t match.

Full-time 4WD also means no switch­ing back and forth be­tween 2WD and 4WD on sur­faces that al­ter­nate be­tween high trac­tion and low trac­tion. The only other ute to of­fer full-time 4WD is the Mit­subishi Tri­ton, and then only in up-spec dual-cab mod­els.

AT WORK

The Sport­line V6, be­ing the light­est of the Amarok V6 mod­els, has the high­est pay­load, a healthy 1,002kg. The Sport­line also matches the high­es­trated utes in the class with a 3,500kg (braked) tow rat­ing and a 6,000kg gross com­bined mass, which is the weight of the ve­hi­cle plus what you are car­ry­ing and tow­ing, all com­bined.

With the test Sport­line not be­ing fit­ted with a tow­bar we couldn’t carry out a tow test but we did drop 800kg in the tub to see how it would carry a load. The ver­dict: it did it eas­ily, both in terms of how the chas­sis and the en­gine coped with the load.

While the rear dropped, as you’d ex­pect, the over­all ride stance was quite level rather than nose-up, and the rear sus­pen­sion didn’t bot­tom-out over bumps – nor did the front sus­pen­sion top out. The en­gine did it more eas­ily again and

hardly felt the weight at all, no doubt thanks to its class-leading 550Nm of torque.

Like all Amarok mod­els, the Sport­line can take a full-size pal­let be­tween the wheel arches of the fac­tory tub, which is some­thing all of its di­rect com­peti­tors can’t do.

Four sturdy tie-down points are lo­cated on the floor of the tub, which is a far bet­ter ar­range­ment than lo­cat­ing them on the sides of the tub. A stan­dard tub liner and a 12-volt out­let in the tub are also handy fea­tures.

OFF ROAD

You may think that with­out low-range gear­ing the Amarok would strug­gle off road but that’s not the case. In fact, it’s one of the best utes in its class in dif­fi­cult off-road con­di­tions and out-per­forms many utes that have dual-range gear­ing.

With its eight-speed au­to­matic there’s a rea­son­ably low first gear but the torque con­ver­tor is also cal­i­brated so as to com­pen­sate for the lack of low range. Bet­ter still, you can go from cruis­ing down the high­way at open road speeds to climb­ing a dif­fi­cult fire-trail hill at walk­ing pace with­out touch­ing a but­ton or a lever as the Amarok is al­ready in 4WD and there’s no low range to se­lect.

The Sport­line does, how­ever, of­fer some off-road op­tions. There’s an ‘off-road’ but­ton that ac­ti­vates the hill-de­scent con­trol, a driver-switched rear dif­fer­en­tial lock for par­tic­u­larly tough off-road con­di­tions, and you can also can­cel the elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol as you need to do for soft sand and mud.

SUM UP

The Sport­line V6 makes a con­vinc­ing ‘buy-me’ ar­gu­ment from just about any per­spec­tive you can to name: work cre­den­tials; per­for­mance; han­dling; re­fine­ment; off-road abil­ity; and cabin space.

Not so good from a safety per­spec­tive is the lack of airbags in the rear of the cabin. Volk­swa­gen deal­ers are also a bit thin of the ground, es­pe­cially in coun­try ar­eas and ser­vice costs tend to be higher than most com­peti­tors. Some in­de­pen­dent work­shops also may not be as happy ser­vic­ing an Amarok as they would be some­thing like a Toy­ota Hilux.

The Sport­line comes with a three-year un­lim­ited kilo­me­tre war­ranty, which is the gen­eral in­dus­try stan­dard, al­though some man­u­fac­tur­ers do bet­ter than this.

1. The Amarok ex­udes a re­as­sur­ing and sta­ble feel on or off the road 2. A re­served and nicely fin­ished cabin with the usual bells and whis­tles 3. With 165kW of power and 550Nm on torque, the Amarok’s V6 is the most pow­er­ful en­gine in its class

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