Grunt is the gold stan­dard in the Amarok turbo diesel

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - JOSHUA DOWL­ING

The only thing more im­por­tant to boys than their toys are the num­bers on the bootlid or tail­gate. Fast Fords and Holdens have for decades worn badges that re­veal how much grunt is un­der the bon­net, now such num­bers have made their way on to work­horse utes.

Meet the Volk­swa­gen Amarok Ul­ti­mate TDV6 580.

Prov­ing VW knows its tar­get mar­ket, Aus­tralian-de­liv­ered ex­am­ples get a shiny “580” badge in a font ap­par­ently in­spired by clas­sic Holden GTS or Ford GT lo­gos.

With 200kW of power on over­boost and 580Nm of torque this 3.0-litre V6 is the most pow­er­ful turbo diesel dou­ble-cab four-wheel drive on sale in Aus­tralia to­day.

With a ver­i­fied 0-100km/h time of 7.8 sec­onds it’s equal-fastest in the class along­side the Ram 1500 petrol V8 — and com­fort­ably a cou­ple of sec­onds quicker to the speed limit than all other diesel dou­ble-cabs.

The orig­i­nal 165kW/550Nm TDV6 in­tro­duced in 2016 — which will con­tinue to power cheaper mod­els in the Amarok range, in­clud­ing a new ba­sic Core model from $50,000 — stops the clock in an iden­ti­cal 7.8 sec­onds.

How­ever in the 550 you need to tap the pad­dle shifters so the eight-speed auto doesn’t hold on to gears too long. The 580’s re­cal­i­brated auto op­ti­mises shifts for brisk ac­cel­er­a­tion, with­out faffing about with man­ual shifts.

Other points of in­ter­est: the 580 must run the Ad­blue ex­haust cleans­ing ad­di­tive.

VW says the 13.5L reser­voir will need a topup at 5000km-8000km in heavy use and 12,000km- 15,000km with light use. It costs about $1 a litre at a ser­vice sta­tion — or more at a dealer ser­vice. Stricter emis­sions re­quire­ments mean new diesels will re­quire Ad­blue in the fu­ture.

There’s also a hefty price rise: up from $68,490 plus on-roads for the pre­vi­ous Ul­ti­mate to $71,990 plus on-roads, just a few thou­sand shy of the Rap­tor, though the Amarok is a dif­fer­ent beast. It’s a per­for­mancelux­ury ute with the best road-hold­ing in the class and the most com­fort­able seats.

As with the su­per­seded 550 Ul­ti­mate, the 580 Ul­ti­mate has heated front seats trimmed in soft Nappa leather with 14-way elec­tric ad­just­ment.

New, black roof lin­ing gives the cabin a lift. Ex­ter­nal bling ex­tends to 20-inch wheels, up from 19s pre­vi­ously.

The sus­pen­sion feels a lit­tle busier on the low pro­file 20-inch rub­ber but it’s still plush com­pared to most ri­vals. Pre­cise steer­ing, cor­ner­ing grip and the su­per-re­spon­sive en­gine and trans­mis­sion are high­lights.

For all its merit, how­ever, the Amarok is out­classed in other key ar­eas.

There’s still no sen­sor key or push-but­ton start, no 360-de­gree cam­era, no radar cruise con­trol, no au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing, no for­ward crash alert, no lane-keep­ing as­sis­tance and no speed-sign recog­ni­tion.

All of the above are avail­able on some ri­vals, although no sin­gle ute has the lot.

The Amarok is also the only ute among its peers with­out cur­tain airbag pro­tec­tion for rear oc­cu­pants.

Volk­swa­gen is able to ad­ver­tise a five-star ANCAP safety rat­ing even though the re­sult is from 2011.

If the Amarok were as­sessed against the lat­est cri­te­ria, it would likely get a three-star rat­ing due to the lack of au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing and rear airbag pro­tec­tion, among other fea­tures.

ANCAP is in­tro­duc­ing ex­piry dates on fu­ture star rat­ings to pre­vent com­pa­nies from pub­lish­ing out­dated re­sults.

If safety is a pri­or­ity it’s best to view the Amarok as a two-seater with ex­tra stor­age across the back seats.

That said, buy­ers seem more in­ter­ested with what’s un­der the bon­net.

Amarok TDV6 sales are up 65 per cent in the first eight months of this year ver­sus the same pe­riod in 2017. Cheaper four-cylin­der mod­els now only ac­count for 20 per cent of sales.

VER­DICT

A flawed ge­nius. Best-in-class to drive but lacks ad­vanced safety aids and crea­ture com­forts that are in­creas­ingly stan­dard on cheaper ri­vals.

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