Smooth in the rough

Hailed for its car­like driv­ing traits, the Amarok takes work and fam­ily du­ties in its stride

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Big Wheels -

UTE ac­tion in Aus­tralia is re­lent­less. All sorts of new utes are com­ing from chal­lenger brands, from Hyundai to Re­nault and Mercedes-Benz, as the work-and-play pick-up be­comes the norm.

The Great Wall Steed, the first model from a new fac­to­ry­backed Chi­nese im­porter, will be­gin de­liv­er­ies next month. There is no pric­ing yet but there’s the prom­ise of classlead­ing value and a three­model line-up.

Volk­swa­gen also says the first V6 turbo diesel Amaroks, with the 500Nm pow­er­plant from the Touareg and a 0100km/h time of 7.9 sec­onds, are on the wa­ter with cus­tomer de­liv­er­ies pre­dicted to start in Oc­to­ber.

So it’s a good time for a re­vi­sion drive in the Amarok and my first real run with the four-cylin­der turbo diesel en­gine, eight-speed au­to­matic and per­ma­nent all-wheel drive that Aus­tralians have wanted from the start.

There are no low-range crawler gears for week­ends and work­sites but VW says the spread of ra­tios in the auto means it cov­ers all pos­si­bil­i­ties.

I’ve al­ready run through most of the new Japanese con­tenders this year, as well as the classy Ford Ranger which has trans­formed the blue oval from the Fal­con car com­pany into the Ranger brand. My per­sonal pick is the lat­est Toy­ota HiLux, which I put nar­rowly ahead of the Ranger thanks to a lit­tle ex­tra re­fine­ment.

I’m sur­prised the Amarok High­line nudges $60,000 as a dual-cab but then I recheck the stick­ers for con­tenders such as Ford’s sell­out Ranger Wild­trak. Ob­vi­ously buy­ers are keen, as the Amarok is cur­rently the sec­ond-favourite VW in Aus­tralia, af­ter the Golf.

In TDI420 guise (the num­ber in­di­cat­ing its torque out­put) it gets rear-view cam­era and all the usual gear you need in a five-seater ute. One glar­ing omis­sion in a fam­ily car: there are no cur­tain airbags to pro­tect rear oc­cu­pants. It was hailed as the most car-like drive in the ute class, be­fore the lat­est round of Japanese re­newals.


The Amarok feels good from the start. There is de­cent shove from the turbo diesel, the auto is smooth and fuss-free and the cabin is com­fort­able.

The whole fam­ily fits eas­ily and the tray can eas­ily han­dle our week­end toys.

But there’s a caveat — high­rid­ing utes can be tough to load. My own HiLux, an old-timer and only rear-wheel drive, has a tray that’s easy to load and un­load.

At times, when a ute has four-wheel drive and big wheels, you have to reach high. Some peo­ple might even need a steplad­der for the job.

But the tray in the Amarok is big. VW makes much of the abil­ity to fit a full-size pal­let be­tween the in­ter­nal wheel arches, so bi­cy­cles and camp­ing gear go in com­fort­ably.

The Amarok rides very smoothly for a ute — and not badly com­pared to some base­model cars th­ese days — and the steer­ing is ex­cel­lent.

The ute copes eas­ily with lumps and bumps, is solid in curves and cor­ners, and never feels as un­ruly as some oth­ers I’ve driven.

It’s a sim­i­lar story for the driv­e­line and, although I don’t take it se­ri­ously off the black­top, I know the likes of the hillde­s­cent con­trol will be wel­comed by own­ers keen on bush-track ac­tion.

It’s quiet, too, and I like the shape and sup­port of the front bucket seats, as well as the space in the back.

But the cabin is flawed, and I’m re­minded that the Amarok is built in South Amer­ica and not Europe. How? Be­cause the cabin plas­tics are all slightly mis­matched, and the as­sem­bly work is nowhere near the stan­dard of a Golf, high­light­ing the short­com­ings of the sup­pli­ers who pro­duce in­di­vid­ual bits for the Amarok. The plas­tic parts prob­a­bly look fine on their own, but don’t click com­pletely as a com­pleted kit.

The in­fo­tain­ment screen is also tiny, even if it’s linked to a rear-view cam­era. It shows the car is get­ting old and there is al­ready talk of a much big­ger screen when the Amarok is even­tu­ally re­newed.

For now, it’s not good enough although there is com­pen­sa­tion in its full-size al­loy spare and 3000kg tow rat­ing. Those are both be­com­ing big things with Cars­guide read­ers (es­pe­cially the spare) who drive any kind of ve­hi­cle out­side the city and sub­urbs.

I would also like pad­dleshifters for the auto, to give some ex­tra con­trol for over­tak­ing work and tight roads with a load.

I’m still weigh­ing up the price, though VW re­minds me Amarok prices start be­low $40,000 drive away, with such items as body-coloured bumpers on the dual-cab body and ex­cel­lent Pirelli tyres.


I like the Amarok, even with its lit­tle flaws and the chunky price. It’s one of the smoothest driv­ing utes avail­able to­day and that’s im­por­tant to me, as well as peo­ple who will use the truck as a fam­ily car.

It’s quiet, gets along well and cor­ners well for a ute. Even be­fore the punchy new V6 ar­rives for the heav­i­est work, it’s a good com­bi­na­tion.

The Amarok def­i­nitely gets the thumbs up but it’s no ri­val for the HiLux and Ranger at the top of my ute rank­ings. Maybe next time, with the V6.

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