Go­ing the dis­tance

Go! Camp & Drive - - Wheels -

I’m on the road a lot. Much of the time it is on long stretches of tar to des­ti­na­tions where I of­ten drive on gravel for days on end. My char­iot on th­ese jour­neys is usu­ally our long term 8-speed au­to­matic Volk­swa­gen Amarok 2.0 BiTDI High­line 4MOTION.

Big boy

Ini­tially, the size of the bakkie was some­what in­tim­i­dat­ing, es­pe­cially in a park­ing lot, but I got used to it and was pleas­antly sur­prised at the agility of the ve­hi­cle. The load bin is the largest on the mar­ket and space is never a prob­lem. The park­ing sen­sor (which you can’t turn off on this model) can get ir­ri­tat­ing in the bush when it beeps for ev­ery blade of grass. How­ever, in the city it’s come in handy nu­mer­ous times when try­ing to gauge dis­tance at the back of the bakkie when I park. On the open road the Amarok is the most com­fort­able bakkie I have ever driven, and is also rel­a­tively eco­nomic at around 9 litres per 100 km on av­er­age. The 8-speed gear box is light­ning quick at chang­ing gears and the soft­ware is pro­grammed so it al­ways changes at just the right mo­ment. ( If you’ve ever driven ve­hi­cles that strug­gle with this – and there are a lot – you’ll un­der­stand what we mean – Jaco.) If you have to over­take a truck on a long up­hill, you sim­ply put your foot down and the power is there. This bakkie doesn’t have low range in the tra­di­tional sense, but rather an in­tel­li­gent off-road sys­tem that ac­ti­vates at the push of a but­ton si­t­u­ated next to the gear lever. And I must say, the change that lit­tle but­ton makes to the at­ti­tude of the bakkie on gravel or through an ob­sta­cle is im­pres­sive. It im­me­di­ately changes a few things, like more sen­si­tive trac­tion con­trol and ABS brakes that don’t kick in as early as they do on tar.

Beauty in sim­plic­ity

A lot has been writ­ten about the neat in­te­rior of the Amarok. It can be de­scribed as min­i­mal­is­tic – and even el­e­gant – the seats are as com­fort­able as it gets, the dash is made of durable plas­tic with­out any coloured in­lays and there is the min­i­mum amount of but­tons. Just like the av­er­age mod­ern over­land trav­eller, I take a bunch of gad­gets with me, and keep­ing all th­ese things charged is al­ways a prob­lem. The Amarok has four 12V sock­ets: two by the gear lever, one on top of the dash and an­other one in the load bin. The one on top of the dash is par­tic­u­larly handy be­cause you can plug your GPS in here, out of the way, rather than hav­ing the plug’s wire hang­ing across the dash­board. The stor­age com­part­ment next to the other sock­ets is equally handy to si­mul­ta­ne­ously charge a cell phone and a cam­era out of the way. The socket in the load bin is prac­ti­cal for keep­ing a fridge run­ning or to plug in a light at a camp site Some­thing I no­ticed im­me­di­ately is the con­trol panel of the sound sys­tem and the dis­play screen on the gauge con­sole. It is a bit dis­ap­point­ing, es­pe­cially when you com­pare it to the sys­tems of the Ford Ranger and the Toy­ota Hilux. The graph­ics of the dis­play screen in the Amarok re­mind me of those old Nokia 3310 cell­phones. It’s also not a touch screen, so to ac­cess cer­tain func­tions in the menu means push­ing way too many but­tons. In some sit­u­a­tions you’d have to stop by the side of the road to do some­thing sim­ple like con­nect­ing a phone via Blue­tooth. But un­til the Ger­mans man­age to solve this prob­lem, I can live with the slight dis­com­fort.

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