Volkswagen Amarok review
The Volkswagen Amarok was voted the Best Pick-Up of 2013 at the Auto Express awards, offering SUV-rivalling quality and equipment
The Volkswagen Amarok has rewritten rulebook in the 4x4 pick-up truck class. It has a vast load bed and is more than up to the rigours of a working life, but the quality inside the cabin is on a par with family SUVs. There's plenty of space inside, and the dashboard shares its appearance with the VW Tiguan, although it's made from harder wearing materials. There are commercial versions offered, but the more leisure oriented models come with a powerful 2.0-litre diesel engine, and selectable four-wheel drive, which helps efficiency. The Amarok still feels rather agricultural to drive, but it's better than all of its rivals.
Our choice: Amarok 2.0 TDI 4MOTION Highline
The VW Amarok is big. It's over 5.2 metres long, and there's no disguising its bulk. So instead VW have gone bold with the design. Squared-off, flared wheelarches, and VW's latest family look give it presence, while top-spec Trendline models get big alloy wheels and chrome for the rear bumper and rollbars. Inside, the Amarok is still fairly utilitarian, but the design is simple, logically laid out and will be familiar to anyone who has driven a recent VW. And while some of the plastics are a little low rent, the quality is leagues ahead of its pick-up rivals.
The VW Amarok is designed for a woking life, so the suspension has been tuned to cope with a variety of loads. As a result, it can become rather bouncy when you're not carrying a heavy items over the back axle. The steering has a lot of turns from lock to lock, while the gearshift is fairly precise. The 2.0 TDI diesel has plenty of pulling power, particularly in twin turbo 178bhp BiTDI guise, so overtaking is easy, but because the Amarok is so tall, there's lots of body roll in corners. Still, it never feels anything less than safe and predictable, while the strong brakes inspire confidence. All versions get a six-speed manual transmission as standard, while an eight-speed auto is available as an option. Entry-level models are fitted with a rugged, manually selectable four-wheel drive set-up, but more expensive variants get a more sophisticated permanent system.
The VW Amarok was developed from scratch, but the 2.0-litre diesel is used elsewhere in the VW range, so should prove reliable. Variable service intervals will come around depending on how hard you use the Amarok, and servicing is carried out by VW's commercial vehicle network. The Amarok comes with driver, passenger and side airbags, stability control, hill descent control and hill hold assist. Drive modes are selectable electronically, and the stability control system can prevent a towed trailer from getting out of control.
There's plenty of space for five people in the cabin - and optional running boards and interior grab handles help you to get in there. At the back, the load bed is wide enough to accommodate a forklift pallet, and can carry a ] payload of around 1,100kg, depending on which model you choose. The bed contains a 12-volt power socket, and can be coated with a durable bedlining, but the lack of a lockable bed cover is a serious omission. Still, the options list has a wide variety of tonneaus and full height coverings to choose from.
The Amarok is capable of 35.8mpg, which is similar to the Mitsubishi L200, but around 5mpg poorer than the Toyota Hilux, As with all pick-ups, the Amarok benefits from a flat rate of tax, so it makes sense if your work car is your only mode of transport. In terms of price, the Amarok is similar to the Ford Ranger, but the Toyota Hilux and Mitsubishi L200 are cheaper. However, the VW benefits from stronger residuals and comes packed with standard kit, particularly in generously appointed Highline guise.