Volkswagen Amarok pick-up review
The Volkswagen Amarok pick-up is only available as a double-cab in the UK, but it is among the top three trucks on the market
The Volkswagen Amarok only comes as a double-cab in the UK, but that doesn’t seem to have hampered its popularity. And it was crowned Best Pick-Up at the Auto Express New Car Awards 2013 thanks to its mix of rugged practicality, strong, efficient engines and quality feel. All models use 2.0-litre diesels, and while these trail some competitors on capacity, they punch above their weight in terms of power and fuel consumption. Selectable or permanent four-wheel drive also guarantees impressive off-road ability.
VW offers the Amarok with its BlueMotion Technology tweaks, which help to further lower fuel use and exhaust emissions. Yet this is one of the largest pick-ups on the market, with one of the widest load beds, and has the robust, durable feel pickup buyers expect. That’s especially the case inside, where the Amarok sets the standard for quality. There’s a choice of Startline, Trendline and Highline specs, all of which come well equipped – at a price.
VW also offers a Canyon special editon model – limited to only 350 models – based on Trendline spec but packed with over £8,500 worth of added kit . But whichever spec you go for, the car-like cab design combines with effortless cruising ability – and this helps the pick-up appeal to owner drivers looking to mix business use in the week with the pleasure of running a flexible, fun to drive family vehicle at the weekend.
MPG and Running Costs
There’s a choice of two 2.0-litre diesel engines in the Amarok: a 138bhp turbo and a 178bhp twin-turbo. VW claims fuel consumption of up to 36.2mpg and 35.3mpg respectively, while CO2 emissions stand at 205g/km and 211g/km. These figures are for manual versions; the 178bhp Bi-TDI is also available with an automatic transmission, although this doesn’t affect the fuel consumption and emissions figures. VW’s BlueMotion Technology package adds cruise control, low-rolling-resistance tyres and stop-start to the 178bhp Highline model. It also brings regenerative braking, which feeds more charge back into the battery by working the alternator harder when the Amarok is decelerating or braking than when it’s accelerating. The effect of all this is to reduce strain on the engine and boost mpg: the manual BlueMotion Technology model promises 37.2mpg economy and 199g/km emissions, while the auto is only available with the tweaks. In comparison, the Isuzu D-Max pick-up claims 38.2mpg and 194g/km, while the Ford Ranger is much less efficient, with 30mpg and 248g/km in 2.2-litre auto form or 28.3mpg and 249g/km in the 3.2-litre manual. Variable servicing means the on-board computer tells you when the Amarok needs a check-up, according to how it’s been driven, but the pick-up can go as much as two years or 25,000 miles between dealer visits.
The added kit and exclusivity of the Canyon edition also increases the price, costing £34,788 (£28,990 excluding VAT) fo the manual, while the automatic model costs from £36,864 (£30,720 excluding VAT).
Load Space and Practicality
The load bed in the Amarok is one of the largest of any double-cab pick-up available in the UK. It has a volume of 2.5 square metres – but buyers elsewhere in Europe can get a bigger capacity, as the Amarok is sold with a single cab in some markets. Still, the double-cab UK model has one of the widest bodies around, and these dimensions pay off with a massive 1.22 metres between the rear wheelarches – enough to take a Europallet sideways in the back. Plus, most versions of the Amarok can carry in excess of 1 tonne, so customers can reclaim VAT if they’re registered. The exception is the 178bhp manual model with permanent 4Motion four-wheel drive – this has softer suspension, and can only carry 722kg. The basic 178bhp Startline model has a 1,145kg payload – that’s more than the double-cab Ford Ranger, at 1,179kg, but it’s left trailing by the Nissan Navara, with 1,250kg. All versions of the Amarok can tow a 3,000kg trailer, with the 178bhp permanent 4Motion auto capable of pulling up to 3.2 tonnes. This is ahead of the Nissan Navara – four-cylinder versions can tow 2.6 tonnes and the V6 Outlaw 3.0 tonnes – but can’t match the strong 3,495kg towing capacity of the Ford Ranger. The load area comes with four lashing rings, although a rear window rack is a £170 option. Other extras include an electric tow bar, for £225, while VW can supply a variety of soft or hardtop tonneau covers to secure the load bed. Underbody protection can also be specified by owners planning to use their Amarok off-road. However, all versions come with ESP (electronic stability programme) as standard, and the package includes a trailer stabilisation system that uses the vehicle’s anti-skid and ABS brake systems to maintain control if whatever you’re towing starts to wander.
Reliability and Safety
The Amarok is one of the safest choices on the pickup market. Not only does it get standard ESP, the ABS brakes also incorporate an off-road function that allows a bit of slip when you want it in muddy conditions. Plus, there’s an electronic differential lock, while hill start assist and hill descent assist ensure you can pull away cleanly on steep inclines and then descend slippery off-road drops safely. Indeed, the raft of electronic driver aids will ensure the Amarok always behaves as you’d expect, whether you’re on or off the tarmac. All versions come with driver, front passenger and front side/head airbags, while other standard kit includes air-conditioning and heated door mirrors. Unlike some rivals, the big VW hasn’t been on sale for long, but owners haven’t reported any major reliability problems – and many of the components have already proven durable in other products from the company.
Driving and Performance
Even the entry-level 138bhp Amarok has enough pulling power to keep up with other traffic on the road. Drivers demanding stronger performance should go for the Bi-TDI, though – as well as a 178bhp output, it delivers 400Nm of torque in the manual Amarok and 420Nm in the auto. This is more than enough for most situations, and means rapid acceleration and relaxed motorway cruising.
The diesel motor is a little gruff on start up and continues to make its presence known when accelerating. Add to that the fair amount of wind noise generated by the squared-off panels and huge wing mirrors and it’s not the most refined motorway cruiser. Given its large dimensions and considerable weight, the truck rides quite well, and there’s not much of the bounce from the rear end that you get in some unladen pick-ups. It’s on a par with the latest Ford Ranger in this respect, soaking up bumps much better than some lighter trucks. If ride comfort is a priority, the permanent 4Motion model features softer suspension. Only trouble is, this comes at the expense of carrying capacity – and as this model’s payload doesn’t exceed a tonne, owners won’t be able to reclaim VAT on their purchase.
Only the more powerful 178bhp 2.0-litre BiTurbo is available in the Canyon edition but does comes with the option of a manual or automatic gearbox.
Cab and Interior
Many manufacturers claim their commercial vehicle feels ‘car-like’ from behind the wheel, but the Amarok is one of the few to deliver. While there’s no getting away from its massive dimensions – the pick-up feels particularly wide on country lanes – the cab is very comfortable. The rear seats provide plenty of legroom for passengers, too. Equipment is generous, with even the base Startline featuring heated electric mirrors, electric windows, semi-automatic air-conditioning and a CD/radio. Upgrade to the Amarok Trendline, and you get cruise control, a multifunction trip computer, a six-speaker stereo and two-zone automatic air-conditioning. The steering wheel and gearlever are trimmed in leather, plus there are carpet floor coverings and storage drawers under the front seats, while on the outside are 17-inch alloys. Range-topping Highline models add 18-inch alloys, leather upholstery, heated front seats, front and rear parking sensors, and privacy glass. You get more toys in the Nissan Navara Outlaw, but pay a much higher price. The Ford Ranger Wildtrak offers a similar level of kit for the same kind of money. Popular options on the Amarok include touchscreen satellite navigation at £565, Bluetooth connectivity for £200, a rain sensor and auto-dimming rear-view mirror for £150 and rear parking sensors for £265.
If you opt for the pricier Canyon edition VW take a mid-spec Trendline Amarok as a starting point for the limited-run pickup, with additional factory-fit extras including 19-inch alloys, all-round parking sensors, privacy glass, leather interior, heated front seats and rugged body cladding. Four spot lights mounted on the roof are avalable as an option and cost £1,134.
(Width measurements are without wing mirrors – 2,228mm incl. mirrors)
Load area dimensions
(Widths are maximum, width between wheel arches is 1,222mm)
- Power: 140bhp – 180bhp
- Weight (GVW): 2,820kg – 3,200kg
- Loading height (approx, unladen): 780mm