It’s been a long time since Volkswagen went for honours in the pick-up market. Remember the Taro from the late Eighties? Essentially it was a Toyota Hilux with different badges, and it never sold in big numbers.
Now VW has returned to the fray with the Amarok. The name comes from the Inuit for wolf, and the firm hopes its newcomer will change its lacklustre history in the class.
VW is aiming to tempt drivers of the Nissan Navara and Mitsubishi L200, and the Amarok is unique in the pick-up sector by being the only model that has been designed and engineered in Europe. VW has high hopes for its newcomer
to be a sales success. Likely customers will be those looking for something more refined and upmarket than is currently on offer. The plan is to impress those after a luxurious interior and fine road manners.
This top-spec four-door five-seater double-cab Highline version suggests this aim is easily attainable. Its 163bhp 2.0-litre common-rail diesel offers strong performance, while selectable four-wheel drive adds go-anywhere ability and great fuel economy benefits. The system is user-friendly, too. All you need to do is press a button on the console to engage all four wheels.
Even on rough-looking roads the Amarok rides surprisingly smoothly. Through demanding bends it handles competently, too. From behind the wheel, noise levels are decent and there’s no lack of pace, but the gearchange is slightly clunky on the six-speed transmission.
Interior features include front and side airbags, climate control and an MP3-compatible radio/CD player with six speakers. The rear side windows are tinted, too, although the leather trim of our test car costs extra. The cab is roomy up front, and this Highline version gets a rear bench with a trio of three-point seatbelts and head-restraints.
Off-road the Amarok outperforms its key rivals. Most have 2.5-litre diesels, but VW’s 2.0-litre can match them for power and torque. Another plus point is an ABS system that cuts in more gently on loose surfaces. This enables a mound of gravel to build up ahead of the front wheels, which helps to bring the vehicle to a drama-free halt. The Amarok is also available in two-wheel drive, or can be ordered with permanent instead of selectable four-wheel-drive. A two-door single-cab version will debut next year, as well as a more fuel-efficient 122bhp variant of the 2.0-litre diesel.
Rival: Mitsubishi L200
The Japanese firm's L200 is the pick-up to beat in the UK. And the range has been extended with the addition of a double-cab and a longer cargo bed.
* Price: £20,000 (est)
* Engine: 2.0-litre diesel, 163bhp
* Transmission: 6-spd manual, 4WD
* Top speed: 100mph (est)
* 0-60mph: 10.0 seconds (est)
* Econ/CO2: 36.2mpg/206g/km
* Equipment: Climate control, MP3-compatible CD stereo, alloys, selectable four-wheel drive
* On sale: Sept