New Volkswagen Amarok PanAmericana 2023 review

The second-generation premium Volkswagen Amarok pick-up truck rolls in

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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The PanAmericana is the sweet spot in the Amarok range, because it’s the highest-spec model that still qualifies as a commercial vehicle. The smooth V6 diesel powertrain will appeal to users who need a serious towing vehicle, while the cabin has the kind of plush luxury you get from a Touareg. However, with the Ford Ranger offering the same ability but greater model variety, the Amarok will have its work cut out in the sales race.

It’s been a while coming, but the second-generation Volkswagen Amarok is finally here, and we’ve spent time at the wheel of the newcomer on UK roads.

The new model marks the latest fruits of co-operation between VW and Ford, a partnership that has already seen the Caddy Life MPV rebranded as the Ford Tourneo Connect, while Ford’s new Explorer electric SUV will take advantage of VW’s MEB platform. In the Amarok’s case it shares its underpinnings with the Ford Ranger, including engines, suspension, transmissions and electronics, although from the outside there are some distinct differences in their designs.

The Amarok features squared-off wheelarches and a front end that gives it a familiar VW face, while at the rear the large, flat Amarok-branded tailgate is flanked by C-shaped tail-lights. The PanAmericana driven here features dark exterior trim, black 18-inch alloys and a matt-black roll hoop to help it stand out as a more ‘lifestyle’ version of an already upmarket truck. One thing that remains unchanged is the load bed. It measures an almost-square 1.62 metres long by 1.58 metres wide, with a width of 1.22 metres between the wheelarches.

Inside there’s plenty of leather and upmarket metallic trim, and while the portrait-orientated 12-inch touchscreen is carried over from the Ranger, it runs VW’s software and graphics, so it doesn’t look like it’s a bought-in system.

There’s plenty of kit on board, with wireless phone charging and connectivity, heated and electrically adjustable front seats and a Harman Kardon sound system. Passenger space is an improvement over the previous-generation Amarok, too, with decent room in the back.

Selectable four-wheel drive is fitted, and this automatically sets up the truck’s diffs and AWD system to suit the conditions. The PanAmericana is the only version of the Amarok that comes with a rear differential lock as standard – it’s available on other specs as part of an option pack. However, this will only really be needed in the most extreme conditions, because the bulk of the time the Amarok feels like it’s barely breaking a sweat when tackling the rough stuff.

The Amarok in PanAmericana trim comes exclusively with a 3.0-litre V6 diesel, and this engine isn’t left wanting for power. There’s 237bhp on tap, and acceleration from a standstill is fairly mind-bending in such a big machine. A hefty 600Nm of torque is on offer, too, which should make light work of towing. The engine is helped by the Ford-sourced 10-speed automatic gearbox, which delivers smooth shifts and keeps the engine in its power band most of the time, only occasionally tripping up when accelerating.

On the road, the Amarok driving experience is almost as refined and cultured as that of a large SUV. There’s not much in the way of wind or road noise, even at motorway speeds, and while the suspension still has a certain amount of fidget – a byproduct of the fact that the Amarok has to cope with heavy loads in the back – and larger bumps can thump through the frame, this is a truck that is impressively smooth most of the time.

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Surprisingly light controls mean the truck is easy to manoeuvre, too. The lofty driving position offers a good view, but like the Ranger, the Amarok has a high-set bonnet that restricts your view immediately ahead. Thankfully, front parking sensors and emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection are standard on every model in the Amarok line-up, which should give reassurance that your surroundings are clear.

So the Amarok is a pretty decent truck, but there is an elephant in the room, in the shape of the Ranger. Given that the two models are closely related, you can’t help but compare them, and they perform very similarly both on and off road. Yet in terms of price, the Ranger undercuts the equivalent Amarok by around £3,000, while Ford offers a wider range of variants, from the basic XL (which can be had in single-cab form) to the high-performance Raptor.

Looking at the two as commercial vehicles, both are charged at the same flat rate of Benefit-in-Kind tax, so the difference in list prices isn’t as critical. But it’s worth noting that the top-spec Amarok Aventura doesn’t qualify as a commercial vehicle, because it lacks the all-important one-tonne payload. That means this PanAmericana version is the highest-spec work vehicle, so while the last Amarok sold in big numbers in top trim levels, it’ll be interesting to see how the new line-up fares.

Model: Volkswagen Amarok 3.0 TDI PanAmericana
Price: £47,255 (ex.VAT)
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel
Power/torque: 237bhp/600Nm
Transmission: 10-speed auto, four-wheel drive with low range and diff lock
0-62/top spd: 9.0 seconds/112mph
Economy/CO2: 28.0mpg/265g/km
Payload/tow: 1,022kg/3,500kg
On sale: Now
Senior test editor

Dean has been part of the Auto Express team for more than 20 years, and has worked across nearly all departments, starting on magazine production, then moving to road tests and reviews. He's our resident van expert, but covers everything from scooters and motorbikes to supercars and consumer products.

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