Car reviews - Volkswagen - Amarok
Range of engine choices, finally with curtain airbags and active safety tech, bigger in important ways, standard towbar, cheaper servicing
Room for improvement
Some fit and finish blemishes, no forward-view off-road camera, reversion to drum brakes on base models
Amarok shares plenty with Ford’s Ranger but has a different look and more premium feel
11 May 2023
VOLKSWAGEN admits it could not have justified a second-generation Amarok ute without the financial stability of a commercial partnership, and in choosing the Ford Ranger as the shared platform for the new-gen pick-up truck, VW has ended up in a win-win situation.
The two share engines, underpinnings, and technology, and just like the Ranger, the Amarok was designed “in Australia for Australians”, as the German brand’s double-cab truck proved most popular in this market over the course of the first iteration.
With the increases in tech’ and spec’ come price hikes, with the entry-level model starting at more than fifty grand. But unlike most utes, the new Amarok doesn’t come with a 4x2 model, and nor are there single-cab, extra-cab, or any cab-chassis versions at launch.
There are five grades: Core, Life, Style, PanAmericana and Aventura; though for the launch event we only got to spend time in the top three. Across those, there are four engine choices, but all versions come with a form of four-wheel drive, be it selectable 4x4 in the lower spec’ models or 4Motion permanent 4WD in the upper grades.
Full pricing and specification information is available here.
Engine specs include a base model 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel, called TDI405, with 125kW/405Nm and the choice of six-speed manual or six-speed auto; the TDI500 bi-turbo-diesel 2.0-litre with 154kW/500Nm and a standard 10-speed auto; the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 (TDI600) with 184kW/600Nm and a 10-speed auto; and the 2.3-litre turbo-petrol engine, known as TSI452 with 222kW/452Nm, which is only offered in the top-spec model with a 10-speed auto.
All grades have a standard towbar and wiring fitted, with the option of an electronic brake controller for $499. The towing capacity for all models is 750kg for an unbraked trailer, and 3500kg for a braked trailer. That means the petrol top-spec Amarok has a tonne more towing capacity than the Ranger Raptor.
The new model is also larger in every way, with a bigger cargo volume (and still wide enough to fit a pallet between the wheel-arches), plus a longer wheelbase enabling better approach and departure angles, while also crucially bettering the backseat space, which was a major criticism of the last version.
Speaking of the rear seat, there are now curtain airbags to cover those occupants, which never eventuated in the first-gen model.
The safety spec’ list is extensive, in fact, comprising autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assistance, and in the Life grade and up you will also find blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and rear disc brakes (TDI405 models have rear drums).
The Amarok achieved the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating based on 2022 criteria.
One thing VW is working hard on is improving the ownership impact on buyers, with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty as standard for private and business buyers.
There is a five-year capped-price servicing plan, with service intervals set at 12 months/15,000km, and you can either pay as you go for maintenance – the five-year prepay plan is $1800, and the as-you-go figure works out to $1801 (including brake fluid and air filter for service number three).
For V6 diesel models, that equates to a circa $2200 saving over five years compared to the previous model.
There are some driving impressions that are largely familiar if you’ve driven a Ranger, but that is pretty much limited to the diesel powertrains.
That is because the suspension and steering have been tweaked to give the Amarok a “Volkswagen” feel, and it is decidedly different in the way it handles itself in that regard.
The steering was something of a talking point among journalists at the launch event, with the common theme being that the Ranger’s steering is a little more engaging and pointy, especially on-centre. The VW’s steering system is a bit vague on the straight-ahead, but once some steering lock is applied, the front end reacts well.
However, the effectiveness of the steering is dependent on the version you drive, as the PanAmericana is a little less grippy, courtesy of its more mud-focused all-terrain tyres. The Aventura, with 21-inch rims and low-profile rubber, is a more engaging drive for corner carvers, and – when equipped with the turbo-petrol engine – is a pretty different drive experience to any other dual-cab ute out there.
That is because it feels far more nimble and lighter at the nose than the diesel V6 version, which has a heftier, chunkier feel to it. You will decide which you prefer, but I’d say the diesel engine fits the character of a boxy dual-cab ute like this.
Both high-spec’ engines offer ample grunt, though the diesel’s torque advantage gives it a slightly more rapid feeling as it urges the ute along more at lower revs, while the petrol engine is more eager to let the revs rise and hang on to gears. There are plenty of cogs to choose from in both instances.
However, as good as both of those engines in the high-spec models are, the bi-turbo diesel felt like the best fit to this tester, with a reliable amount of torque and a livelier revving attitude to it than the V6.
Admittedly, if you plan to tow something heavy all the time, then the V6 will make easier work of it, and I would wholeheartedly suggest you choose it instead.
One thing that was impressive in the Amarok, as it is in Ranger, was the level of ride comfort and compliance. There is a surefooted solidity to the new-gen model that the original did not possess, and some of that has to do with the way the new ute sits on the road. It does not have as much of a “high up” feeling, especially at the rear.
It was impressive off-road, too, with the longer wheelbase offering a planted rough-surface ride, while the resulting improvement to the approach angle (30 degrees) made for easier progress on more challenging drop-offs and offset bumps.
Good ground clearance of 235mm equated to impressive capability over challenging terrain, including a rocky climb up a steep track, while the hill descent control (with speed adjustment via the cruise control speed settings) was very effective in an extremely steep downhill gradient test (22 degrees).
All told, this is a more complete and compelling ute than the last version, albeit at a higher price and with less individuality by virtue of the collaboration between VW and Ford.
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