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First drive: Volkswagen ups Amarok ante

Eight not for all: Volkswagen will only offer its new eight-speed auto on high-end Amarok variants.

VW Amarok breaks new ground with eight-speed auto and $25k single-cab workhorse


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9 Jul 2012

VOLKSWAGEN’S Amarok has become the first one-tonne ute to be offered in Australia with an eight-speed automatic transmission option, which has been introduced this week on 4x4 dual-cab variants alongside a new a single-cab body style.

Amarok’s eight-speed auto is only available with a new 132kW/420Nm TDI420 engine that punches out an extra 12kW and 20Nm over the TDI400 unit (the top manual engine choice), and includes an upgrade from selectable 4x4 to full-time 4x4 with Torsen centre differential previously exclusive to flagship Ultimate specification.

For this reason, entry to an automatic Amarok costs $3000 more than the nearest 4x4 manual equivalent, at $44,490 plus on-road costs for the base cab-chassis variant, potentially limiting the sales volume impact of adding an auto.

On the other hand, as part of a pricing reshuffle, VW has cut $2000 from the price of the manual 4x4 Trendline and Highline dual-cabs, meaning the new automatic variant is just $1000 more expensive than previously charged for the manual.

Ultimate pricing remains the same, meaning a top-spec automatic Amarok costs $61,490 before options.

The price of 4x2 dual-cab-chassis variants is up $500, but the same amount has been lopped off the least-expensive 4x4 dual-cab-chassis variant, which has also received an engine upgrade from a 90kW/340Nm single-turbo TDI340 unit to the twin-turbo TDI400.

VW has also made Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control and a multi-function leather steering wheel standard on all 4x4 Amaroks, while adding a stainless-steel sports bar and side steps as standard on the Highline dual-cab.

Single-cab Amaroks are limited to the six-speed manual and a single workhorse specification, sharing the manual dual-cab’s engine choices (one petrol and two diesel) and priced from $24,490 for the 118kW/300Nm TSI300 petrol 4x2 cab-chassis.

Entry-level petrol utes such as the Toyota HiLux ($18,990), Ford Ranger ($19,740) and Mitsubishi Triton ($20,990) undercut the diesel Amarok but VW’s frugal and torquey turbo-petrol takes it up to pricier base variants of the recently launched Holden Colorado (from $26,990) and Mazda BT-50 (from $25,490).

The introduction of automatic and single-cab models continues the drip-feed of variants following the debut of a petrol powertrain in January and will bring the Argentine-built Amarok – which has achieved healthy monthly sales for a newcomer of around 430 units so far this year – further into Australia’s busy one-tonne market.

VW claims the eight-speed automatic’s short first gear precludes a low-range transfer case for off-roading and towing (the automatic maintains the Amarok’s range-wide 3000kg braked towing capacity) while providing a tall top ratio for relaxed, refined and – at 8.3 litres per 100 kilometres – economical cruising.

Meanwhile, the single-cab’s 2205mm tray length (650mm longer than the dual-cab) provides six lashing points and 3.57 square metres of load space, up from the dual-cab’s class-leading 2.52 square metres and enough for two euro-sized pallets to be loaded with 600mm of room to spare.

The single-cab Amarok’s tray is shorter than that of the Ford Ranger (2317mm) and Mitsubishi Triton (2220mm), but made up for by a 1222mm load width, shared with the dual-cab, which is 83mm wider than the Ranger’s.

Unlike the Holden Colorado, Ford Ranger, Mazda BT-50 and Isuzu D-Max, not all Amaroks have a maximum payload capacity exceeding one tonne, and payload is further reduced by 220kg by selecting the no-cost “comfort” suspension option (which comes standard with full-time 4x4 variants, including automatics).

That said, single-cab Amaroks have a payload capacity of more than 1100kg, while the flagship 4x4 Ultimate TDI420 with automatic transmission is not far off the tonne at 946kg – and, unlike several rivals, all Amarok variants can now tow 3000kg (up from 2800kg) when equipped with the factory-fit towing package that includes upgraded engine cooling.

To tow more would require the largest-engined variants of the Ranger, BT-50 (each capable of 3350kg) or Colorado (3500kg).

Omitting Bluetooth connectivity and cruise control on entry-level 4x2 variants – likely to be fleet purchases and used as mobile workplaces – is a shortcoming as the Ranger, Colorado, BT-50, Navara and Triton all feature the technology as standard across the range.

The Amarok was the first ute to receive a five-star ANCAP safety rating, which will also apply to the new single-cab with its standard side airbags.

Electronic stability control, brake assist, electronic differential lock, trailer sway control, traction control and ABS brakes calibrated for off-road use are also standard on all variants.

Base Amaroks ride on 16-inch steel wheels, have remote central locking, load area lighting and an unpainted textured black plastic finish for the bumpers, doorhandles and exterior mirrors (which are heated, electrically adjustable and incorporate the radio antennae).

Interior features include automatic air-conditioning, a two-speaker MP3-compatible CD sound system, electric windows, plastic-coated hose-down floor coverings, height-adjustable driver and passenger seats, centre armrest with storage bin and a folding rear bench on dual-cabs.

As previously mentioned, 4x4 variants add Bluetooth, cruise and a multi-function steering wheel in addition to the underbody protection and mechanical rear differential lock (a $790 option on 4x2 variants).

All Trendline variants have selectable 4x4 and get a lockable tailgate, exterior 12-volt power outlet, black rear bumper with built-in step, body-coloured doorhandles, exterior mirrors and front bumper, front fog lights and 16-inch alloy wheels.

Inside is an upgraded four-speaker sound system, under-seat storage, a trip computer, rear courtesy lights, map-reading lights, carpet floor coverings, upgraded upholstery fabric, leather gear knob and handbrake trim, and two 12-volt power outlets.

Highline models get wheelarch flares to go with the 17-inch alloys, a stainless-steel sports bar, side steps, chrome rear bumper, rear privacy glass and chrome highlights on the front bumper and exterior mirrors.

Along with upgraded cloth upholstery, chrome is added to the air-vent surrounds, steering wheel and gear shifter, while the gadget count is upped to include dual-zone climate-control, an upgraded six-speaker audio system with touchscreen, and rear parking sensors.

Top-shelf Ultimate variants are available with either selectable or permanent 4x4 (automatics are permanent 4x4 only) and come with leather upholstery, heated front seats, 19-inch alloy wheels and a silver underbody protector detail on the front bumper.

All of the Amarok’s engines are comparatively small 2.0-litre four-cylinder units.

Holden’s just-launched Colorado – with a 2.8-litre engine producing 12kW and 40Nm more than the Amarok's TDI400 – runs the Amarok close for fuel-efficiency, consuming just 7.8L/100km on the combined cycle (0.1L/100km more than the Amarok) in equivalent 4x2 manual dual-cab guise.

But the Holden comes unstuck as an automatic, the 4x4 cab-chassis model – which as an auto gains a further 30Nm over the manual – consuming a whole litre more per 100 kilometres than the Amarok at 9.3L/100km.

Only the dual-cab SsangYong Actyon Sports 4x2 (7.3L/100km) can beat the Amarok TDI340.

The petrol-powered Amarok TSI300 is understandably thirstier, consuming 9.5L/100km as a single-cab and 9.6L/100km as a dual-cab.

2012 Volkswagen Amarok pricing (plus on-roads):
TSI300 4x2 cab-chassis$24,490
TSI300 4x2 ute$25,990
TDI340 4x2 cab-chassis$27,490
TDI340 4x2 ute$28,990
TDI400 4x4 cab-chassis$35,490
TDI400 4x4 ute$36,990
TDI340 4x2 cab-chassis$30,490
TSI300 4x2 cab-chassis$31,090
TDI340 4x2 ute$31,990
TDI400 4x2 cab-chassis$32,490
TSI300 4x2 ute$32,590
TDI400 4x2 ute$33,990
TDI400 4x4 cab-chassis$41,490
TDI400 4x4 ute$42,990
TDI420 4x4 cab-chassis (a)$44,490
Trendline TDI400 4x4 cab-chassis$44,490
TDI420 4x4 ute (a)$45,990
Trendline TDI400 4x4 ute$45,990
Trendline TDI420 4x4 cab-chassis (a)$47,490
Trendline TDI420 4x4 ute (a)$48,990
Highline TDI400 4x4 ute$50,990
Highline TDI420 4x4 ute (a)$53,990
Ultimate TDI400 4x4 ute$58,990
Ultimate TDI420 4x4 ute (a)$61,490

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