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Volkswagen still awaiting safety tech for Amarok

Crafty: Volkswagen will introduce its new-generation Crafter van this year and it will include active and passive safety features.

New Crafter due, updates to Caddy and Multivan, but Amarok misses vital safety tech

3 Mar 2017

VOLKSWAGEN Australia has announced a raft of changes and updates for its commercial line, which includes the Caddy small van, Amarok pick-up and Crafter large van.

However, the popular Amarok range again misses out on key safety updates that sees it falling further behind rivals like the Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux.

The Amarok V6 range also expands to three in October this year, with the addition of a variant called the Canyon.

First introduced as a nameplate in 2015, the V6 version of the Canyon will be positioned below the range-topping Ultimate, and will have more of an off-road focus, with smaller rims and more suitable tyres.

No more details on the Canyon were made available, but it is likely to be priced between the $59,990 Highline and $67,990 Ultimate.

“The Canyon brings another price point and some unique features, such as smaller wheels with a more capable off-road tyre, with the some comforts that a Highline would potentially have, a more durable interior, and price point,” Volkswagen Australia commercial vehicles director Carlos Santos told journalists in Sydney.

Additionally, Volkswagen Australia product marketing manager for Amarok, Nick Reid, indicated that VW would introduce a manual gearbox with a transfer case to the V6 range in 2017.

“We’re going to be introducing the manual with the traditional transfer case in the V6 and we will put that (option) on as many cars as possible,” Mr Reid said. “We’re still a firm believer, though, that the automatic and the way it’s set up suits the vast majority of customers.”

However, the MY17 updates for Amarok included only a post-collision braking system upgrade, with items like autonomous emergency braking (AEB), radar cruise and rear traffic alert still not fitted.

Mr Santos said that the local arm would have “100 per cent demand from the factory” for such equipment. “I know the factory is working on it, and it’s all about timing, but we don’t have anything concrete on it yet,” he said.

He acknowledged that the Amarok’s small presence in the European market hindered VW Australia’s efforts to spec the Amarok with the systems.

“You could frame it that way”, he said. “The most popular markets for Amarok are South America and us – in fact we are the second biggest market after South Africa, and it’s not a big segment in Europe.

“The ability is there to do it definitely, and we are asking for it, and as soon as we can get all of those driver assist systems, we will take them.”

Mr Santos suggested that negotiations are ongoing, but a resolution is unlikely in the short term.

“We are asking in a firm way,” he said. “It’s important, because we are very aware of our competition and where we sit with that. It’s a concern for us. We know in terms of being a driver’s car and a performance aspect, we dominate, so we’d like those extra features, as well.”

In contrast, VW’s new-generation Crafter van will come fully equipped with AEB, radar cruise, side protection and more, but Mr Santos suggested the cases between the Crafter and the Amarok were quite different.

“They had to build a factory to put it in the new Crafter, though. The beauty of being part of such an amazing group is that we have access to all those systems, and we would spec most of our volume with those parts as standard, particularly in Highline and Ultimate (Amarok),” he said.

The new Crafter van will arrive in Australia late in 2017, after debuting in Europe late in 2016.

The large van represents one of the largest plant investments by Volkswagen in recent years, with more than A$1 billion spent on a 400,000 square metre greenfields factory in Wrzesnia, Poland, which opened only two years after the ground was broken.

The previous Crafter was built in partnership with Daimler and shared its mechanicals with the Sprinter, but the new vehicle is entirely built by VW. It will be offered in front-wheel drive for the first time (up to four tonnes gross vehicle mass) and rear-wheel drive (up to five tonnes) while all-wheel drive (up to four tonnes) is also new.

All vans will be equipped with an eight-speed automatic transmission as standard.

Diesel engines will consist of a 75kW/300Nm unit for the FWD, a 90kW/300Nm unit for RWD applications, a 103kW/340Nm unit for both FWD and AWD, and a range-topping 130kW/410Nm diesel available for all three drivetrains.

Features like touchscreen infotainment, ergonomic seats, improved lighting and the fitment of safety tech like AEB, radar cruise, side protection, rear traffic alert parking assistance and trailer park assist will also be available on the range.

“These differences will make a real difference for our customers, so they can basically do their jobs better,” said Volkswagen Australia product marketing manager Regine Zschernig. “Imagine having 18.3 cubic metres of van parking itself.”

The Caddy, meanwhile, will get AEB for the first time, while the T6 Multivan range will feature electric sliding side doors across all variants. The Comfortline also receives an electric tailgate.

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