0-litre V6 TDI diesel across the range transforms performance and slightly improves efficiency. Plus there are sharper looks and a much smarter cabin, plus one of the most versatile loading bays in the segment. In short, this is a capable, classy contender offering a premium option for pick-up people.
The Volkswagen used to have one of the smallest engines in its class. Now, it has one of the very largest, a 3. 0-litre V6 diesel which is available is three states of tune – 163, 204 or 224PS. In the case of the two pokier variants, that’s significantly more power than you’ll find on other mainstream models in the pick-up segment and as you’d expect, that makes overtaking considerably easier than it would normally be in a vehicle of this type. Especially in the top 224PS version which gets an ‘overboost’ feature that activates when the accelerator pedal goes past 70% of its travel and gives you an extra 18PS to play with. With 550Nm of pulling power, it makes 62mph in just 8. 0s on the way to 119mph. Both the two pokier versions of the V6 manage 36. 2mpg on the combined cycle and around 203g/km of CO2.
As before, two kinds of ‘4MOTION’ 4WD system are being offered. There’s a selectable set-up that works with a manual gearbox on the base 163PS version, while a ‘Permanent’ 4x4 system works with an 8-speed auto gearbox on top 224PS models. Drivers of mid-range 204PS variants get the choice of both transmissions and both 4x4 set-ups. For ‘off piste’ use, all models get an ‘off road’ button that modifies the way the ABS and stability control systems work, holds lower gears and dulls the throttle response. Pressing the button also activates ‘Hill Descent Control’, there to ease you down slippery slopes. On tarmac, refinement and ride quality are a cut above the class standard – as is handling, providing you’ve got a bit of weight in the back. If you haven’t, then, as with all pick-ups, you’ll need to watch your step a little more, particularly if the road is greasy.
A more sophisticated pick-up should offer more sophisticated looks – as this one does. There are certainly rivals that can make more of a streetside statement, but many drivers in this Amarok’s target market will feel that a decent compromise between style and sensibility has been achieved here. The dimensions are exactly the same as they were before, so this Volkswagen remains a substantial thing, 5. 25m long and 2. 23m wide. This time round, it’s only offered in the double cab bodystyle.
Nearly all the key cosmetic improvements can be found at the front, where revised headlamps and more interesting upper and lower grille sections make a big difference to this vehicle’s rear view mirror overtaking presence.
You’ll find that much more of a step forward has been made when you climb up inside. Through the classier three-spoke leather-stitched wheel, you view a re-styled instrument binnacle featuring chrome dial rings on plusher models. Shift your gaze across the dash and you’ll find smarter square air vents replacing the previous round ones, with those at the top of the centre stack surrounding a freshly-added infotainment touchscreen.
Ah yes, the touchscreen. It’s a cabin focal point and providing you avoid entry-level trim, the monitor will be 6. 33-inches in size, with drivers offered a choice of either a standard ‘Composition Media’ set-up or the optional more sophisticated ‘Discover Media’ system.
What else? Well finding the right driving position is fairly straightforward and all-round visibility is good, aided of course by the high-set driving position.
Let’s move into the rear. The seat base is higher off the floor than it is in some rival models which makes things significantly more comfortable. The seat back can be folded forward to reveal an area where the jack and tools are stored – a good place to put small valuable items out of sight. If the rear bench isn’t in use and you need more storage room, there’s also the option to fold up part or all of the seat cushion base and lash it in position, thereby creating floorspace for the transport of bulky items you might not want to leave exposed and insecure in the loading bay.
Time for a few practicalities. Drop down the sturdy lockable tailgate and the headline news is the impressive 2. 52m3 load volume, enough to carry a Euro pallet sideways, something not possible in any other rival pick-up. That might encourage you to carry heavier loads, so it’s important that the total payload capacity comfortably exceeds the one-tonne mark, regardless of whether you opt for Selectable or Permanent 4WD. There’s a rear axle load limit of 1,860kgs, a maximum Gross Vehicle Weight of 3,290kg and a 3. 1-tonne towing capacity.
And in summary? Well, relatively limited global production means that this Volkswagen isn’t going to threaten its Oriental rivals’ market dominance just yet, but in terms of product excellence, it certainly should give them plenty to think about. At last, we Europeans have given the Far East something it can learn from.