WOLFSBURG, Germany – The local bakkie crowd hasn’t exactly made it easy for Wolfsburg’s leisure pickup, has it? When the Amarok was unveiled eight years ago with a 2,0-litre turbodiesel under the bonnet, they cried foul. Where was the 3,0-litre oil-burner to match the engines of its rivals?
Sales have been disappointing – VW’s people admitted as much when we visited the company’s headquarters in Wolfsburg to sample its newest product. In South Africa, especially, double-cab versions of the Hilux and Ranger have outsold the Amarok.
And I find that perplexing. The Volkswagen is the most comfortable on-road vehicle of the lot, especially when hooked up to the eight-speed torque-converter auto, and that’s ultimately where leisure bakkies are used most. Concerns about the reliability of the 2,0 BiTDI engine have proven largely unfounded, too. We’ve heard of isolated issues, but we’ve also been informed of Rangers, Hiluxes and KBs experiencing the odd hiccup.
Whatever the reason why local buyers take a sho’t left at a VW dealer to head to a Toyota or Ford one, the new V6 engine greatly adds to the Amarok’s appeal. Take price out of the equation – we’ll get to that – and the VW is the best option for family users, bar none. (For more info on the revised range, which will debut in June, click here.)
The new engine
Poached from the Porsche Macan, a variety of Audis and VW’s own Touareg, the 3,0-litre V6 has been detuned for reliability to deliver 165 kW and 550 N.m from 1 250 to 3 250 r/min. Thanks to an overboost function, those figures jump to 180 kW and 580 N.m, perfect for swift overtaking with a caravan in tow.
And swift your overtaking will be. Hitting 100 km/h in a claimed 7,9 seconds, the Amarok V6 feels unlike any other turbodiesel bakkie I’ve driven. Firstly, refinement is top-notch, the powerplant emitting an appealing V6 growl under determined acceleration; secondly, it’s powerful; on an unrestricted section of autobahn, the speedo needled swiftly swung from 120 km/h to 200 km/h, the bakkie all the while feeling stable despite a gusting crosswind. This feels like a German SUV engine installed in the humble body of a bakkie… which, of course, is exactly what it is.
The new design
Coinciding with the introduction of the V6 derivatives is a facelift of the Amarok range. Exterior changes are subtle to the extreme, but inside eagle-eyed car fans will spot a redesigned facia eschewing round air vents in favour of squared-off ones, elegant silver trim, a steering wheel that’s been borrowed from the Golf, an impressive full-colour screen between the instruments of the flagship Extreme variant and an infotainment system with VW’s newest connectivity options. Fourteen-way electrically adjustable seats also debut, as does digital voice enhancement, which amplifies voices from the rear seats to the driver’s position, perfect for when you have little ones seated in the back, and a rear-view camera neatly installed above the number plate.
South Africa will get two versions, the Highline we drove on the international launch, as well as an Extreme model (replacing the Ultimate) with everything pretty much chucked in as standard, including xenon lights and navigation. Alongside those models will sit the 2,0 TDI 103 kW Trendline manual and the 2,0 BiTDI 132 kW Highline in manual and auto, bringing the number of derivatives to five.
The new prices
But the ones to truly get excited about are the two V6s. If you can afford them – roughly R705 000 for the Highline 4Motion AT; an estimated R790 000 for the Extreme 4Motion AT – you’ll be pleased to know there isn’t a local leisure double cab that’s as sophisticated, nor as powerful. The ball’s in your court, Mercedes-Benz…
Price:R705 000 est
Engine:3,0-litre, V6, turbodiesel
0-100 km/h:7,9 seconds
Fuel Consumption:7,8 L/100 km
Maintenance Plan:5 years/90 000 km