PORT ELIZABETH, Eastern Cape – “Bakkie” is a term fully owned by South Africa. Yet, when applied to a V6-powered Volkswagen Amarok, it doesn’t seem to fit. Indeed, “pick-up” works better, but feels, well, a little too American.

Whatever constitutes the most appropriate label, the Canyon is the latest special-edition version of the Amarok, the Dark Label having been previously released.

While we wait for the now-confirmed collaboration between Ford and VW on the next generations of the Ranger and Amarok, due in a couple of years, we remain impressed with this car-like, sporty workhorse. Could that be the best moniker? Sports workhorse?

Anyway, the Canyon introduces a new colour scheme called “honey orange” … which I would describe as a deep bronze. One of my favourite shades, this is complemented by model-specific exterior trim, hefty wheel arches and a roll-over bar (mounted to strange U-shaped brackets to raise it slightly) all finished in black. Black-and-silver wheels are also part of the package, as are decals.

Inside, the black upholstery echoes the exterior trim and also gains orange stitching (a treatment repeated on the steering wheel). While the interior may lag behind those of more modern vehicles by not offering the latest trends – such as large screens and digital instrumentation – everything you need is there.

There’s permanent four-wheel drive, an off-road button which alters the traction mode in one push and, of course, all the power and poise that makes this 3,0-litre V6 turbodiesel version the most impressive and sought-after of its type. For the record, there's 165 kW (or 180 kW on overboost), bags of it low-down pulling power (550 N.m from as low as 1 400 r/min) and, should you need to stretch out journeys between fill-ups, surprisingly impressive fuel consumption if you take it easy with the right boot and enjoy SA’s amazing scenery.

The ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission is one of the best and I do hope the engineers working on the next Amarok resist the urge to keep adding more and more ratios until you have the virtual equivalent of a continuously variable transmission.

The ride quality is firm over poor-quality roads common in the Eastern Cape but is needed to allow for the loading of a tonne of goods in the loadbay. On decent gravel and tar sections, the firmness provides a near-perfect setup that in turn delivers safe handling when you decide to make use of the impeccable powertrain.

There was one feature missing from the Canyon that I would have appreciated: paddle shifters. With this amount of power and the sporty characteristics of the V6 and the ZF gearbox, it’s plenty of fun to flick through the gears, choosing shift points both up and down.

At R799 000, the Amarok Canyon is certainly pricey but it’s also capable of ticking a variety of boxes, from workhorse to luxury SUV. And even (almost) sportscar...



FAST FACTS

Model: Volkswagen Amarok 3,0 V6 TDI Canyon 4Motion 
Price: R799 000
Engine: 3,0-litre V6, turbodiesel
Power:  165 kW from 3 000 to 4 500 r/min
Torque: 550 N.m from 1 400 to 1 750 r/min
0-100 km/h: 8,0 seconds
Top Speed:  193 km/h
Fuel Consumption: 9,0 L/100 km (claimed)
CO2: 236 g/km
Transmission:  Eight-speed automatic
Maintenance Plan: Five-year/90 000 km service plan