CAPE TOWN, Western Cape – It’s hard to believe that 10 years have elapsed since the Amarok set foot in a decidedly hostile South African one-tonne pickup market. Some mild updates, including a few limited-edition models and a 165 kW V6 TDI later, and the current Amarok now nears the end of its impressive run with the most powerful double cab on our market. The long-serving 3,0-litre V6 TDI engine has been given a shot in the arm that bumps the outputs up to a lusty 190 kW and 580 N.m; the former even creeping up to 200 kW when the 10-second overboost comes into play.
As V6 diesels go, the Amarok’s uprated unit is deceivingly demure. The changes in outputs haven’t wrong-footed the wonderfully smooth 8-speed automatic transmission. In fact, the gearing feels taller than anticipated; the spine-pinning wallop of torque you’d expect when planting the throttle is more of a measured press and initially you’d be forgiven for feeling a little underwhelmed … that is until you notice how rapidly the scenery starts whipping by.
Having performance tested the latest Amarok in our March 2021 issue, we saw it breasting the 100 km/h mark from standstill in 7,94 seconds. The engine’s upper-end was mightily impressive, too; the 80-120 km/h in-gear run that took the 165 kW model some 6,03 seconds has been pared down to just 5,24 seconds. Our 10-stop braking test also saw the Amarok serve up a car-like 3,01-second average stopping time from 100 km/h. Similarly impressive is the Amarok’s ability to wrap all of this performance into a package that still managed to deliver 10,20 L/100 km on our mixed-use fuel economy run.
Upon their arrival on our market in 2011, both the Amarok and Ranger managed to usher the term “car-like” into the double-cab handling vernacular. And in this regard the Volkswagen continues to impress. Perhaps it’s an upshot of that additional torque, or better footwear, but the heavy, low-speed steering feel that irked some of the testers in the 165 KW doesn’t seem to afflict the 190 kW quite as badly. The ride is firm but not unforgiving, body control taut under brisk directional changes and the prodigious grip served up by the permanent AWD system means only the most overt acts of provocation will see the Amarok break its line on loose surfaces.
The Amarok has aged gracefully; its blend of rugged frame and upmarket detailing has a timeless appeal. The same cannot be said of the cabin trimmings, though. While the Amarok’s interior has traditionally met with positive press, those hard trim plastics feel somewhat low-rent when compared with the soft-touch elements in both the latest Ranger and Hilux cabins. It’s a similar story regarding the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto-enabled infotainment system. While it now incorporates a reversing camera, the unit’s 6,3-inch screen is no larger than that of most smartphones, making it fiddly to operate on the move.
In its Highline guise the Amarok is reasonably well equipped, with the likes of heated leather seats, front and rear parking sensors, air-conditioning (not climate control, mind), Bi-Xenon headlamps, 18-inch alloys and an ownership package incorporating a three-year/100 000 km warranty and five-year/90 000 km service plan among the standard items. But at R921 900 it is stratospherically priced. As you would expect from South Africa’s most powerful double-cab bakkie.
Author: Ray Leathern