Long-term test (Introduction): VW Amarok DC 3,0 V6 TDI 4Motion Extreme AT
Extreme… This latest addition to our fleet certainly lives up to the badge boldly chosen by its maker. A certain Mercedes-Benz may have just challenged some of its tenets but, at its launch here midway through 2017, VW’s V6-engined Amarok was certainly the most extreme production double cab this market had ever seen. And particularly so with this derivative; from its price to its spec and performance, the V6 Extreme is the reigning king of the hill by some margin.

This Amarok’s big calling card is, of course, that V6 turbodiesel engine mated with an eight-speed automatic transmission. A version of the powerplant found in the Touareg, Audi A8 and Q7, in this guise the V6 dishes out a meaty 165 kW and 550 N.m of twist. There’s also an overboost function that metes out a further 15 kW and 30 N.m under hard acceleration.

Tested in July 2017, that Highline- spec V6 Amarok astounded us with a 0-100 km/h sprint time of just 7,82 seconds – comfortably under its claimed 8,0 – and, in the few weeks I’ve been driving the vehicle, a couple of hot hatches and even a Mercedes-AMG will attest to the way this bakkie leaps off the line. It doesn’t stop there, either. In-gear punch makes the most of that torque figure; it takes 6,03 seconds to get from 80 to 120 km/h.

At R87 000 more than the Highline, this Extreme derivative sits at the top of the Amarok range and, for R784 400, you get several extras, including the fancier Discovery Media infotainment system with App Connect and sat-nav, Park Pilot assist with reverse camera, climate and cruise control. Along with this, the Extreme comes with 20-inch tyres on Talca alloys, side steps, a hardwearing load-bay surface covering, as well as ErgoComfort 12-way electrically adjustable and heated front seats covered in Nappa leather, a leather-trimmed multifunction three-spoke steering wheel with paddles, and stainless-steel pedals.

Our long-termer arrived fitted with a couple of optional extras, too. The Ravenna Blue paint and sports bar in body colour added a further R12 000 to the list price.

Alongside the Benz X250d Power, this Amarok is as luxurious as it gets when it comes to double cabs and, having driven a series of SUV long-termers over the years, I’m keen to see how a bakkie will suit my active/family-oriented lifestyle.

One thing I’ve already realised I need to have fitted, however, is a lockable load-bay cover, both for security and in the optimistic hope that we get some rain in the coming Cape winter months.

After 1 month
Current Mileage: 3 356 km
Average fuel consumption: 10,01 L/100 km
We like: powerful drivetrain; impressive spec
We don’t like: price

 

Long-term test (Update 1): VW Amarok DC 3,0 V6 TDI 4Motion Extreme AT
This is not a bakkie. What you’re really looking at is a stealth bomber. I know that’s hard to believe given the attention-grabbing metallic paint job, 20-inch alloys and that flashy colour-coded sports bar, but trust me – and a number of hot hatch-owning robot racers – it most certainly is.

Over the last month, I’ve indulged in guilty pleasures at Cape Town’s traffic lights when fortuitously finding myself at the front of the queue alongside a low-seated youngster peering over the dashboard of his dropped-suspension hatch. The rear-view mirror-framed look on their wide-eyed and fast-receding faces never failed to illicit a hearty chuckle as I could see the words “what the…?!” beginning to form.

Old ballies 1; youngsters 0. That’s what 180 kW and 580 N.m on overboost, all wheel drive and the element of surprise will do. Of course, as fun as it is, this isn’t what the Amarok was really designed for and I have also been allowing it some more traditional bakkie pursuits.

One of these was a family trip to the Cederberg. With the load bay jam-packed with assorted camping kit, bicycles on the Thule towbar-mounted rack and family ensconced in the Amarok’s Nappa-leathered interior, we set off up the N7 to Piketberg before hooking a right towards the mountains and up Dasklip Pass. Plenty of gravel roads and a rocky descent into Beaverlac campsite also meant the first real test of the bakkie’s fully laden performance off-road and, as class-leading as its ride quality is on tar, it’s equally impressive across corrugated gravel.

I can already tell the Amarok’s ability to ferry us and our inventory of equipment in comfort is going to turn camping newbies into experienced adventurers.

 

After 3 months
Current Mileage: 2 269 km
Average fuel consumption: 10,20 L/100 km
We like: embarrassing hot hatches
We don’t like: tough to manoeuvre in tight spaces

 

Long-term test (Update 2): VW Amarok DC 3,0 V6 TDI 4Motion Extreme AT
There’s nothing like spotting a yellow low-oil warning light to trigger an involuntary lift of your right foot. Until now, this powerful double cab has been faultless, but the appearance of the little illuminated can of oil in the instrumentation required an immediate stop to check.

An unsheathing of the dipstick revealed levels on the low side and an extra pint at the nearest service station returned the black line to its accustomed position further up the long, thin sliver of metal.

Still, I needed to make sure all was in order and immediately booked in the Amarok with Volkswagen’s Barons Cape Town dealership.

They were able to accommodate me within two days and I dealt with friendly service manager Avril Sacco (this, of course, was done without me mentioning a connection with CAR magazine). I dropped off the vehicle at 08h00 and, throughout the day, Avril sent me updates on the progress and finally that I could collect the vehicle at 15h00.

It turned out my blue double cab’s oil consumption was nothing abnormal, with Avril highlighting a paragraph in the owner’s manual that declares, “Depending on how you drive and the conditions in which the car is used, oil consumption can be up to 1,0 L/2 000 km – and is likely to be higher for the first 5 000 km for new vehicles.”

I wouldn’t say I’ve been driving the vehicle particularly harshly – although I’ve been guilty of using the full 180 kW on overboost to dispatch the odd hot hatch – but at least I know all is well under the hood and there’s no chance of the big 3,0-litre V6 eating its internals. Barons also replaced a clip on the powersteering hose, which was part of a routine upgrade done on its first service. All in all, a very positive service experience.

 

After 5 months
Current Mileage: 5 428 km
Average fuel consumption: 10,48 L/100 km
We like: styling reflects its athletic abilities
We don’t like: said athletic abilities drink oil

 

Long-term test (Update 3): VW Amarok DC 3,0 V6 TDI 4Motion Extreme AT
From this month, the Amarok is under my (Wilhelm Lutjeharms) wing until it departs in five months. And I couldn’t be more pleased. After a recent 1 700 km, 36-hour trip to Colesberg and back, I’ve been itching to get behind the wheel again. I had just the excursion planned: a visit to the Helderberg 4x4 off-road course outside Somerset West.

There, the Amarok performed brilliantly and the combination of a smooth eight-speed transmission and an abundance of power and torque resulted in the big bakkie easily scaling a mountain. The rear diff-lock was often used and made a significant difference over slippery, rocky terrain.

 

After 7 months
Current Mileage: 8 090 km
Average fuel consumption: 11,78 L/100 km

 

Long-term test (Update 4): VW Amarok DC 3,0 V6 TDI 4Motion Extreme AT
I remain truly impressed with the big Amarok’s comfort levels and the powerful V6’s frugal habits at a steady cruise. A recent highlight was achieving an indicated figure of 6,5 L/100 km during an unhindered evening run from Stellenbosch to our offices 50 km away. As my commute is longer and more highway-bound than the urban route of previous keeper, ex-CAR editor Steve Smith, the consumption figure should keep improving. As it stands, 11,68 L/100 km seems too heavy for a diesel-powered vehicle.

Photographer Peet Mocke recently donated his airvent-mounted smartphone holder to me and I use it to attach my phone to the right of the infotainment screen, where I have safe access to functions such as Google Maps (which I find preferable to built-in vehicle systems) or skipping music tracks instead of using the Amarok’s more complex system.

The only downside to using a big bakkie daily is threading it through tight multi-storey car parks or down the narrow roads of Cape Town and Stellenbosch (unlike some smaller bakkies such as the Mitsubishi Triton, the Amarok is long and wide).

I always aim to park the VW at the far end of a parking garage where there are no other cars that could ding its doors. If no bays are available, it’s usually a tight squeeze to get in and out of the driver’s seat, plus the Amarok overhangs most parking spots.

Once on the open road, though, such issues fade as I revel in the response and performance from that lusty engine. I’ll have to resist overusing the throttle, though, if I have any hopes of getting the consumption near 10,0 L/100 km…

 

After 8 months
Current Mileage: 9 116 km
Average fuel consumption: 11,68 L/100 km
We like: open-road abilities; engine
We don’t like: size can make daily chores a challenge

 

Long-term test (Update 5): VW Amarok DC 3,0 V6 TDI 4Motion Extreme AT
The Golf 7 GTI pulled up next to me at the traffic lights. The youngsters inside had clearly recognised the V6 badge on the Amarok and I knew what they had planned for when the lights turned green.
Despite being much heavier than the GTI, thanks to its grippy 4Motion system, the Amarok leapt off the line to pull ahead of the GTI, albeit only briefly. Lesson taught.
Simultaneously, I’ve achieved the best tank-to-tank average yet of only 9,63 L/100 km, an impressive figure if you take the brawny, burly package into account. Passing 14 000 km, the Amarok has also been checked in at Barons VW in Cape Town for its first service.

 

After 9 months
Current Mileage: 11 329 km
Average fuel consumption: 11,28 L/100 m

 

Long-term test (Update 6): VW Amarok DC 3,0 V6 TDI 4Motion Extreme AT
When the Amarok’s odo recently passed the 15 000 km mark (the bakkie arrived with 3 000 km on the clock), it was booked in at Barons Cape Town for its first tune-up. I dropped it off at the service centre the day before so that the work could be carried out early the next morning.

The experience was good (the consultant kept me updated on the progress of the service) and the only additional maintenance required was the fitment of a new fuse for the electric adjustment on the driver’s seat. The bakkie was delivered clean inside and out, ready for its next adventure.

After 10 months
Current Mileage: 12 681 km
Average fuel consumption: 11,14 L/100 km

 

Long-term test (Update 7): VW Amarok DC 3,0 V6 TDI 4Motion Extreme AT

It’s often evident there’s a clear hierarchy on our roads and that it’s largely linked to vehicle size. The December holidays again led me to appreciate the sheer scale of the Amarok. Had I been driving, for example, a small hatchback, I’m sure some fellow road users and taxis would have executed daring and rather dangerous moves in my vicinity but
I noticed that, in the Amarok (or potentially any other bakkie or large car), all I needed to do was hold my line to deter others from executing cheeky manoeuvres. A vehicle such as the Amarok certainly imbues a sense of safety but it’s a pity not all road users feel quite so secure.

Over the holidays, the Amarok proved the perfect companion for various tasks I needed to perform round the house. Having a handy load bay means not having to worry about soiling the interior of a passenger car when loading gar- den rubble, for example. On this Amarok, however, ultimate practicality is hamstrung slightly: the lockable bay cover opens only to a point. That said, it is handy being able to leave things in the load bay without a fear of items getting nicked.

Throughout its tenure, the Amarok’s comfort and the performance on offer have been hugely impressive and I rarely wish I’m behind the wheel of something smaller and more manageable.

It was flawlessly reliable, too, until a few days before its first service, when one of the fuses linked to the electronic motors for the driver’s seat blew. This was duly fixed during the service and the seat operation returned to normal. However, it appears the new fuse has blown, too, as the driver’s seat will no longer slide on its runners.

Thankfully, because I’m generally the only person driving the Amarok, it hasn’t proved an annoyance. I’ll have it seen to by the local Volkswagen dealership and report back.

After 11 months
Current Mileage: 16 568 km
Average fuel consumption: 11,15 L/100 km
We like: comfortable, supportive front seats...
We don’t like: ...when the driver's chair can be adjusted