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Volkswagen Amarok, Competent Pickup Truck

“The Volkswagen Amarok is a highly competent pickup truck that can double up as a reasonably plush five-seater family car.” Pickup trucks have got posh in recent years, and the
19 Aug 2017 13:48
Volkswagen Amarok,  Competent Pickup Truck

“The Volkswagen Amarok is a highly competent pickup truck that can double up as a reasonably plush five-seater family car.”

Pickup trucks have got posh in recent years, and the Volkswagen Amarok is a good example of this trend. It comes with four-wheel drive and can carry over as tonne in its loadbed but, in contrast to these functional qualities, it can also be ordered with luxuries like heated leather seats and sat nav. Like the Toyota Hilux, the Mitsubishi L200 and the Nissan Navara, part of the Amarok’s appeal is that those who need it for work need not necessarily buy a second car for family life.

Volkswagen currently offers the Amarok with two 2.0-litre diesel engines, which have 138 and 178bhp – though a new 221bhp 3.0-litre diesel will become the only engine option by the end of the year, with less powerful (161 and 201bhp) 3.0-litre engines released in 2017.

Whichever engine it comes with, the Amarok returns around 36mpg and emits 199-211g/km of CO2, though the flat-rate nature of commercial vehicles’ road tax means the differences in emissions don’t have the same effect on your tax bill as they would if the Amarok was a conventional passenger car.

The two 2.0-litre diesels currently on offer perform adequately, with 0-62mph taking between 11 and 13.5 seconds. The new 3.0-litre engine improves the Amarok’s acceleration figures significantly though, as it powers the Amarok from 0-62mph in just 7.9 seconds. The 2.0-litre diesels can pull between 3,000 and 3,200kg and take just over a tonne in their loadbed, which can also accommodate a forklift pallet. The new 3.0-litre diesel engine will see tow limits rise slightly to up to 3,500kg, while the loadbed capacity will increase by 100kg or so.

The forthcoming facelift will also improve the Amarok’s interior significantly, bringing it more in line with Volkswagen’s passenger cars. In fairness, though, the Amarok has always been pretty impressive inside for a pickup. True, it’s pretty noisy, but build quality is high and the feel is similar to a conventional car’s. Rear passenger space is also pretty reasonable, while standard ISOFIX child seat mounts further strengthen the Amarok’s family credentials.

On the road, because the tough suspension has to be able to cope with heavy loads, an Amarok with an empty load bay tends to jiggle around at the back. The steering is also a little lacking in feedback and there’s a fair bit of body lean when cornering, but once you’ve got used to its size, it’s easy enough to drive and the brakes feel very strong and dependable. The Amarok isn’t as comfortable or as sophisticated as a conventional SUV like the Hyundai Santa Fe, but the compromises aren’t so significant as to preclude it being a decent family car.

The 2.0-litre diesel Amarok currently comes with four-wheel drive as standard, but the facelifted 3.0-litre version will allow you to specify rear-wheel drive if you wish. While trims are yet to be finalised for the new Amarok, they’re likely to follow the current specifications – though a touchscreen infotainment system will come as standard when the facelift goes on sale.

At present, the entry-level Startline Amarok comes with air-conditioning, all-round electric windows, ISOFIX child seat anchors and 16-inch alloy wheels; the Trendline spec (which we recommend) features a trip computer, cruise control and upgraded trim details inside and out, while the range-topping Highline model comes with leather seats, 18-inch alloy wheels and an even more luxurious interior.

The Amarok is too niche a vehicle to have featured in our 2016 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, but it feels as solid as it looks. A four (out of five) star safety rating from Euro NCAP may seem slightly off the pace, but the Nissan Navara and Mitsubishi L200 achieved the same result.

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