What is it?

The Volkswagen Amarok is VW's first pick-up and a direct competitor for the ubuquitous Toyota Hilux. Built on a platform at the Pacheco factory in Buenos Aires, it's destined for sale across South America, Austalia and New Zealand, as well as Europe.

The Amarok gets a classy, aggressive interpretation of the VW grille, a six-speed gearbox, low-range transfer box, permanent four-wheel drive, locking centre and rear differentials, the latest direct-injection, twin-turbo 2.0-litre diesel unit, tuned for 161bhp and 295lb ft, and traction/stability control.

What's it like?

The interior moves the class to the next level. Despite the low spec levels compared to VW's road cars, the build quality is exceptionally good, with tough but well-textured surfaces and an excellent driving position. Car drivers would notice the unusual height of the seats and driving position, but otherwise everything falls under the fingers in exactly the way that it would in, say, a Golf.

The test car, which was fitted to the top spec level, called Highline for the South American market, didn't have sat-nav, but it will be available on UK vehicles.

On the move, the Amarok combines excellent off-road abilities with solid, predictable car-like handling. The combination of a solid, leaf-spring rear axle, mechanical locks on the centre and rear diffs and traction control means that most extreme off-road situations require little more than pressing the accelerator and adjusting the wheel so that it goes in the correct direction.

Where VW's achievement is much more impressive is the on-road refinement. The Amarok does not ride over broken surfaces with the sophistication of the Freelander, but the ride is exceptionally good for a vehicle with a payload of 1150kg. The steering is well weighted, though devoid of much feel, but provides enough feedback on what's going on beneath the tyres to allow fluent, quick progress on the paved Patagonian highways and dirt tracks that made up the 170 mile test route.

Enthusiastic drivers will find that the stability control intervenes earlier than you'd expect in high-speed corners, but the Amarok is naturally stable with it switched off, exhibiting nothing more than a mild, controllable yaw in all but the most provocative manoeuvres.

The diesel engine, which at 2.0 litres is the smallest in its class, has plenty of torque across the rev range, with 295lb ft available from 1500rpm. Overtaking is not brisk and requires planning, but probably matches the performance of a 1.6-litre diesel family hatch.

The only noticeable problem of the downsized unit, compared with the larger unit in the 3.0-litre unit in a Hilux, is the slight lack of low-end torque as the turbo spins up. The lag is minimal – one turbo is tuned for low-end response and another for top-end power – but it can occasionally catch you out in low-grip situations.

The most positive consequence of the downsizing is, of course, the fuel consumption. VW quotes 36.2mpg, which equates to 206g/km of Co2.

Should I buy one?

If the proof of the pudding is in the eating, then the proof of a pick-up is in driving it for 100,000 miles over bumpy roads. That's obviously not possible within the confines of a one-day test, but given VW's reputation for build quality and reliability it's safe to say that Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi should be concerned.

Join the debate

Comments
50

Re: Volkswagen Amarok 2.0 TDI

4 years 23 weeks ago

'Amarach' (Ah-maw-rok) is the Irish word for 'tomorrow'. Is this Amarok ('Am-ah-rok' ?) the future?

Em... no.

The styling works though.

Re: Volkswagen Amarok 2.0 TDI

4 years 23 weeks ago

This does not look bad for a first attempt at the big league pick up market, certainly puts the Caddy to shame.

Re: Volkswagen Amarok 2.0 TDI

4 years 23 weeks ago

it's Inuit for 'Wolf'.

I take it the test model driven was the single turbo model? the other (quoted) engine option being a twin turbo that chucks out more power than any of the standard Japanese models with larger engines? (the hi-lux 3.0 TDI has around 20% less torque for example)

Re: Volkswagen Amarok 2.0 TDI

4 years 23 weeks ago

Autocar wrote:
The Volkswagen Amarok is VW's first pick-up
You're quite sure about that are you?

Re: Volkswagen Amarok 2.0 TDI

4 years 23 weeks ago

does the Caddy count then?

:-)

Re: Volkswagen Amarok 2.0 TDI

4 years 23 weeks ago

This same engine is also now available in the Transporter van, but with 180 bhp. Why tune it down when you're hauling nearly two tonnes before payload?


Re: Volkswagen Amarok 2.0 TDI

4 years 23 weeks ago

noluddite wrote:
Autocar wrote:
The Volkswagen Amarok is VW's first pick-up
You're quite sure about that are you?

Wasn't their last pickup just a Hilux (or whatever it was) with a VW badge stuck on the front? I presume they mean first in house pickup.

Re: Volkswagen Amarok 2.0 TDI

4 years 23 weeks ago

bomb wrote:
This same engine is also now available in the Transporter van, but with 180 bhp. Why tune it down when you're hauling nearly two tonnes before payload?
To extend engine life. Most commercial engines have a poor torque/power output when compared to one of an equivalent size in a passenger vehicle, but they're expected to be put under more stress over more miles and are detuned to protect components.

Re: Volkswagen Amarok 2.0 TDI

4 years 23 weeks ago

Im amazed, given VWs reputation for sturdiness & reliability, that it has taken them this long to develop a competitor to the Hilux. This looks really good, tough without being "overstyled". The market for these types of vehicle is absolutely huge in other parts of the world- the middle east, africa, south america etc, so if this can build up a reputation as good as the indestructible Hilux then it could easily be VWs biggest seller worldwide. I like it.

Re: Volkswagen Amarok 2.0 TDI

4 years 23 weeks ago

Not another boring, capable VW product. When will it end? We want exciting vehicles like the Ford Focus RS whose brakes stop working above 1,200 ft (or when it gets cold - ha ha, that 's now impossible with AGW!) Now that's excitement! Imagine going up a hill only to discover you have no brakes on the descent. Ace!

This VW should have been called the VW Runamok, cos that's what it's going to do amongst those lame Jap Crap 'lifestyle' pickups, lay waste to them.

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Our Verdict

Can this double cab pick-up compete with established competitors in its class?

Driven this week