8

The Volkswagen Amarok is the company's first purpose-built pick-up and is a direct competitor for the Toyota Hilux, Nissan Navara NP300 and Ford Ranger, and provides an additional yardstick for the newcomers to the pick-up segment to measure up to - namely the Fiat Fullback and the impending Mercedes-Benz X-Class.

To keep up with its recently revamped rivals, Volkswagen has given the Amarok a light facelift for 2017. In doing so has removed the 2.0-litre oilburners and is available with a choice of two turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 diesel units, tuned for 201bhp and 368lb ft or 221bhp and 405lb ft.

The Amarok did have the smallest engine in its class, but now its engine is the second largest behind the five-cylinder, 3.2-litre brute found in the Ranger. The model we tested had plenty of torque across the rev range, with 405lb ft available from 1400rpm. This does make the Amarok more muscular something the original 2.0-litre unit could produce. Whereas previously overtaking manoeuvres required plenty of pre-planning, the V6 diesel combats that with a healthy dose of torque available early on and low down.

On the road, the Amarok is demonstrates excellent driving manners, with solid, predictable car-like handling. Where Volkswagen'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 1110kg. 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.

The combination of a solid, leaf-spring rear axle, a low-range gearbox, 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.

Volkswagen's designers have managed to apply the marque's trademark front end to the big pick-up, which is impressive given how different the Amarok in size, shape and purpose from its passenger car cousins. 

The interior moves the class to the next level. Despite the low spec levels compared to Volkwagen'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.

As for standard equipment, the Amarok has three to choose from - Trendline, Highline and the first edition Aventura models. The entry-level model equips the Amarok with electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors, front foglights, manually adjustable front seats, air conditioning, electric windows, and automatic post collision braking system, alongside Volkswagen's Composition infotainment system, complete with 6.3in touchscreen display, DAB radio, smartphone integration and USB connectivity.

Upgrade to Highline and you'll find luxuries such as parking sensors, a reversing camera, bi-xenon headlights, 18in alloy wheels, leather upholstery and heated front seats as standard, while the limited edition Aventura models get an unique metallic blue paint job, 19in alloy wheels and sat nav.

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. Given Volkswagen's reputation for build quality and reliability it's safe to say that Toyota, Nissan, Ford and Mitsubishi should be concerned, as should be the future incumbents to this sector.

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