From £32,5038
Volkswagen's pick-up has received a mid-life facelift, including the fitment of a 3.0-litre V6 engine and a classier interior

Our Verdict

Volkswagen Amarok

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

What is it?

The new Volkswagen Amarok could represent something more than just a facelift for this particular double-cab pick-up, which was launched in 2009 (doesn’t seem that long ago, does it?). It could mark a continued shift in the pick-up market.

Volkswagen’s pick-up has been pinching some sales from large SUVs and 4x4s and, unusually, Amarok is sold mostly in its highest specification. Eight out of 10 Amaroks flogged in the UK are in top-level trim. 

It is, for want of a better analogy, the premium double-cab pick-up. And just as car makers have discovered that ever more expensive SUVs will sell, so VW has opted to capitalise on the fact that some customers are after a classier pick-up. For people who use pick-ups for pleasure as much as work, the badge and the quality of the trim matter.

This is happening at a rather lower price point than the SUV market, of course. We’re not talking about a Bentley Bentayga here. The facelifted Amarok will still have a one-tonne-plus payload, which brings commercial vehicle tax breaks, when order books open in September prior to the start of deliveries at the end of the year. 

Significantly, it does arrive with a new engine, and in a world of downsizing, it’s curious to note that it’s a bigger, more powerful one of 3.0 litres and six cylinders, making 221bhp, rather than the 161bhp four-pot unit of old. Partly it’s because customers told VW they’d like more power; partly it’s because the new engine will give the Amarok a towing limit of up to 3.5 tonnes; partly it’s because customers have been asking for something more refined and classy.

Given that the Amarok was first in line when VW’s cheat-software emissions recalls began, perhaps partly the 2.0-litre engine was being asked to work harder than it was comfortable with in the first place, too. Certainly, at what is likely to be 199g/km and 37.1mpg on the combined fuel economy cycle, the more capable 3.0 is claimed to be less thirsty than the old model.

At launch, the Amarok will offer only this top-spec 3.0-litre engine, driving through a permanent four-wheel drive system and eight-speed automatic gearbox. Later, 161bhp and 201bhp models, manual gearboxes and part-time four-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive will supplement that.

Other changes to the Amarok include a new dashboard, to improve interior ambience, and the fitment of more luxury car features. But on the outside, not so much is different; what was the most distinctive pick-up stays that way, with some bumper amendments. Dimensions, then, are unchanged at 5.25m long and 2.23m wide, including mirrors.

What's it like?

Despite the fact that the Amarok – and rivals such as the latest, pretty classy Nissan Navara – are poaching sales from larger SUVs, it’s worth pointing out that you shouldn’t expect it to feel just as sophisticated to drive as one. The Amarok has a separate body on a ladder chassis and leaf rear springs supporting a live rear axle – hence the 1000kg-plus payload and a load bay that’s wide enough for a pallet. 

Inside, though, the latest cabin has a good driving position, and the switchgear is logically, clearly laid out. There’s a distinct VW feel to it, even if the hard-wearing materials, undamped glovebox and so on feel more Polo than Passat in terms of ambience. That's to be expected. Highline trim will be the top and most popular specification, bringing a central touchscreen with sat-nav, as well as climate control.

Room in the rear of the cabin is less generous than in the front. Think Golf levels of seat space rather than Passat; tall adults behind tall adults will find knee room at a premium, but as a family ute, it’s okay. And the rear deck is massive.

To drive? Even without a loaded pallet in the back, the Amarok feels comfortable enough – not too bouncy – and isolation from road and wind noise is good. This is a long car, though, and a separate chassis never quite brings the rigid feel of a smaller car’s monocoque, so you can feel the front and rear working in different ways and the occasional shimmy through the steering wheel – although no more so than in rivals. The steering itself is well weighted, if occasionally sticky.

Volkswagen claims a 7.9sec 0-62mph time and a top speed of 120mph for this 221bhp diesel, but you have to work it to get that kind of performance. If you do, you’ll not find it as refined as a V6 diesel in one of VW Group’s family cars, either. But it’s smoother than a four, and the eight-speed automatic shifts really cleanly and intelligently.

The Amarok is good off road, too. There’s a limited-slip differential between the axles that can be locked, while an off-road button as standard brings hill descent control, modifies the way the ABS and stability control work, holds lower gears and dulls the throttle response. As an option, you can get a limited-slip diff on the back axle, too. On the right tyres, then, an Amarok will do what you need.

Should I buy one?

If you’re thinking about making the leap from an SUV to a pick-up, it’s worth remembering that there are compromises when it comes to the way these cars drive. But that’s an inevitability of the fact that they’re commercial vehicles and, when all’s said and done, they do what SUVs do: move you around in a relatively refined fashion, only here with the possibility to stick whatever kit you want in the back while not getting the cabin dirty.

A lot of car makers talk about lifestyle vehicles, picturing 4x4s on beaches or at the top of mountains with happy-looking, active families doing active, outdoorsy things. A double-cab pick-up is quite the choice.

Whether the Amarok sits at the top of that class is more of a moot point. It's preferable to a Mitsubishi L200, but a Nissan Navara will give it a much harder time. The Amarok has looks and a brand image on its side, though - and as plenty of SUV manufacturers have discovered, that’s not something to be underestimated.

Volkswagen Amarok 3.0 TDI Highline

Location Munich, Germany; On sale End of 2016; Price £35,000 (est, including VAT); Engine V6, 2967cc, diesel; Power 221bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 405lb ft at 1500rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Kerb weight 2000kg (est); Top speed 120mph; 0-62mph  7.9sec; Economy 37.1mpg (combined, est); CO2/tax band 199g/km, 37% (est)

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Comments
11

14 June 2016
35 grand for a car with cart springs ? Lol, youd have to be stupid

14 June 2016
Depends if you use the vehicle as intended, or are simply a suburban fool who buys an off roader for the image. Cart springs are entirely appropriate here - for those who understand such things.

14 June 2016
First there was the review of the Toyota HiLux, now this. So is Autocar previewing a new motoring trend? One that manufacturers dream up to stimulate sales? Motoring is not about finesse anymore, now it has all with size and presence. As SUV is losing its presence because they are so ubiquitous (and what else can be done to a SUV after bringing out coupe and convertible versions?) so Pickup trucks could be the next big thing.

15 June 2016
abkq wrote:

First there was the review of the Toyota HiLux, now this. So is Autocar previewing a new motoring trend? One that manufacturers dream up to stimulate sales? Motoring is not about finesse anymore, now it has all with size and presence. As SUV is losing its presence because they are so ubiquitous (and what else can be done to a SUV after bringing out coupe and convertible versions?) so Pickup trucks could be the next big thing.

Watch out for Unimog road tests coming soon. Now that there is a sea of jeeps sloshing along the roads, the Chelsea tractor mob will be on the lookout for their next upsizing option to maintain their illusionary feeling of invulnerability.

I don't need to put my name here, it's on the left

 

14 June 2016
There is a big road work project going on in the North East of Scotland right now, so there are even more of these than normal on what are pretty scary roads. It makes a lot of sense if you frequently lug a lot of stuff around, have a family and can only afford one vehicle. There's no surprise the way they drive either, better than a van not as good as a car. The tax breaks for small business owners or self employed are hard to ignore. However they seem to attract a lot of very aggressive drivers, maybe it can be renamed Amacock.

14 June 2016
I wish one of the pick up manufacturers would make a smaller vehicle with the durability of their pickups. I don't need a 1 tonne payload capacity or something this size, but I do want the simplicity and ruggedness they offer.

14 June 2016
Autocar wrote:

Whether the Amarok sits at the top of that class is more of a moot point. It's preferable to a Mitsubishi L200, but a Nissan Navara will give it a much harder time. The Amarok has looks and a brand image on its side, though - and as plenty of SUV manufacturers have discovered, that’s not something to be underestimated.

The Japanese alternatives have reliability on their side.

Citroëniste.

14 June 2016
4 star car? Really - a 4 star car???

£35,000 for a pickup?

And it's not even based on a Golf.

Can we have a 5 star review of a Caddy next please - that would tick
all the boxes.

How much exactly are VW paying you for these "reviews"????

15 June 2016
dickieb wrote:

4 star car? Really - a 4 star car???

£35,000 for a pickup?

And it's not even based on a Golf.

Can we have a 5 star review of a Caddy next please - that would tick
all the boxes.

How much exactly are VW paying you for these "reviews"????

Obviously less than Ford are shelling out given that reviews of that manufacturer's cars offer equivalent negative criticism to the company's own advertising copy.

I don't need to put my name here, it's on the left

 

15 June 2016
Volkswagen always rock.
Powerful engine with high bhp power
And comfort in car is quite interesting
So if u want to buy then just read below WhatsApp status which will inspire you to buy Volkswagen

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