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.