This is Volkswagen first venture into the pick-up world. You’ll probably send us back to the
reading board now, telling us that this is not true. However, we are referring to the first proper pick-up. You see, Volkswagen has had other attempts to create such a vehicle over the years, but none of them offered the full bouquet of assets required from a true workhorse.
Want an example? Back in 1980, the automaker started playing with the platform of the Golf Mk1 and one of the results was the Caddy, which was known as Rabbit in North America.
Long story short, the Amarok’s picture has no background. It’s just the new, shiny car, captured on camera over a blank setting. However, as the newcomer belongs to the VW Group, it has a lot to inherit. Just think about a mix between the experience VW’s Commercial Vehicles arm has in building a chassis, Audi’s four-wheel drive expertise (don’t take this 100 percent literally) and the Group’s reputation of building reliable vehicles.
But will this be enough for the Amarok to survive in a world where the Toyota Hilux makes the rules and where many other competitors come with hard years of doing every possible job in the world, all over the Globe?
As you imagine, the Amarok wants to do much more than just “survive”, so it has a mammoth task on its veiny hands. Not only because of the competition, but also due to the fact that the contemporary automotive customer, regardless of the segment the vehicle they’re after belongs to.
All that analyzing threatened to run into a tornado of thoughts, so we realized that it was better to get to work ourselves: we took the Double Cab version of the Amarok, fitted with VW’s four-wheel-drive system, 4Motion
, for a test drive. As the sun was rising in the morning of the first day, our editors put their lumberjack clothing on, added a few pairs of aviator sunglasses and went for it. Let’s see how it all went.
The Amarok is one of the vehicles that falls into the “two-face” category: the rating of one end doesn’t match the one of the opposite end at all. In other words, the car’s front has a smart design, but has been matched with a dull rear.
The Amarok’s front fascia brings the most rugged incarnation of the VW family face we’ve seen so far. Fortunately, the family identity hasn’t been taken too far, like in the case of other Volkswagen models.
Compared to many competitors, the Amarok looks smart. Even the design of its alloy wheels has something special (again, for the segment the car belongs to). It’s like the car is trying to tell you “I’m very good at what I do, forget about the absence of my history, just try me!”
The designers have sent the car to the gym, so it now has beefy wheel arches and other elements that inspire force. It also come with refined elements, such as the door mirrors, which are extremely far from the agricultural design that can sometimes be found in this segment.
However, when you reach the rear end, you can’t help think that the ones who penned the car forgot to take care of this and did it in the night before the deadline. Everything here has the classic shape, so there’s no personality. In other words, if you are at a certain distance and you see the Amarok from behind, it will be incredibly hard to recognize the car.
The vehicle we tested was fitted with certain a accessories like a superstructure for the bed, chromed rear bumper protection elements and chromed side steps, which didn’t quite fit the visual style of the original design, diluting the Amarok’s identity and also came with poor fit and finish.
The world is a big, big place. This is the first thought that comes to mind when entering the Amarok. Considering the car’s length, it’s only normal that there’s enough room in the cabin to accommodate five – we are talking about the four-door cab version of the vehicle.
The word that perfectly describes the driving position is “tall”. You feel like you sit just a little bit higher than drivers in SUVs, which gives you great visibility. However, the vehicle’s dimensions don’t allow you to be perfectly aware of the objects that are very close to the car, so you’ll have to pay extra attention.
The practical character of the car is present throughout the cabin, with a perfect example being the multitude of storage spaces, all of which offer a cavern-like space.
The vehicle we tested was also fitted with storage compartments under the front seats. Want another example? The 12V socket placed on top of the dashboard, which is ideal for powering a radar detector, for example.
You’ll find a multitude of elements borrowed from the VW group’s treasure chest, most of them being stretched to fit the generous dimensions of the vehicle’s cabin.
As for the bed, this is large enough for any carrying ambitions. Our test car was fitted with a superstructure for the bed, which meant that the car’s carrying capabilities were amplified. Unfortunately, this was badly made – you could even see the gaps between certain surfaces, gaps that allow the snow to enter during the winter.
Again, we have to remember that we are talking about a workhorse here. The Amarok has one of the best, if not the best, interior in its class, but this doesn’t rise to the standard set by Volkswagen’s road cars.
The dimensions of the Amarok make the city laugh and the vehicle cry whenever you enter an urban area. Fortunately, the vehicle offers decent dynamics for city driving, so you never that you have to push it hard in order to get it moving.
The leaf-sprung rear suspension does occasionally get into fights with some of the road’s caprices and speed bumps, but the overall suspension comfort is OK.
Returning to the aforementioned driving dynamics, we have to tell you that the six speed manual gearbox comes with ratios that convince the car to move without exaggerated effort at city speeds (things are different when you exist the urban stage, but we’ll talk about this in the “Open Road” chapter). The same can be said about the brakes, which offer good stopping power.
Once you’ve decided to stop moving and you have to park, things become complicated, not only due to the size of the vehicle, but also because the bed superstructure of our test vehicle butchered the rear visibility. We couldn’t rely on parking sensors either, as this feature was absent.
The 2.0-liter biturbo diesel engine is a pretty good friend of fuel efficiency, with the vehicle asking for 11.5 liters of fuel in return for taking us over 100 km of city roads (20.5 mpg).
The design and the materials used in the cabin give a positive state of mind – in other words, when you drive the Amarok inside the city, the interior fits the landscape, you feel almost like in a road car. This is also true for the car’s design, which compensates for the fact that it has bed when you park it in the city center.
We are talking about a workhorse, so we have to split this chapter in “open road” and “open off road”. As expected,the Amarok prefers the latter, but needs some optional equipment to be fully prepared for tackling it.
On the road, the Amarok offers a predictable handling so, even though you’re riding on a ladder chassis, you’ll be able to keep the car on track, assisted, of course by the ESP
The steering is one of the weak points of the car, as this doesn’t offer a proper level of feedback, also being too light. Inside the city, it will help you park and, thanks to the urban speeds, you won’t feel this, but when you take the car out on the open road, this will bother you.
The straight line performance is, like we said, at the limit of decency. The acceleration allows you to overtake without excessive care, but it’s best to plan ahead. As for the brakes, these handle the 4,300 lbs (2 tons) of the car. You won’t get impressive result, but the job will be done. As for the highway thirst, this sits around 8.6 liters per 100 km (27 mpg)
The Amarok we tested was fitted with the 4MOTION part-time four-wheel-drive system, which, assisted by the ground clearance and the low gear, got us through many difficult off-road situations.
However, if you want to tackle really rough terrain, you’ll have to order the optional locking center and rear differentials, as well as the (also optional) underbody protection. If the presence of the locking diffs on the list of standard features can be debated, the fact that the vehicle’s belly has no armor is just beyond understanding.
Fortunately, the Amarok also comes with a special off road mode for the ABS
and ESP, which really makes a difference when things start to heat up.