It’s the most comfortable bakkie yet, but small capacity engines are putting off buyers. It shouldn’t be the case though; the Amarok is capable and pretty.
VW Amarok review by John BealeThe Amarok in itself is not new to the roads, but VW did recently give it a slight update in the form of 12 more kW to the 2litre biturbo diesel engine, and changes to the clutch to make it more drivable in town. Sales haven’t been as high as they’d hoped, with around 500 units per month, which pales in comparison to the 2900 Toyota Hiluxes or 1500 Ford Rangers sold.
Design and interior features
There’s very little not to like about the looks. Manly square wheel arches, massive rear tailgate and familiar VW grille, but the wheels (18inch) are still too small for the arches. This however not the trump card of the VW Amarok bakkie. Get in and you’d swear you’re in a raised CrossPolo. High quality soft touch plastic, typical VW switchgear that thuds and feels just right. Comfortable seating (leather option) for driver and passenger and ample space in the rear for 5. No less than three 12V sockets, including one placed on top of the dash for GPS! Specification in the interior is rather slim; besides climate control and decent sound it’s bare. When compared to the Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux, there’s no Bluetooth, USB / Aux for radio, auto lights / rain sensor, heated seats, PDC or reverse camera. (Isuzu omitted, as the new model is imminent) Most of these can be fitted as options but then the price shoots skywards. Also, there is no ‘canopy window’ in the rear glass, but there is a high level light that illuminates the loadbed. It is a much more comfortable and quiet place to be than the Hilux or Navara, but it’s a tie against the Ranger from an interior perspective.
VW Amarok performance and handling
In what is probably the segment leading suspension and chassis set up for on-road dynamics in a bakkie, the VW Amarok is both confidence inspiring and comfortable. It doesn't scuttle and shake around corners and the usual jitters and vibrations from a diesel bakkie aren't there at all. The steering is perfectly weighted, without being too light, and turning circle is acceptable. It now puts out 132kW and 400NM between 1500 – 2000RPM, and is adequate for town driving. That said it puts out more power and torque than the Hilux D-4D! The bi-turbo makes it an extremely easy unit to drive, but I found it’s still a relatively small band of power to work with. Thankfully the 6-speed gearbox shifts easily in true VW fashion, and the tough “hump” on the clutch from the pre-update model is gone. The brakes with ABS and BAS (brake assist) were more than up to the job. ESP and Traction control was standard in Highline trim.
The 4x2 I had comes standard with diff lock as well as a button for off-road, which enables hill descent control and off road ESP and ABS. Basically it dials in the ideal amount of ABS and traction control which can be detrimental in mud or soft sand. With over 250mm ground it measures up well, but unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to take it for the full grilling off-road.