Road Test and Review – Volkswagen Amarok Highline V6
The lifestyle 4×4 pick-up market in the UK has bucked the generally weakening trend for new LCV registrations over the past couple of years. Demand has been strong, particularly for models with a high level of trim, prompted undoubtedly by some taxation advantages, but also by changing consumer tastes which are being recognised and exploited by manufacturers.
Launched in 2010, the Volkswagen Amarok has had perhaps a little less success in the UK than many initially anticipated. The likes of Nissan, Toyota, Mitsubishi and Ford responded with regular product updates and facelifts, and an ever increasing level of trim. Although a sector which is extremely brand sensitive (illustrated, for example by the very modest success of the Mitsubishi L200 based Fiat Fullback, which is now also struggling in the used market) and in which it could be reasonably be expected that the Amarok would capitalise on, customer allegiance to the likes of Toyota and Mitsubishi proved hard to shift.
Specification and Features
With the recent entry of Mercedes-Benz into the market with the Nissan Navara based X-Class, this premium ‘sub-sector’ has become somewhat of a battleground. Both Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz have employed the services of some particularly meaty V6 powerhouses in order to combat the more well established competition, and this latest addition to the Amarok range is the subject of this test.
The test vehicle supplied by Volkswagen was the Highline model, the top trim level of the regular range, excluding any special editions. Fitted with a 3.0 litre V6 Diesel engine producing a whopping 258PS and an 8 speed automatic gearbox, the Amarok was always going to offer a spirited drive. Put your foot to the floor and you get a temporary overboost, taking the power up to 272PS, just in case the standard offering wasn’t quite enough. Standard equipment includes a composition media unit with DAB and a 6.33” touchscreen. Climatic air conditioning keeps the cab environment comfortable, and the leather upholstery is heated for the driver and front passenger. Externally, 18” alloys, Bi-Xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lights and stainless steel side bars set the Amarok apart from other models in the range. The test vehicle came with some optional equipment, including the Discover Media Navigation system, a Lights and Vision pack, a load compartment lining and 19” wheels.
Although having a payload in excess of the all important, taxation critical 1000kgs, to many customers who are likely to use a truck commercially, towing capacity is an important criteria. Amarok falls a little shy of the 3500kg benchmark, offering just 3100kg’s, a point which potentially could be losing Volkswagen some sales.
The cab environment
Well designed, functional and with no unnecessary frivolities is perhaps how the cab of the Amarok is best described. The dashboard will be very familiar to anyone who has driven a Volkswagen passenger car in recent years. Compared to some of the competition (the Toyota Hi-Lux in particular) the Amarok could be described as slightly dull and possibly a little dated in this area but, as alluded to, the design is good, everything is within easy reach for the driver and there are no unnecessary distractions. The multi-media unit is clear and very easy to operate – our benchmark for this is to test how easy it is to pair a phone, to change radio stations and to programme a new destination into the sat nav. The unit in the Amarok passed this test with flying colours. In some vehicles previously tested it has been necessary to consult the handbook. The leather seats are extremely comfortable for the driver and passengers, and visibility to the front and sides is excellent, with no unhelpful blind spots.
On the road
Quiet, refined, and blisteringly fast are adjectives which immediately come to mind when describing how the Amarok V6 drives. The experience can only be compared to that of a premium, large SUV or family saloon. There is no excessive noise from engine, road or wind. The steering is light and positive and the braking action is nice and progressive, with no ‘grab’. Vitally, when unladen, the ride is still extremely smooth, with very little bounce or vibration, something which is often found on Amarok’s peers.
As you may expect, where the Amarok excels is when pushed a little hard. Put your foot to the floor to execute an overtaking manoeuvre and you are rewarded with a firm push back into the seat and a reassuring growl from the 3.0 litre V6 as the overboost and 272PS hurtle you past slower traffic. Try this at traffic lights (where legally allowed) and the 0 – 60mph time of around seven seconds leaves the 17 year old in his pimped up and lowered Corsa both open mouthed, and left far behind. The 8 speed automatic transmission is a dream, with perfectly timed changes under all conditions, and, when driving in a more leisurely manner, these changes are almost imperceptible. Volkswagen claim a top speed of 127mph, something we were unfortunately unable to check.
One slightly concerning point which needs to be mentioned, whilst we had the vehicle the DPF warning light came on. This, despite the vehicle having low mileage, and which had been driven almost 200 miles the day before. Driving at high engine revs for 10 minutes to regenerate the filter cleared the fault, but, it is a little worrying that the DPF was requiring attention given the circumstances. We have heard elsewhere that there may be an issue with the engine and DPF filtering, and that the manufacturer is aware.
Fuel consumption on the various trips out varied between 20 and 30mpg, which, although not particularly frugal, doesn’t seem unreasonable given the power available (and often used). Unfortunately, we didn’t have the opportunity to take the vehicle off road.
There are just a couple of points to temper the enthusiasm – externally, Amarok remains fundamentally unchanged in its styling since launch and all other manufacturers have moved on. It’s possibly starting to look slightly dated and is overdue a good facelift. Then, there is the price. With all the optional equipment fitted to the test vehicle it costs a whopping £46,313 including VAT.
With outstanding build quality, a fantastic drivetrain and great, albeit a little old fashioned looks, the Amarok V6 fully deserves to do well. With only one true competitor in the X-Class, the Volkswagen drives magnificently, and with an air of class and understated competence. Although in a sector which has its own quirks and which behaves very differently to every other category of commercial vehicle, this really is an excellent all round effort by the German manufacturer.