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VOLKSWAGEN AMAROK 3.0 V6 TDI

“Only soft drinks and milk come in two litres”, said some when the Volkswagen Amarok first broke cover locally, with a single engine choice, back in 2010. Now, seven years later, the Amarok is finally available with a 165 kW V6 option. BERNIE HELLBERG drove it in the Southern Free State.

South African’s know what they want in a bakkie, and when the first VW Amarok went on sale locally, potential buyers made their disappointment at its single engine choice quite clear and voted with their wallets. Not that sales of the Amarok were bad, but they were disappointing for Volkswagen South Africa, who had high hopes to break into the local bakkie market in a big way.

Fast forward to 2017, and to the introduction of the 3.0 V6 TDI… While, in the final calculation, Volkswagen didn’t do badly at all, selling no less than 29,000 single- and double-cab derivatives during that time. That translates to around 345 units per month for seven years straight, putting the Amarok in fourth place in terms of overall one-tonne LCV sales in the country.

Regardless, VW is not used to doing things by half measures and brings the V6 oil-burner to market with a plan to sell as many of the V6s they can get their hands on from Argentina, where the South African-bound Amaroks are built. Hopes are high in the Volkswagen camp that up to 300 units could make their way to new owners monthly. Besides, Volkswagen South Africa has an option on 1,500 more 3.0-litres, should demand exceed current expectations.

POWER UP

Leading the charge in the resurgence of the Amarok, the 3.0-litre V6 TDI mill now planted in the front is anything but ordinary. Delivering as much as 165 kW of power through the trusted VW 4Motion all-wheel-drive system – with over-boost taking power delivery up to 180 kW for a maximum of eight seconds when your right foot is fully planted.

Although the 3.0-litre employed in the Amarok is not a brand new mill, Volkswagen engineers have adapted several aspects of the engine for application in the German bakkie, and for extreme local conditions.

The pistons have been modified to reduce friction, and separate coolant circuits installed for the crankcase and cylinder heads.

A new water-cooled turbo with electric actuator generates up to three bar of pressure and means better throttle response under general driving conditions. Combined with substantial improvements in power and torque (550 to 580 Nm with over-boost) and a silky-smooth eight-speed gearbox, the V6 Amarok completely shatters the notion that this bakkie is a lifestyle toy with less than serious performance intentions.

EXTENDED DOUBLE-CAB LINE-UP

Volkswagen also announced a broadening of the Amarok double-cab line-up, while the imminent discontinuation of their single-cab range is now official.

The full spectrum now consists of 12 double cab derivatives including two entry-level 2.0-litre TDI 103 kW versions in either Comfortline or Highline spec; seven 2.0 TDI 132 kW in both 4×4 and 4×2 Highline, new Highline Plus, and Extreme specification; and the 3.0 V6 TDI, available in Highline, Highline Plus, or Extreme grades.

Interestingly, eight of the 12 Amarok models are automatic, indicating a growing movement away from manual transmissions.

SPECIFICATIONS

In Comfortline spec, where the Amarok range begins, 17” wheels are standard, as are multi-function controls and the Composition media touchscreen interface. Cruise control and ABS with Off-Road ABS is also standard.

Highline spec adds 18” alloys and four 12V power ports, together with darkened rear lights and an LED numberplate light.

The luxury bridging spec level, Highline Plus, takes the Amarok 132 kW to R591,900 in 4×2 guise, and R643,100 with 4Motion. Here, bi-xenon lamps with LED daytime running lights, leather upholstery with optional front seat heating, and the upgraded Discover infotainment system with satellite navigation and Apple CarPlay come standard. Automatic headlights and wipers also form part of the package regardless of the drivetrain option selected.

Taking the Amarok to new heights of exclusivity, the Extreme option pack is reserved for the 132 kW 2.0 TDI (R673,600) and range-topping 3.0 V6 TDI (R748,600) derivatives only. Aimed at the leisure market (and at the Ford Ranger Wildtrack), Extreme spec adds Nappa leather upholstery with contrast stitching; 14-way electrically adjustable front seats with seat heating, the signature Ravenna Blue metallic paint and steel styling bars upfront, which can be swapped out for a colour-coded sports bar on the back. A durable bin lining is added, as are 20″ alloy rims that, incidentally, can be upgraded further to 21″.

Although the Amarok Extreme retains the vehicle’s extreme off-road capabilities – it can lug a full load up a 35-degree incline – those 21” alloys won’t cope too well with excessive gravel, so consider this carefully before taking the plunge.

OFF-ROAD

Living in a land of extremes, South Africans buy off-road-capable vehicles for the city during the week, and then break away to the wilds over weekends. This is why we love bakkies and expect them to ferry us where we want, when we want, with a level of luxury to boot.

Amaroks have long since proven off-road mettle, so there’s no point in expanding at full tilt how your V6 Amarok will likely make mincemeat of any gravel section on your next sans tar expedition.

But I wouldn’t be doing my job if I did not point out the Amarok’s best-in-class Off-Road ABS. Because standard ABS on passenger cars are programmed to cope with solid road surfaces, few manufacturers bother to reprogramme the ABS on off-roaders for loose gravel conditions. And this is crucial to do as hard braking on a gravel surface could cause loose stones to build up ahead of the front tyres, diminishing the vehicle’ braking ability.

Off-Road ABS allows each braking wheel to turn fractionally longer than it would with standard ABS, decreasing the risk of gravel build-up, and maintaining the car’s ability to steer under sharp deceleration.

LAST WORD

Coming to a Volkswagen dealership near you, the 3.0 V6 TDI Amarok finally takes South Africa’s most comfortable bakkie to a performance level that means business. And loaded with levels of comfort and safety spec that’ll make an executive sedan blush, the Amarok goes a step further than its main rivals can to blending real luxury and unquestionable capability in this segment. Depending on what rabbit Mercedes-Benz manages to pull out of its X-Class hat in 2018, the Amarok looks set to retain its title as South Africa’s classiest bakkie for the foreseeable future.

Report by BERNIE HELLBERG | Images © VOLKSWAGEN SOUTH AFRICA

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