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ROCKING NEW AMAROK

New Volkswagen Amarok Breaks Cover

In a prolific platform and technology-sharing world, big-name car brands are increasingly challenged to stay focused on their core values. The all-new Volkswagen Amarok is a masterclass in getting this right, and builds on the solid foundation laid by the previous generation, even if they had a little bit of help along the way.

Platform sharing is not a new concept. Automakers across the globe have been doing it for years. The bare-bones truth behind the strategy is simple – increasing costs and stricter regulation requirements have made it near impossible for carmakers to create new platforms, engines, and new-generation tech architecture for each new model from scratch. Developing a new car is an expensive exercise, and besides, it makes sense in the interests of progress to pool resources and expertise. Although Volkswagen has sold over 830,000 units of the first-gen Amarok globally since the luxo-bakkie launched in 2010, future success in this industry is never guaranteed. Volkswagen had a simple choice to make – find a partner to co-develop the New Amarok, or scrap the project altogether.

WOLF IN WOLF’S CLOTHING

The name Amarok, referencing a wolf deity in Inuit mythology, was chosen by brand marketing consultants Interbrand, who also claims that the name is associated with the phrase “he loves stones” in Romanic languages, which was an attempt to allude to the bakkie’s all-terrain nature.

Considering the overall success of the Mk1 Amarok, the new Amarok has some large shoes to fill. To help them do that, Volkswagen joined forces with Ford to develop the Amarok alongside the new Ranger.

Although under-the-skin engineering is shared – in particular, platform, drivetrain, and four-wheel drive tech – Volkswagen was entirely responsible for the Amarok’s exterior design, which is a classy evolution of the original boxy design with more pronounced features and more than a hint of Touareg about it. At the front, new high-set matrix LED headlights are the main feature, while at the rear, the massive tailgate is flanked by C-shaped LED lights.

Only inside the cabin is the cross-pollination of elements between VW and Ford somewhat more apparent. Although the cabin looks and feels very much like a ‘people’s car’, components such as the gear lever and odd new armrest-integrated door handles are shared with the new Ranger. The massive 12.3” centre-mounted tablet infotainment touchscreen is also a carry-over from the Yank tank, although the Amarok adds a unique touch with a bank of toggle buttons positioned below the screen.

Overall interior quality is good, albeit not quite as plush as you’d find inside a Touareg, or another high-end SUV – buyers of which VW aims to attract with the new Amarok. The range-topping Aventura and new PanAmericana trims are very well equipped, and the VW-developed seats are supremely comfortable, underscoring the Amarok’s positioning as a more exclusive off-roader than its Ranger sibling. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included, now with over-the-air updates to keep the in-house software fresh. Speaking of, VW shares its Virtual Cockpit digital driver instrumentation system with Ranger Wildtrak, although the software is VW proprietary.

Wireless charging is offered, but not wireless connectivity. For that, the Amarok has a collection of USB-A and USB-C ports front and rear, while leather, two-zone climate control and an array of safety and driver assistance systems will be offered when the new Amarok officially launches in South Africa towards the end of the first quarter this year. 

MORE CHOICE PROMISED

The top-spec versions of the German bakkie we drove during the international launch event in Cape Town were powered by a dreamy 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel that sends its 184 kW of power and 600 Nm of torque to the permanent all-wheel drive system via the Ford-developed 10-speed conventional torque converter gearbox.

With plenty of shove off the line, and a 3.5-tonne towing capacity, the new Amarok won’t be left wanting for power, and there’s very little it won’t tow with aplomb. Still, we found the multiple-ratio gearbox somewhat fidgety when a quick burst of power is required, particularly when overtaking. Kickdown operation is by no means poor – the transmission is a significant improvement over the old Amarok – but there is a detectable lag that will require some forward planning if you intend to overtake in a hurry. Peculiarly, there are no steering-mounted paddle shifters. Instead, a rocker switch on the gear selector for manual shifting (a Ranger legacy) makes manual gear changes quite impractical. So, best leave this operation up to the electronics.

Locally, three engine options will be available: a single-turbo 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel offering 125 kW;  a twin-turbo version of the same engine with 154 kW; and the 184 kW 3.0-litre. A single cab, 125 kW 2.0-litre four-cylinder workhorse version is also in the offing here, although this will be rear-wheel drive only and will be equipped with a five-speed manual gearbox. European markets will also see a 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine with 222 kW of power.

ON THE ROAD, OFF THE ROAD

One area where the Amarok has always been a market leader is ride comfort, and the new Amarok doesn’t disappoint in this respect. Considering that the suspension is expected to deal with a one-tonne payload (the load bin will fit a full-size pallet) while offering SUV-like comfort, the new Amarok offers a decent compromise on most surfaces. There isn’t too much fidget, although the Aventura’s massive 21” alloys tended to send subtle shakes through the steering wheel during our launch drive.

Also, the steering offered less feedback than one might expect on such a well-engineered piece of kit, but it’s super light at low speeds, making the 2.5-tonne truck easy to manoeuvre. Both top-spec models feature 360-degree cameras and parking sensors front and rear to add another layer of ease to the parking process.

The standard rear-wheel drive setting on the road is good enough for everyday use. However, slippery conditions would be better handled with the 4WD mode set to ‘auto’, allowing clever electronics to send power to the wheels with the most grip. For off-roading, there are standard 4WD high and low-range options (all modes are chosen via a rotary dial behind the drive selector) and a locking rear differential. We tested the system on a specially designed off-road track where the bakkie’s well-sorted Ranger-derived 4×4 gear significantly raises the Amarok’s off-roading capability. There are improved approach and departure angles, too, compared with the old Amarok, while an 800mm wading depth, auto hold, and hill descent control provide further assistance when driving off the beaten path.

LAST WORD

Albeit ours was an all too brief encounter with the new Amarok, there is plenty of good news. We believe the VW/Ford collaboration has paid off for the Wolfsburg automaker, and even in the face of massive competition from what is essentially its sibling under the skin, the new Amarok will do more than merely turn heads here. If our assessment is anything to go by, the official South African launch can’t come soon enough, so local buyers may judge this for themselves.

PRICING
Amarok 2.0 TDI 110kW 5-speed manualR599,000
Amarok 2.0 TDI 125kW 6-speed manual R650,500
Amarok 2.0 TDI 125kW 4MOTION 6-speed manual R721,500
Amarok Life 2.0 TDI 125kW 6-speed manual R683,500
Amarok Life 2.0 TDI 125kW 4MOTION 6-speed manual R738,000 
Amarok Life 2.0 TDI 125kW 4MOTION 6-speed auto R760,000 
Amarok Life 2.0 BiTDI 154kW 4MOTION 10-speed auto R825,500
Amarok Style 2.0 BiTDI 154kW 4MOTION 10-speed autoR900,000
Amarok Style 2.0 BiTDI 154kW 4MOTION 10-speed auto (Comfort Package)R919,500
Amarok Style 3.0 TDI V6 184kW 4MOTION 10-speed autoR966,000
Amarok Style 3.0 TDI V6 184kW 4MOTION 10-speed auto (Comfort Package) R985,500
Amarok PanAmericana 2.0 BiTDI 154kW 4MOTION 10-speed auto R987,000
Amarok PanAmericana 2.0 BiTDI 154kW 4MOTION 10-speed auto (Comfort Package) R1,017,000
Amarok PanAmericana 3.0 TDI V6 184kW 4MOTION 10-speed autoR1,053,000
Amarok PanAmericana 3.0 TDI V6 184kW 4MOTION 10-speed auto (Comfort Package) R1,083,000
Amarok Aventura 3.0 TDI V6 184kW 4MOTION 10-speed auto R1,105,000

As a further value offering to customers, the new Volkswagen Amarok now comes standard with a 4-year/120,000 km warranty, a 5-year/100,000km EasyDrive Maintenance Plan and a 6-year anti-corrosion warranty. The service interval is 15,000 km. 

Report by BERNIE HELLBERG JR | Images © VOLKSWAGEN AG

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