Volkswagen Amarok pick-up review

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

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Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

Volkswagen's Amarok tries to reinvent itself in second generation form. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.

Ten Second Review

As other brands leave the pick-up segment, Volkswagen reasserts its commitment to the sector with this second generation Amarok. Developed alongside the fourth generation Ford Ranger, this South African-built light truck aims to deliver the car-like quality feel customers will want, but with even greater practicality and off road capability.


Want a posh pick-up? Then this, on paper at least, is your best option, Volkswagen's second generation Amarok. The original version launched in 2010, went on to sell 830,000 worldwide and is still in production in Argentina. This new one's rather different, built for VW by Ford in Pretoria, South Africa and designed in concert with arguably its closest rival, the Ford Ranger.

Wolfsburg wants us to know that it's still very Volkswagen though, with an image slightly up-market of that of the Ford, an arguably more car-like cabin and a lot of the drive assist tech features we've recently become used to seeing on VW cars. It should appeal to a wider market as well. Previously, people rarely considered an Amarok as an alternative to something like a Toyota Hilux. Now they might because in this form, it can tow more, carry more, go deeper through water and go further off road. Sounds promising.

Driving Experience

As before, the Amarok is leaf-sprung, with a live axle at the rear, but this time round it shares some of its engines with the rival Ford Ranger - though not all. There are basically two TDI diesel powerplants on offer, starting with a four cylinder 2.0-litre unit offering 170PS in manual gearbox base form, or 205PS with a 10-speed automatic. The top-line alternative is a 3.0-litre V6 diesel, which is of course auto-only and puts out 240PS. The suspension set-up isn't much different from before, using a beam axle rear system with leaf springs, as does the Ranger. But Volkswagen claims to have engineered it for smoother on road use.

Four-wheel drive is standard and is a permanent set-up, which uses a 2-speed electromechanical transfer case for added traction and has four modes for use on different services like tarmac, rocks and snow. On that subject, off-road ability is claimed to be much improved this time round. Fording depth, for instance, is up from 500 to 800mm. Shorter overhangs have improved overall capability no end: this MK2 model's front and rear approach angles are 29-degrees and 21-degrees respectively, while it's ramp angle is 21-degrees. For really gnarly stuff, there's a lockable rear differential and a re-engineered low range transfer case.

Design and Build

There's certainly a more modern vibe with this MK2 model's higher set front-end, which features a slimline front grille and an X-shaped front bumper graphic. All of this is flanked by angular headlights that can optionally feature Volkswagen's IQ. Light and Matrix tech. Some markets will get a single cab version but as previously, sales will centre on the usual double cab body style, which is 96mm longer than before at 5,350mm (20mm longer than a Hilux). Plus it's 10mm taller but 34mm narrower.

The side features black protective cladding and squared-off wheel arches. And the rear gets C-shaped LED lights and the Amarok name embossed across the tailgate. Styling tinsel disguises the fact that the windscreen, the side and rear windows, the roof and even the door handles and mirror housings are shared with this pick-up's Ford Ranger development cousin.

Inside, the central infotainment screen's from Ford too, though it has VW graphics, gets physical buttons and can be had in 10 or 12-inch forms. Despite that, there is a very Volkswagen feel to the cabin; the brand has designed its own seats, steering wheel, gear lever and fascia switchgear: and very much dictated the look of the digital instrument cluster, available in 8 or 12-inch forms.

A 173mm increase in wheelbase length (now 3,270mm, 185mm longer than a Hilux) means that there's more room in the rear of the double cab body style, which it's claimed, can now very comfortably take three fully-sized adults.

Market and Model

VAT-included prices to start at just above the £40,000 mark, just above a Hilux or a Ranger. But more likely in the £45,000-£55,000 bracket. UK sales will centre of course on the four-door double cab body style and there will be five different specifications: 'Life', 'Style' and two top variants, 'Panamericana' (which is aimed at those who want to go off road) and 'Aventura' (which is aimed at on road customers). All versions get adaptive cruise control, dynamic road sign display, intelligent speed assist, Lane assist, rear parking sensors, a rear view reversing camera system and a front assist autonomous braking set-up.

The entry-level trim, 'Life', focuses on comfort, featuring 17-inch Combra silver alloy wheels, LED headlamps and a 10-inch infotainment screen. The 'Style' versions offer 18-inch Amadora silver alloy wheels, a chrome styling bar and black side steps with a chrome insert, plus an upgraded 12-inch central infotainment screen with navigation, as well as additional safety features, such as an Area View 360-degree camera.

Near the top of the range, the 'PanAmericana' version, as we said, focuses on off-road ability. The driveline features a rear locking differential, plus there's an underride guard, as well as a comfort suspension system. Upgraded 18-inch black Amadora alloy wheels, and a premium bumper with a black 'X' insert add to the design enhancements. The range-topping 'Aventura' model gets 21-inch Varberg silver alloy wheels, chrome-plated exterior mirror and door handles, and a premium bumper with silver 'X' insert.

Upper end models can feature niceties like 10-way powered front seat adjustment, a Harmon Kardon sound system and an upgraded IQ. Light intelligent set-up which has a cornering function. Plus of course there's a range of very desirable options. Things like a factory fit bulbar, underbody protection features, eye-rings for towing and even a snorkel attached to the A-pillar. Potential customers will want to look at the electrically operated roll cover, which can be operated either from the cargo area or via a remote using the key fob. And of course you'll be able to specify a hardtop for the load bay too. There's also a newly developed bike-holder and what the brand calls a 'Multi-function Carrier' system.

Practicalities and Costs

One of the clever features of the original Amarok was the way that the rear shock absorbers were mounted outboard of the chassis rails to free up space and that's been carried forward here. Which is needed because despite this MK2 model's increase in overall length, the cargo bay, at 1,544mm, is 11mm narrower than before and, at 1,222mm, 16mm narrower between the wheel arches. It is slightly deeper though, at 529mm (up from 508mm).

That cargo area can swallow two Euro pallets and has redesigned eye-rings capable of handling up to 500kg of load. Payload has increased fractionally to 1,160kg, which is still very class competitive. The roof rack can now take loads of up to 350kg - which is 150kg more than before. And towing capability has risen to a maximum of 3,500kg.

Surprisingly in the engine range, there are no moves towards electrification, but you can expect that to change throughout the production run. There's not much evidence of a shift away from diesel fuel either. The black pump-fuelled engines come with a larger 19.3-litre AdBlue tank (up from 13-litres). And across the range there's an 80-litre fuel tank. The 205PS version of the 2.0 TDI unit most will choose manages combined cycle fuel economy of up to 32.8mpg and a best of 227g/km of CO2. For the 3.0 TDI, it's 28.0mpg and 264g/km.

The Amarok comes with Volkswagen's '5+ Promise' standard warranty and service plan, which includes five services (comprising three Oil Change services, two Oil Change and Inspection services plus three MOTs), a five-year warranty (extended from the standard three years and up to 124,000 miles) cover across the UK and Europe, and five years' roadside assistance (extended from the standard three).


We expected this second generation Amarok to be smarter, better connected and classier inside - and it is. We were more surprised by just how much it's improved in terms of practicality, towing ability and off road prowess. As before, you do have nagging worries in the plush, car-like cabin as to whether this vehicle is really going to prove as tough and durable as its Asian rivals in the long term. But these are concerns your Volkswagen Van Centre will be quick to play down, pointing to this Amarok's development in the Patagonian wilderness.

And in summary? Well, this Volkswagen isn't going to be produced in global numbers high enough to threaten its Oriental rivals' world pick-up market dominance, but in terms of product excellence, it certainly should give them plenty to think about. At last in this sector, with a bit of help from Ford, Volkswagen has given the Far East something it can learn from.

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