Volkswagen Amarok pickup
"The Volkswagen Amarok pickup is an upmarket entry into the class, with an SUV-like interior and five seats, as well as a large load bed"
- Excellent build quality
- Spacious interior
- Big load area
- Difficult to park
- Uncomfortable suspension
- Car's size can be intimidating
The Volkswagen Amarok brought a touch of SUV sophistication to the rough-and-ready pickup market populated by the likes of the Toyota Hilux, Mitsubishi L200, Ford Ranger and Nissan Navara. Like the VW, these are quite family-friendly, but the Amarok went further with its classy styling and well equipped, five-seat interior to the extent that it really does feel like a work and recreational vehicle in one. That’s a mantle that has now been taken up by the Mercedes X-Class, the Amarok’s most upmarket rival.
To underline its prestige, the old range of underpowered 2.0-litre engines has been replaced by a 3.0-litre V6 diesel producing 201 or 255bhp, both of which are only available with an eight-speed gearbox and permanent four-wheel drive. A six-speed manual gearbox is no longer offered; it was previously available on the lower-powered engine.
The most powerful version has an overboost function that briefly raises power to 268bhp, which is handy for quick bursts of acceleration and just tops the 255bhp of the Mercedes X-Class X350d. Whichever engine you go for, you’ll need to be prepared for running costs that are slightly higher than the Amarok’s competitors - both officially manage just 28.2mpg. All are certainly strong enough, with the ability to haul 3,100kg – its maximum braked trailer limit – or carry a one-tonne payload.
That monster payload means that, when unladen, the Amarok can bounce around rough roads and tracks. While it looks car-like, its steering lacks sharpness and the VW leans heavily in corners. Otherwise, it’s easy enough to drive for a big vehicle and it comes to a stop quickly and confidently thanks to powerful brakes.
With the new engines have come new exterior looks and updated alloy wheels. Inside, VW has splashed out on a brand-new dashboard featuring a modern large touchscreen infotainment system.There are two trim levels: Trendline and Highline, plus two limited-run Black Edition models. Generally similar in price to the equivalent Ford Ranger, the Amarok is nicer to live with if not cheaper to run.
The previous version was awarded four out of five stars for safety by Euro NCAP. This latest is unlikely to improve on that, but it does get electronic stability control and a system that applies the brakes after a collision to avoid further impacts. There’s a reversing camera, too, in addition to a system called ParkPilot that can take care of the steering when squeezing into a tight spot - and there will be a few with a car as big as the Amarok.