Driving report: VW Amarok 2.0 TDI
The people’s pick-up
The new VW Amarok is quite expensive and it has neither hybrid nor electric technology on board. But he scores points elsewhere.
Volkswagen and its pickup truck. Taken literally, this seems a contradiction. Because in Germany the annual total volume of pickups is around 20,000 to 25,000 vehicles. Top dog Ford alone delivers almost 10,000 units with its Ranger. But from now on the Wolfsburg-based company wants a quarter of the cake – 5,000 to 6,000 vehicles Separate Amarok. Even if that is a very realistic value: in relation to the entire automobile market, it is a crumb. So there can be no talk of being close to the people. Even if you calculate globally and include Australia, South Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, the Amarok’s top markets, VW’s flatbed truck is not exactly what you would call a bestseller.
Sure, a pickup is primarily a commercial vehicle. This applies more than ever to the Amarok, after all it is homologated as such and is not sold by the smart VW dealer, but through commercial vehicle centers. But that’s actually a paradox, because the Wolfsburg-based company sees their Amarok as a lifestyle alternative in the segment. And somehow the calculation seems to work, because the 240 hp V6 top version is particularly in demand. Although many automobiles with powerful engines are often purchased, in the commercial vehicle segment the overall cost is usually the deciding purchasing criterion. And here the 205 hp four-cylinder diesel is clearly ahead – also because it is hardly inferior to the V6 in terms of performance and is significantly more agile.
Opting for the 205 hp variant is definitely a good choice. But not a cheap one either. VW charges 47,121 euros for the admittedly lame 170 hp option alone, 52,798 euros for the 205 hp model. However, it is a whopping 20,000 euros less than you have to shell out for the V6. Of course, the V6 versions are more opulent inside and out, but drivers of the 205 hp model also receive the upscale Life equipment line. A few more individual extras, such as automatic transmission and automatic climate control instead of manual control, and you can be happy. For comparison: The technically identical Ford Ranger costs 53,776 euros with the same motor and also with a double cab. However, the ten-speed automatic and a few other extras are standard. The only other alternative, the Toyota Hilux with a double cab and 204 hp, costs 48,669 euros.
This is where the Amarok plays its premium trump card. The look of the interior alone puts it in a class higher. The entire interior is made of plastic, but it is very elaborately made and precisely processed. Not least with the iPad-like central display, the Amarok looks as if you were sitting in a state-of-the-art family SUV. The commercial vehicle ambience that is otherwise usual with pickups is completely missing here. And the way the Volkswagen feels is how it drives: well-mannered instead of rough, comfortable instead of hopping and fast instead of sluggish. The four-cylinder engine pushes hard and runs wildly on the highway. It reaches the factory-specified top speed of 180 km/h not only easily and, above all, quickly. Opting for the cheaper manual transmission is sometimes annoying in city traffic, especially since the ten-speed automatic makes optimal use of the power of the two-liter engine – a phenomenon that does not occur with the automatic V6. Assistance systems, some standard and some subject to an additional charge, make maneuvering in urban areas much easier. It’s worth remembering that the Amarok is 5.35 meters long and has a wheelbase of 3.27 meters. A pickup truck is never maneuverable and handy.
Of course, the Amarok’s true calling is where the asphalt ends and where we no longer talk about luggage but about cargo. It can handle a ton of payload – a magnitude that not even all pickups can offer. The fact that the loading area is open may be optimal for construction sites or forestry operations. Private individuals will invest the money in an electric cargo area cover or the hardtop that is now available. If the road has given way to gravel and mud or is buried under snow, the Amarok is in its element. Here the 205 hp model benefits from having the automatic all-wheel drive system on board. This means that between the option of only driving the rear wheels and the possibility of rigidly transmitting the power to all four wheels lies the variable power distribution that is often used in everyday life. This saves fuel, increases agility and, above all, protects the mechanics compared to rigid traction.
This makes the 205 hp Amarok something of a jack-of-all-trades: it handles the terrain really well, has bite on the asphalt, can load a lot and all in all drives like a car. The latter in particular is a point with which they are clearly different from the other pickup colleagues.