The facelifted Volkswagen Amarok has a surprise under its bonnet – a fancy 3.0-litre V6 engine option
The Volkswagen Amarok pick-up is a bit of a global hit for the German brand. Built in Argentina, it was originally designed for the South American market. But VW spotted an opportunity, so brought it over to Europe – and since then, it’s gone on to sell nearly 15,000 of the model in the UK alone.
Now, to underline its dominant position in this crowded segment, there’s a facelifted Amarok pick-up, to fend off the Nissan NP300 Navara, Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux, plus the surprise future challenge of a posh double-cab from Mercedes-Benz, the X-Class.
Volkswagen Amarok 3.0-litre V6 224PS Aventura
Engine: 3.0-litre V6, diesel
Gearbox: Eight-speed automatic
Top speed: 119mph
Fuel economy: 36.2mpg (combined)
CO2 emissions: 204g/km
Visually, it’s typical Volkswagen facelift stuff: subtle. The front bumper has been slightly refashioned, as has the grille, and there are new designs of alloy wheels. A much-improved infotainment system features inside; it has DAB and Bluetooth as standard.
Trims remain the same as before, so buyers can pick from Startline, Trendline and Highline. Volkswagen likes its special edition Amaroks too though, and there’s a special one developed to headline the facelift: the Aventura.
This is particularly special for one significant reason: it is fitted with a fancy new 3.0-litre V6 TDI turbodiesel engine. Volkswagen has introduced this premium engine, which is also found in Audis, to push the Amarok upmarket and respond to demand from customers.
It’s eight-speed automatic-only and is available in two power outputs, 201bhp and 220bhp. There will be a third variant later in 2017, producing 160bhp; the multi-cylinder motor replaces the 2.0-litre TDI four-cylinder engine. Impressively, there’s no fuel economy penalty for the switch from 2.0 TDI to 3.0 TDI, either. What’s not to like?
Not least because this is a wonderful engine. OK, it’s not quite as refined here as it would be in a normal car, but it’s not far off. And the combination of low-down grunt and ample peak power means it’s much more linear than the old 2.0-litre. There’s even an overboost function that releases 19bhp extra for short periods – ideal for even more overtaking oomph.
The eight-speed automatic is decent too, albeit a bit jerky on occasion when changing through the first couple of gears when you floor it. Speaking of jerky, the rear end can also struggle to smooth out rough roads – Volkswagen fits a cheaper type of suspension than on its arch-rival the Nissan Navara, and it shows when the going gets tough.
On more everyday roads, though, it’s decent enough, only getting caught out by deeper potholes. Body roll isn’t too excessive and the steering is both light and direct, which makes driving the big Amarok in the city more straightforward.
And big it certainly is when it comes to load-lugging ability: it can take a full Euro pallet between the rear wheelarches, and can haul payloads of 1114kg. The braked towing weight of 3100kg is a bit of a surprise though: despite the big new engine, it’s not quite up with the 3500kg limit of the Nissan, Ford and Isuzu D-Max.
Another surprise is discovering the rear is pretty cramped as well, in contrast to up-front space. At least the cabin is as well-designed as ever, with all the clarity of a Mk7 Golf, albeit with similarly middling levels of design flair.
Overall, the Amarok may not be perfect, but it’s still our choice pick-up. It drives well on the road and that V6 engine elevates it above the competition. It’s an altogether different proposition from downsized rivals and is a compelling choice for those who use working vehicles like this for family duties too.