Volkswagen Amarok V6 Pickup Review - Select Car Leasing
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Volkswagen Amarok V6 Pickup Review

Introduction

Volkswagen killed off the Amarok in 2020, but you can’t keep a good thing down. Despite costing VW a fortune the first time around, it’s back with a sequel that shares a significant amount with the Ford Ranger.

The chassis, suspension, engines and gearboxes are standard across the two rival models, and the Amarok is built in Ford’s factory in South Africa, but has Volkswagen done enough with its premium pickup to create a clear divide between the models? We take the range-topping Amarok PanAmericana for a cross-country run to find out.

Select's rating score* - 3.9 / 5

At a Glance

Volkswagen is aiming at the premium market, and it shows, especially in the high-end models. Depending on the trim you choose, there are swathes of chrome or darkened metals, with alloy wheels running from a paltry 17 inches to a stylish 21 inches.

Our PanAmericana model sits at the top of the range and gains a darkened ‘X’ style front end that’s big, bold and blunt. The LED lights above pinch around the sides to the squared-off wheel arches that make it look tough and rugged. Dark side steps, mirrors, sports bar and 18-inch alloy wheels add some menace, although the brushed metal roof rails look like somebody’s forgotten to paint them black.

Other models (Life, Style and Aventura) get matt silver ‘X’ effects at the front, chrome strips, or just plain grey plastic, but all of them look neat and hold a lot of on-road presence. They all get a tailgate stamped with AMAROK across the width of the pickup, underneath a vast Volkswagen roundel. Nobody will be in any doubt about what you’re driving.

Every model runs a selectable four-wheel-drive system powered by a 2.0 or 3.0-litre diesel engine producing between 170 and 240hp. If you want a manual gearbox, though, you’re out of luck, as they’re all fitted with a 10-speed automatic.

Key Features

Volkswagen is making a big deal about the safety technology it’s putting in the Amarok, with 20 bits of kit it says haven’t been seen on the pickup before.

There are cameras, LED matrix headlights, automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, lane changing assist, road sign recognition, adaptive cruise control, rear traffic alerts, intelligent speed assist, automated self-parking, and more. The list literally goes on and on.

A lot of that is commonplace in the car world, but pickups often face tougher challenges, making fitting the equipment more complicated and more costly. You do need to spend a lot of money to get every option, though, as the entry-level models miss out on much of what the top-spec trucks have included.


Performance & Drive

The Amarok range starts with a fairly unmemorable 2.0-litre diesel engine developing 170hp. Available only on the entry-level Life model, most will ignore that and move up to the 205hp version of the same engine.

The appeal of a V6 powerplant was a big draw to previous-generation Amarok buyers, so the engine returns here. Well, not the exact same engine, but a new unit from Ford that develops 240hp. Under normal circumstances, it’s a rear-wheel drive model, so there’s some hooligan fun to be had, but a quick touch of a dial switches on the automatic all-wheel-drive system, keeping things secure. It’ll also switch to permanent 4x4 mode with a low-range choice too.

That’s enough to cope with the farm tracks, ponds (wading depth is up from 300mm to 800mm) and grassy fields we tackled. It's not climbing the Eiger, but it’s a realistic representation of what most Amaroks might face in their lifetime. As well as the all-wheel-drive (with six modes for different terrain), there’s a locking centre differential and, on this PanAmericana model only, a locking rear diff.


Approach angles are set at 30°, with a departure angle of 23° thanks to the long tail. The longer wheelbase — 173mm longer than the old model — gives a ramp angle of 21°. As I traversed a steep slope, the onboard graphics showed the truck was leaning at 23°, where it felt solid and stable and clearly a long way from its limit.

So it’s fine off-road. Pickups have never been great on the road, though, and while the last Amarok was amongst the best, there was still something a little agricultural about it. The new one? It’s the finest riding pickup we’ve experienced yet — but with the caveat that we've got some new rivals coming soon.

The suspension resists roll in corners nicely and masks most imperfections in the road. More minor defects cause the back of the pickup to jiggle around a little — something you can’t help when the suspension has to cope with carrying a tonne — but it’s the smoothest ride we’ve experienced this side of an SUV.


Performance is strong, if not earth-shattering. The 240hp 3.0-litre V6 engine develops 600Nm of torque, so it gets the truck to 62mph in 8.8 seconds, but it gives a constant wave of power rather than a punch in the back. Cruising speeds are reached quickly, but the Amarok is so well isolated from the road that you invariably end up travelling more rapidly than you may have intended. It might be wise to get familiarised with the speed limiter function.

It’s a little more tricky in town, although light controls help to manoeuvre the Volkswagen. Still, it’s well over five metres long, and that tall, flat bonnet hides an awful lot of what’s in front of you, so visibility is poor. Happily, every model gets parking sensors all around and a reversing camera, with most also getting a 360-degree camera system.

Running Costs

You’ll feel the pain of running a big V6 engine in a vehicle weighing 2.3 tonnes when you get to the fuel pumps. Officially, it’ll manage 28mpg, although we only averaged 23mpg during our time with the truck, excluding our off-roading jaunt. That said, the real-time economy readout suggested we were getting 35mpg during a gentle A-road cruise at 50mph or so.

Opting for the lower power and smaller engined models won’t save a huge amount, with a best result of 33.6mpg from the 170hp entry-level Amarok.

A price tag around £3,000 higher than the equivalent Ford Ranger might put some off, but leasing rates are likely to be broadly similar thanks to strong residual values on the Volkswagen. Company car drivers will face the same fixed-rate BIK burden of £1,440 for a 40% rate taxpayer regardless of what pickup they choose, so the list price makes little difference there.

Just one word of caution, though; the Aventura specification, aimed squarely at lifestyle users, doesn’t qualify as a commercial vehicle, so company car tax bills will be based on car rates, which means a tax bill of more than £8,000 a year for a 40% taxpayer.


Interior and Technology

The push to have buyers consider the Amarok as the luxury option in the pickup world is clear from within the vehicle. The neatly contoured dashboard is topped with leather, complete with contrast stitching that runs the width of the interior. Air vents are highlighted in faux-brushed aluminium, while a polished fake-carbon fibre panel surrounds the leather-clad gear selector. Knurled rocker switches beneath the glossy 12.0-inch infotainment screen that gives quick and easy access to ancillary functions look fantastic, while the Harman-Kardon logos on the eight-speaker sound system add a touch of class.


It’s let down a little, though, as some of the touchpoints feel surprisingly cheap and flimsy — the door handles, for example, are particularly unpleasant. Look below the level of the steering wheel, and there are cheap, hard plastics covering many surfaces, while those knurled switches don’t feel anywhere near as significant as they look.

The quality quibbles aren’t really significant, though, as it’ll undoubtedly last well, even if it feels like it might not. What’s less pleasing is the reliance on digital tech for, well, almost everything. The infotainment screen dominates but also works very well, being quick, responsive and mostly clear to use, but removing buttons for cabin temperature, for example, makes life that little more complicated. Yes, it’s just a couple of screen taps to warm things up or turn the heated leather seats on, but hitting the right spot on the screen while driving is easier said than done.

The system includes wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which makes entertainment and navigation easy. You’ll find wireless phone charging on higher-spec models like this PanAmericana too.


Payload and Practicality

Most businesses will steer clear of a pickup that can’t carry a tonne, so buyers need to be careful about which Amarok they choose. Most models will happily take a tonne — our PanAmericana’s payload tops out at 1,054kg — but the Aventura model is less accommodating, able to take just 877kg. This causes a lot of VAT headaches for businesses but will be less of a financial concern for private buyers or lessors.

Every Amarok gets a good-sized cargo box measuring 1,624mm long by 1,585mm wide, with a gap between the wheel arches of 1,224mm. A tailgate that drops to perfectly level makes it possible to forklift in a Euro pallet.


Bar the entry-level 170hp Amarok Life, which misses out by 80kg, every model will tow 3,500kg without a problem. If you want to load it to the max, the roof can also take 80kg, but remember that this comes off your total payload.

However, a gross train weight of 6,500kg for most models means it’s impossible to legally carry the maximum payload while also towing the largest trailer. That’s something only the SsangYong Musso can manage.

Safety

Volkswagen says the Amarok has 20 new safety and driver assistance systems not seen in its pickups before, although only some models get every bit of equipment. Automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection is key, and that’s joined by lane-keeping assist, rear traffic alert, lane-changing assistance, semi-automatic self-parking, 360-degree cameras and adaptive cruise control, amongst many other items.

Euro NCAP has put the Amarok through its comprehensive safety testing regime, where it marked it alongside cars rather than commercial vehicles. A full five-star rating was awarded, with every area performing well, although they did comment that the Amarok would be an ‘aggressive partner’ in a head-on collision. 


Options

The entry-level Life model comes equipped for commercial use, with vinyl flooring, manual air conditioning, a 10.0-inch infotainment screen, adaptive cruise control, reversing camera, and a suite of safety and driver assistance tech. Style trim adds climate control, carpets, a larger 12.0-inch infotainment screen, LED headlights, a 360-degree camera, 18-inch alloy wheels and some flash chrome bits such as a robust sports bar.

You can add a Technology pack to the Life model for £2,700 plus VAT, which pretty much turns it into a Style model. The Style models can be improved with a £2,050 Premium pack that adds leather seats and the Harman-Kardon sound system, along with safety and driver assistance tech. Including a towing pack with that is a further £700.

The top of the range is split into two, our PanAmericana model and the Aventura model. The former is off-road focussed, so it gets a locking rear diff, underfloor guard and LED load box lighting, as well as leather seats, a Harman-Kardon stereo, and darkened trim around the body. The Aventura model is more lifestyle friendly, so it gets flash 21-inch wheels, chrome highlights, plusher leather seats and a heated steering wheel. These twin models only get options for towing packs, as they’re fully loaded to start with.

You can have any colour you like, as long as it’s white, or splash out £500 for red, two shades of blue, beige, black or two shades of grey.


Rival Pickups

The Ford Ranger is the corporate twin of the Amarok, so everything written above pretty much holds for Ford. It lacks the panache of the Amarok but does hit back by undercutting it on price quite significantly.


Australians love the Toyota Hilux, where reliability and dependability are essential. That bodes well for those working their pickups hard. The latest models gain power and improved ride quality, but it feels a little dated against the Ford and Volkswagen pair.

The Isuzu D-Max is the ultimate sensible choice. It’s a workhorse, certainly, but it has enough comfort and convenient features to not complain too hard about it. The load box is a little small, though, but that means it weighs less than most rivals and by enough to allow it to travel at 70mph on the dual carriageways legally.

Finally, the SsangYong Musso is a more road-focused model packed with Korean tech inside. It’s got a lovely engine and loads of equipment, and is the only pickup that can pull 3.5 tonnes while carrying a tonne in the back. It’s just a shame the ride quality isn't what it should be.

Verdict

Put aside thoughts that the Volkswagen Amarok is just a Ford Ranger with a different badge. Technically, that’s true, but Volkswagen has done enough work on its version that they look and feel very different to each other.

We won’t doubt its ultimate off-road abilities — we’ve tried the Ranger in seriously demanding terrain, and it went fine, so the Amarok will, too — and we know it’s impressively smooth, refined and composed on the road.

The silky smooth V6 adds to the appeal, although, while a little noisier and rougher, there’s really not much wrong with the 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine.


Volkswagen designers have given the Amarok a lot of presence, especially in PanAmericana form, which will stand out against its more workplace-focussed rivals, and the cabin feels posh enough to match the exterior.

It’s difficult not to make the case for the Amarok then, especially if you’re a commercial user. It’s the best pickup on the market. For now…

Where to next?

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**Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top leading independent car website reviews of the Volkswagen Amarok pickup. 

**Correct as of 20/06/2023. Based on 9 months initial payment, 10,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £4,414.95, ex VAT (Plus admin fee) Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.

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