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VW Amarok review

VW Amarok review 2011Upmarket Pickup Truck

Rugged And Expensive; Is There A Market For This In Europe?
*** out of 5

For – rugged, go-anywhere load-lugger for farmers, plumbers
Against – SUV does the same, and keeps your stuff dry, safe

I’ve never driven a pick-up truck before. I’ve ridden in a few in the U.S. over the years, but pick-ups really are alien creatures here in Britain.

That’s probably because in America there are millions of individually-owned small plumbing, electrical businesses or farms which need a vehicle which can be used both for work and play. These businesses in Britain seem to use grungy little vans for work which wouldn’t be able to double up for leisure use. I can’t see my favourite local decorator BodgeIt and LeggIt being able to afford one of these.

VW Amarok review 2011The market in the U.S. for pickups is massive compared with Europe and the Ford 150 pickup has been the most popular vehicle in America for more than 20 years. There is also an import tax issue, which explains why U.S. made pickups still dominate, although Japanese imports are now big too. Cheap petrol prices in the U.S. must be a factor. It’s a cultural thing too. Americans link pickups with the idea that they are free to go anywhere and do anything. You can pack a few goats or a cow or an off-road bike in the flatbed, or load stuff to build your dream house or supply your small farm. If you spill stuff in the back, you just hose it down.

Whatever the reason for the pickup’s success, VW has belatedly entered the market both here and the U.S. with the Amarok, and it’s hard to see what impact it will have, given this sector of the market has been so small, and dominated by marginal brands like Mitsubishi with offerings from Nissan and Toyota. The Amarok can do many things without having to compromise too much. It’s got four seats and a cargo area of 2.5 cubic metres, and the load bay can take a Euro pallet, whatever that is, sideways.

Punchy performance
VW Amarok review 2011I drove the top of the range four-door, five-seat Amarok Highline, with a 2.0 litre 161 hp diesel engine, which provided punchy performance. The ride was a bit bouncy, wind noise was noticeable in the form of a low whistling sound. The six-speed manual gearbox was impressive, handling was just fine. There seemed to be plenty of room in the back. The interior quality was first rate, much too good for someone about to go plumbing or building, with all the dust and dirt associated with that. The ladder frame chassis promises serious off-road credentials.

The price of £26,839 seems a bit steep, but when you look at the Amarok it is big and you do get a lot for your money.

There two other trim levels, starting at £16,995 for the Startline model and £18,995 for the Trendline. The Amarok is available with the choice of two diesel engines, the 161 hp 2.0 litre, or a 120 hp version. Standard equipment includes 16-inch alloy wheels, four-wheel drive, electric front and rear windows, semi-automatic air conditioning and single CD/radio. Safety systems include six airbags, ESP (Electronic Stability Programme) incorporating Brake Assist System (BAS), Traction Control System (TCS), Electronic Differential Lock (EDL), Hill Hold Assist, Hill Descent Control, Trailer Stability Control and off-road ABS, designed to shorten stopping distances significantly on loose surfaces.

VW Amarok review 2011

Blimey. If that doesn’t keep you safe, you ought to visit SpecSavers. The four-wheel drive system offers a choice between rear-wheel drive, four-wheel drive and low range four-wheel drive via a button mounted on the dashboard.

Trendline adds two-zone automatic air conditioning, RCD 310 radio/CD player, cruise control, multifunction computer and a leather-trimmed steering wheel, handbrake and gear knob. Colour-coded mirrors, front bumper and distinctive wheel-arch extensions along with front fog lights and 17-inch wheels give the Trendline a bold and purposeful stance, says the blurb.

The Highline has chrome detailing on the front grille, door mirrors and rear bumper, polished stainless steel sidebars, privacy glass, 18-inch wheels, leather upholstery, heated front seats and rear parking sensors.

VW Amarok review 2011

The Highline is also available with an improved four-wheel drive system with suspension which offers a more car-like driving experience.

The Amarok is built at a plant in Pacheco, near Buenos Aires, Argentina, and is on sale almost everywhere in the world but America. A single cab version will arrive next year. Will pickups be attractive to Europeans? I suppose a stripped down version with just two seats would be useful for farmers etc, or maybe a luxury version like the Amarok could be attractive to macho posers as they drive down High Street Kensington. But how do you keep expensive equipment or goods secure in the back? Why wouldn’t you buy an SUV, which is more flexible and keeps your stuff dry and safe?

VW Amarok review 2011

Neil Winton – July 25, 2011

 Volkswagen Amarok Highline
Engine:2.0 litre four cylinder common rail diesel
161 hp @ 4,000 rpm
400 Nm @ 1,500-2,000
six-speed manual
Acceleration:0-62-100 km/h – 11.1 seconds
Top Speed:112 mph-180 km/h
Fuel Consumption:
claimed combined – 35.8 mpg-7.9 l/km
CO2:209 g/km
Emissions class:
Euro V
Length:5,254 mm
2,106 kg
heavy duty 3+2 leaf spring
Insurance Group:
3 years-100,000 miles
Boot capacity:
2.5 cubic metres
For:rugged, go-anywhere load-lugger for farmers, plumbers, decorators
Against:SUV does the same, and keeps your stuff dry, safe


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