Volkswagen Amarok V6 2017 review | load test
What we like
Great grunt with 165kW & 550Nm
Permanent all-wheel drive
Top-shelf design and build quality
What we don’t
Low 500mm wading depth
No ANCAP rating or rear curtain airbags
Launched in 2010, the Amarok has earned wide industry acclaim yet has failed to put a dent in the sales dominance of the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger in the hotly contested 4×4 dual cab ute category.
Perhaps realising the twin-turbo 2.0 litre four cylinder diesel it was launched with was considered too small to pass the pub test, VW decided it would muscle up and demand a seat at the bar.
The Wolfsburg marque has added a new variant with a mighty 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel, which brings not only two extra cylinders and more cubes, but class-leading outputs of 165kW and 550Nm.
With this power-packed engine option, Volkswagen has ensured the Amarok now has a ‘hero’ model with enough muscle to out-flex Toyota and Ford in the turbo-diesel arm-wrestling stakes.
Is there anything interesting about its design?
The Amarok V6, like its four-cylinder siblings, rides on a 3095mm wheelbase, which is longer than HiLux but shorter than Ranger. Its 5254mm overall length is shorter than both rivals but its 1954mm width is substantially wider, resulting in a chunky, broad-shouldered stance.
Beneath the fully galvanised body is a robust ladder-frame chassis with twin A-arm independent front suspension, traditional leaf-spring live rear axle, four-wheel disc brakes and power-assisted rack and pinion steering. The Ultimate also gets a chromed rear bumper, side-steps and twin-tube sports bar plus 19 x 8-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 255/55 R19 general purpose tyres, with a full size alloy spare. A 20 x 8-inch wheel and tyre option is also available.
For off road use there’s substantial underbody protection, 192mm of ground clearance, a 28-degree approach angle, 23.6 degree departure angle, 23 degree ramp-over angle and ramp and side-tilt angles of up to 45 degrees. The only downside is a comparatively shallow 500mm wading depth, with the air intake not so cleverly hidden behind the right headlight.
The Ultimate’s cabin and dashboard layout have a premium look and feel with the luxurious scent of leather and a steering wheel with adjustable tilt and reach. Our only gripe is the excessive number of entry-level blanks on the console where you’d expect to see working switches in such a top-shelf model (if they’re not in this car, where are they?). The new ‘ErgoComfort’ heated front seats offer 14-way electric adjustment of cushion height, angle and lumbar support, along with excellent lateral support. These seats really do set a new benchmark in ute comfort.
Rear passengers – particularly tall ones – don’t enjoy the same luxuries, with tighter rear door access and limited knee and head room, along with a very upright seating position. However, the higher ‘grandstand’ seating does provide good forward vision for those in the back.
How practical is the space inside?
The switch to six cylinders has brought extra kilowatts but also extra kilograms. The V6 Ultimate’s 2216kg kerb weight is 122kg heavier than the TDI420 Ultimate’s 2094kg, but with such big increases in power and torque you don’t really notice the extra bulk from behind the wheel.
Where you do notice it, though, is in the V6’s GVM (gross vehicle mass) of 3080kgs. This allows for a payload of 864kg, which is 82kg less than its four-cylinder sibling. And the V6’s maximum braked tow rating of 3000kg is also no higher than the four’s.
However, its GCM (gross combined mass) of 6000kg is a substantial 450kg higher, along with a 288kg advantage in payload at 704kg. Compare the legal GCM payloads of rival utes, with higher 3500kg tow ratings, and you’ll see this is a practical and efficient compromise.
The cargo bed with spray-in protective liner is 1555mm long and 1620mm wide, with 1222mm between the wheel arches, which means it can carry a standard 1160mm x 1160mm Aussie pallet if need be. It’s also equipped with four sturdy D-shackles as tie-down points, a 12-volt socket and cargo-area lighting.
Cabin-storage options include a bottle holder and storage pocket in each front door plus storage pockets in each rear door, centre console front storage nook, lidded box and two more bottle/cup holders, indented dash-top storage tray, a single glovebox and two more bottle/cup holders in the centre of the rear floor.