The Volkswagen Amarok shares a few similarities with the ill-fated X-Class, Merc’s short-lived crack at breaking the luxury pick-up market. They’re both German, and both had powerful V6 engines. Unlike the previous generation Volkswagen Amarok which was on sale at the start of the previous decade, the latest pick-up is now based on a competitor's truck. The difference being that VW has gone to great lengths to make their new Amarok their own.
The Amarok slipped out of sale after just nine years. Emissions legislation and other priorities were to blame because the Amarok was a succesful and well-regarded model. It is now back though. Bigger and better than befor, as well as now being related to the Ford Ranger. Not only does the Volkswagen Amarok share the underpinnings with the new Ford Ranger and Ford Ranger Raptor but Ford are building it for them too.
That's because Ford and Volkswagen have become increasingly close of late. The announcement of a collaboration on commercial vehicles was expanded to include electric passenger vehicles. Ford takes care of the majority of the vans, sharing the Transit Custom and Transit with VW. Volkswagen in return has already reskinned the Volkswagen Caddy as the Ford Transit Connect.
The relationship now extends to pick-up trucks with the best-selling Ford Ranger becoming the donor vehicle to the latest Amarok. The result of the co-operation is that there are two commercial vehicle behemoths working together. The Amarok is a shining example of that collaboration which began before the old Amarok even went off sale. That's a major difference to how the Fiat Fullback, for example. was developed, and far more involved than Merc was with Nissan when making the Mercedes-Benz X-Class.
The Volkswagen Amarok is a lot more than a Ranger in a new dress. Volkswagen has gone to the pick-up truck market leader to source its new vehicle and is essentially Ford’s customer. They gave them their requirements for all manner of things, including wanting a V6 diesel like the old model, and out popped an Amarok. Amazingly, it's an Amarok that neither looks or feels like a shared product. So, the job has been done well. It's a cliched line, but the result is that everything you see and touch on the Amarok, except the door handles, wing mirrors housing and the roof panel, are unique.
Compared to the previous Amarok, the new model is better in almost every area. It’s longer and slightly taller, giving more space for the occupants and in the loadbed - but more on that in a moment. The most obvious similarity is what is under the bonnet, as the Amarok once again gets a gutsy V6 diesel engine.
The fashion for smaller engines has been quite common in the pick-up truck market, and after the X-Class and Amarok went off sale we were left without any. VW is back with a flagship diesel, though. While it's not as powerful as the previous model which squeezed out a mighty 258hp in its last iteration, the new 3-litre TDI still makes do with 237hp. That pretty impressive for a pick-up. Not only does the latest Volkswagen Amarok have 237hp it also has 600Nm of torque. An additional 20Nm more than the last.
Comparing this newest version to the previous Amarok is largely irrelevant as this is an entirely new truck.
Its off-roading prowess has improved due to greater approach and departure angles and it has a far higher wading depth and ground clearance. It's just a very different machine. That's because like the Ranger this is another truly global product. The VW badge carries far more clout in other countries than it does in the UK, so the Amarok will be seen as a really premium pick-up in many parts.
Diesel is also not the fuel of choice for many parts of the world. So, while you're probably here to find out about the big powerful V6 it's also worth noting that there’s a wide range of other power options. Amarok gets an entry-level four-cylinder turbodiesel producing 168hp or 203hp. Then there's the top of the range 237bhp of the 3-litre V6 turbodiesel. Those are both available in the UK, along with a choice of a six-speed manual transmission or a 10-speed automatic. The V6 only gets the auto, but it's a good one, the same gearbox now found in most of Ford’s commercial vehicles. Unlike the previous model, this Amarok gets a choice of permanent as well as selectable four-wheel-drive. There's a low range gearbox and of course a locking rear differential too.
Other parts of the world will get a stonking petrol version as well. With a 2.6-litre engine producing 300hp and 452Nm of torque. Euro-5 versions of the diesel engines will also be available in other countries, rather than the more sophistaced Euro-6 engine that we get in the UK.
With all these changes you'll want to know that there's still some of that old Amarok character carried over in this new truck.
The Amarok has always been a capable off-roader and this new model is no different. The borrowed Ranger tech has actually improved its abilities in many areas off-road.
The approach and departure angles have both increased, with the latter improved by nearly 50% to 26-degrees, while the ramp angle is up from 15.6 degrees to 26 degrees thanks to a significant increase in ground clearance. Available only as a double cab in the UK, the Amarok stands at up to 1,884mm with a 237mm ground clearance and a new wading depth of 800mm (up from 500mm). It’s marginally shorter than the old model and fractionally wider, but is essentially the same proportions with the all-important one-tonne payload capacity that ensures all models are VAT recoverable for businesses. It also has a 3.5-tonne rather than 3.1-tonne towing capacity this time around.
Volkswagen has also tried to make the Amarok feel like one of its own models with a focus on the comfort and feel of the pick-up.
VW specifically wanted their pick-up to be softer and more car-like than your average truck. One engineer described it as replicating that feeling of sitting on the sofa in front of the TV.
Whether or not you'd choose to watch the tele in a car seat from a pick-up is a matter of personal preference, but we understand what they meant. The Amarok seat is cosetting and comfortable like an armchair. It's matched to the light steering which although not as effortless as the VW vans is considerably lighter than you'd expect for a truck.
The downside of the lighter electro-mechanical steering is that it doesn’t have the same sharpness as the previous Volkswagen Amarok. It is obviously more attuned to VW’s likings rather than the heavier Ford handling which is no bad thing. And it still has impressive handling and steering feedback. But, along with the smoother ride. it’s a big differentiator to the Ranger.
The Amarok, as a result, is effortlessly easy to drive both on and off-road. It’s also immensely capable at them both too. It is also very quiet. Far quieter and more refined than before.
It’swhat you’d expect a new Amarok to be, not just because of the badge, but because it’s what we know a Ranger is like also.
The V6 diesel engine is a stunning choice of powertrain. The massive amounts of torque make it feel exceptionally powerful. You could pull a fully weighted trailer with the handbrake on and still think that the Amarok wasn't even using half its potential.
There are a total of five trim levels in the Amarok range. Starting with the base model that is simply named Amarok. Next comes Life, followed by Style. Sitting at the top of the Amarok range are an off-road PanAmericana and a more lifestyle orientated Aventura.
Unless you’re after something truly utilitarian, practical and more affordable, Amarok, Life and Style trims will largely be forgotten about by UK buyers (it's the same story when it comes to the 2-litre engine option).
The bulk of the Volkswagen Amaroks here will be the V6 turbodiesel and in either the more lifestyle on-road Aventura or rough and ready, off-road-suitable PanAmericana. For these trims performance and practicality meet comfort and technology. In these trims, the Amarok is just as comfortable on a school run as it is moving tonne bags from the builders merchants.
The Amarok has always been an upmarket model, but VW cabins are a little bit on the conservative side. Fortunately for the Amarok it's got the attention-grabbing 12-inch centre console touchscreen borrowed from the Ford E-Transit. The extravagant portrait display is the nerve centre of the trucks but Volkswagen has applied its own operating system to the interface and everything you look at in the Amarok is of VW’s own design. It's a world apart from the greasy gears of the 4x4 driveline it helps control but is the most obvious common point between Volkswagen Amarok and Ford Ranger models.
As mentioned, the seating is comfortable with plush leather seats in the top models and high quality materials and chrome accents. The cabin feels spacious - which it is when compared to the older model - and the all-round visibility is excellent.
A minor annoyance is that VW has pared back the clutter on the dash by putting most functions in the touchscreen. There are instead a handful of buttons that act as shortcuts to the menus on the touchscreen. It looks neat but taking away functions like temperature controls is annoying. You really want good old-fashioned twisting dials and chunky buttons. The Ranger does is better with more physical controls and a better use of the space in the centre arm rest area where the cupholders are by your hands and not by your elbow - as they are in the VW Amarok.
The Amarok has definitely got you covered when it comes to safety and assistance systems. There are a massive amount with 20 new systems. These range from driver assistance systems like City Emergency Braking through to parking assistance and preventative safety systems like Blind Spot Detection.
There's also your standard ESP systems, hill start assist, cruise control, adpative headlights, tyre pressure monitoring, parking sensors and road sign detection.
The Amarok had big shoes to fill to match the success of its predecessor, so it makes sense to team-up with the market leader. Ford’s dominance of the pick-up sector has been nothing short of remarkable and their stranglehold on the sector has only increased as more players have dropped out.
But, the Amarok will be a direct competitor to the Ranger. The strengths of the VW brand - the Amarok name and the loyalty of its customers - will all be needed to ensure success. It worked for the previous model which had shifted more than 830,000 units worldwide since its launch in 2010.
Maintaining the personality and appeal of the original Amarok was always going to be hard for VW when entering into a joint-venture. By teaming up with Ford, the Amarok has much of the features that has made the Ranger such a dominant market leader, yet VW has carefully navigated and avoided the pitfalls of making the Amarok feel like just another copycat.
The collaboration with Ford will yield all manner of positives and negatives for both brands as each of the new vehicles comes to market but the new Amarok is categorically a win for VW. They’ve acquired the market leading pick-up truck and successfully put their own stamp on it. The question will now be if the Amarok can take a slice out of the Ranger’s market dominance.
As the saying goes, two heads are better than one and the VW Amarok has certainly prospered from the Ranger’s knowledge.
|Volkswagen Amarok Dimensions||Millimetres (mm)|
|Approach angle||30 degrees|
|Departure angle||26 degrees|
|Breakover angle||21 degrees|
|Cargo bed||Millimetres (mm)|