Wednesday, 15 September 2010


Amarok at work

Problem with the Volkswagen Amarok I still say, is how pretty it is. Bakkies (pickups) can be anything but pretty. Sure it can be good-looking, up to a point. But following its crossing the line into the realm of super models then things start going off the rails. Why you may ask. Simple. Bakkies are workhorses. They are the vehicles everyone turns to when they move house, when they carry rubbish, manure, people…Why would such a vehicle need good looks?

Of course it does not need good looks per se, except that somehow it did inherit them. Partly because VW has undergone a product portfolio design review across the whole range and everything now looks new. The thin front grille with a few slits is the new face, coupled with large headlights with kinky corners and a big front bumper. The side profile adds more beef with its large mirrors and wheel arches. Unfortunately or fortunately, there are no plans to bring 20-inch wheels for them. Nevertheless one can’t help but wonder if the US market was not top of mind when the Argentina-built Amarok was first discussed for possible production. After all, the Americans love huge pick-ups.

And this car is quite sizeable. Dimensions are 5.2 metres in length, 1.9m wide and 1.8m high. At that level it can be compared to the Audi A8 in length and the Hummer H3 in height. More impressive is the load box which is wide enough to take Euro pallets (those flat planks used by forklifts to pick up stuff). VW says it has a payload capacity of up to 1.15 tonnes, which is excellent for a double cab. Yes there will be single cab versions introduced in 2011, but for now we only get the double cab.

With a 2.0-litre TDI engine the Amarok sounds even more suspect as far as bakkie aficionados go. Segment leaders use all manner of bigger engines, including 2.5-litre and 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesels. Amarok looks quite meek when this is mentioned. Except that the 2.0-litre bi turbo diesel is just as powerful as those bigger competitor engines. And apparently more fuel efficient too.

Two versions are to be sold. The baseline TDI uses a single turbo to put out 90kW and 340Nm of torque at 2000 rpm. VW claims an average fuel consumption figure of 7.7 litres per 100km for this model, equating to 202g/km in C02 emissions.

As for the biturbo, 120kW is on tap, as are 400Nm of torque from 1500rpm. Fuel consumption is said to be 7.9 litres per 100km, with C02 numbers quoted at 208g/km. Spending half a day with the Amarok allowed me to test some of these claims. Indeed the engine is quite torquey, with pull available at a very early stage during take-off. The spread goes on for a while, allowing for a very relaxed drive even on inclines where often one doesn’t need to change down gears. The 6-speed manual gearbox feels comfortable and car-like. Both models can be ordered with VW’s 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system which is as easy to use as pushing buttons located alongside the gear lever. The majority of customers don’t really need AWD so the bulk of sales should come from the 4x2 lot.

The cabin itself is designed to feel smaller, and therefore like sitting in a sedan. Apart from the right height one would not feel like they are occupying a workhorse. Nothing says “industrial” at all. In fact, you could be in the midst of a Jetta. The steering wheel is compact, giving further impressions of a small car. Dials and knobs are within easy reach and are made from tough plastics. Yet it still does not feel like a farmer’s car.

Our top-of-the-range launch cars were fitted with a CD player, cushy leather seats, electric windows and side mirrors, cup holders and air conditioning. The trip computer displays information such as average fuel consumption, outside temperature and other important stuff. Baseline the single cabs coming next year might not be as well-appointed. Granted those are pure workhorses. The double cab is more of a leisure vehicle. Buyers tend to use them not just as automated wheel barrows but also as everyday commuting cars. I suspect most will be in this category.

I started off by noting how pretty the Amarok is, and it truly is. But that does not take away from its ruggedness. Last year’s Dakar organisers used a number of these cars as mules for the race. All had to keep up with the race and carry support equipment and so on. Our launch drive also included a few gravel excursions which gave hints of how well the damping has been engineered into the suspension system. My co-driver even remarked about how a certain rival would be all over the place under the same conditions. The AWD ABS system, a new industry innovation, cuts braking times on gravel roads significantly, thus enhancing the Amarok’s safety credentials. Another sweet feature is the automatic Hill Descent control which does not need the driver’s input. It keeps the last speed attained just before the hill decline. All you do is to steer.

As good an all-rounder as the Amarok seems, only time will tell just how tough VW’s first foray into the one-tonne bakkie market really is. Time will also have to tell how many units it sells. Its maker expects a compliment averaging around 380 units in 2011 for 15% market share. With the single cabs having been introduced in the first quarter of the year the full allocation of 2011 should be about 1000 per month.

Volkswagen Amarok Pricing
Trendline 4x2 90kW (R316 800)
Trendline 4MOTION AWD 90kW (R364 400)
Highline 4x2 120kW (R342 400)
Highline 4MOTION AWD 120kW (R390 000)

1 comment:

Oxo said...

If one can look pimpn' carrying 1.5 tones of ish. You deserve all the props one can get. Ayeye Hilux.