Volkswagen’s first attempt at a one-tonne pick-up truck has turned out to be a cracker. One of the best vehicles in its class, from launch to the present day, the Amarok is a rugged, dependable pick-up that blends an almost passenger-like cabin with the sort of practicality that only one of these commercial vehicle-derived machines can summon up.
As with any ‘one-tonner’ (so-called because they can take payloads of 1,000kg-plus in their load beds, not because they only weigh one tonne), the Volkswagen Amarok comes in both commercial and civilian flavours, and for this buying guide we are focusing entirely on the latter of these. It comes as a four-door, five-seat double-cab only, with motive power initially provided by a spread of 2.0-litre turbodiesel engines. Originally, 140- and 163hp units were offered, but a 180hp Bi-TDI appeared later in the pre-facelift Amarok’s life to boost performance. This culminated in a fantastic special edition model called the Amarok Canyon, which had a pod of roof lights and the choice of some funky orange paint. In 2016, the Amarok was mildly facelifted and Volkswagen did something quite extraordinary – in the face of rival manufacturers going through downsizing, VW instead dropped the four-cylinder 2.0-litre TDIs and replaced them with a raft of V6 3.0-litre TDI engines for the Amarok. These delivered 163-, 204- and 224hp, the latter appearing in another special model called the Aventura, but this was then uprated to 258hp. All Amaroks have 4Motion all-wheel drive and there is a choice of two gearboxes, a six-speed manual on lower-spec models and an eight-speed automatic on the more powerful motors. Strangely, despite their mass, torque and AWD capabilities, no Amarok can tow the full 3.5 tonnes of braked trailer, although there are various models that can haul 3,100kg.
While the pre-facelift Amarok looks the part, the V6 models are much more refined and gutsy to drive, and the 224hp model has all the thump you could possibly need of one of these things.
Volkswagen Amarok Aventura
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel
Maximum speed: 192km/h
0-100km/h: 8.0 seconds
Fuel consumption: 7.8 litres/100km
• Thumping V6 TDI engines
• One of the most refined pick-ups
• Impressive interior quality
• Still not as refined as an SUV
• Gruff four-cylinder engines
• Ride quality can be bouncy when unladen
If you’re after a supremely comfortable and stress-free driving experience, then the Volkswagen Amarok is not going to match up to a decent SUV. But if you’re after something with a high driving position, four-wheel drive and bags of charisma, the Amarok would knock the spots off most of the competent but dull SUVs that would be the same money. The Volkswagen truck is also one of the best machines in its own hotly-contested one-tonne pick-up class and it was made all the better by the facelift of 2016.