The original Volkswagen Amarok was a good looking and refined bakkie that stood the test of time through its 12 year life cycle that ended last year.
Trouble is, it was never a big seller on the global scale, and so Volkswagen had a hard time trying to justify the development of an all-new model to its bean counters.
Thankfully for them, a reciprocal relationship developed with Ford and from that arose the possibility of a new Amarok sharing a platform with the Ranger.
And while some dyed-in-the-wool Amarok fans might not have appreciated a new model with Blue Oval genes, it was a case of either that or no Amarok.
While the resulting second-gen Amarok is built at Ford SA’s Silverton plant, also sharing its basic architecture and engines with the Ranger, it’s more than just a feeble rebadge. While on the outside it shares its door and roof panels with the Ford, it has unique front and rear styling and the cabin has also been differentiated in the way it looks and feels.
We recently spent time with both the 3.0 V6 TDI PanAmericana and the mid-range 2.0 BiTDI Style double cab models. Here are our take outs:
V6 is wonderful, but 2.0 hits the sweet spot
We loved the previous-gen Amarok 3.0 TDI, even describing it as the GTI of bakkies, and so we’re glad VW managed to keep it firing on six-cylinders.
Available in three flavours: Style, PanAmericana and Aventura, the Ford sourced 3.0-litre, with 184kW and 600Nm, is slightly less powerful, but torquier than VW’s own unit that was used previously.
While its acceleration doesn’t feel dramatic, it gathers momentum rapidly and gracefully like a bullet train, making it deceptively fast. It’s impressively quiet at higher speeds, but from a seat of the pants perspective, there’s a slight gruffness to the engine that you feel when accelerating at lower speeds. As for economy, I managed 8.6 litres per 100km on the freeway and 11.2 l/100km in mixed conditions.
But to me the 2.0-litre BiTurbo version, which costs on average around R90 000 less than the equivalent V6 models (although it’s not available as an Aventura) is the pick of the bunch.
While Ford’s previous 2.0 BiT diesel felt a bit overwhelmed by its 10 forward gear ratios, engineers have sorted it out properly in the new generation and as a result the vehicle feels smooth, responsive and free-revving. With 154kW and 500Nm, it’s more than adequately powered for this package and performance feels effortless. And it’s 0.9 litres per 100km more efficient than the V6 if we go by the claimed figures.
Look, if you’re planning to tow a boat the size of a house then you’re going to want the V6 Amarok, and it comes with certain bragging rights too if that means anything to you. But when all is considered, the 2.0 BiTDI is the one that hits the sweet spot for me.
Impressive road manners
It’s hard to fault the new Amarok’s on-road refinement and off-road capabilities, and here it strikes a fine balance for a modern bakkie.
The ride, while still slightly bouncy unladen, is comfortable by bakkie standards and the vehicle is quiet on the open road.
The steering provides good feedback too and overall the Amarok feels surefooted on twistier sections of road. But here’s where the V6 claws back a bit of an advantage.
You see the bigger engine is paired with a permanent all-wheel drive system that has a 4A (automatic) setting, giving you the safety net of four-wheel drive at higher speeds.
The four-cylinder model, on the other hand, has a more traditional part-time 4x4 system that forces you into rear-wheel drive mode at higher speeds.
Both, of course, have low-range gearing and plenty of bush-trawling capability, including a wading depth of 800mm.
Cabin is classy, but perhaps too digital
Volkswagen sent a bus-load of designers and engineers to the Ford Australia design facility that created the new Amarok and Ranger, and it shows in the classy cabin design.
Apart from the vertical screen arrangement that it shares with the Ranger, it still looks and feels like a VW inside, with classy looking materials throughout.
Even the screen, while using Ford’s SYNC4 operating system, has its own graphics. But we don’t like the fact that VW has eliminated the physical climate controls as adjusting these on the screen is time consuming and distracting.
Overall the Style model that we tested felt classy inside, while the PanAmericana had a more adventurous vibe to it, with certain trimmings reminding us of a baseball mitt.
Here are the main specification differences
The Amarok Style comes with 18-inch Amadora alloy wheels and an exterior sports bar, while the cabin features Savona leather seats, push-button start, inductive phone charging, ambient lighting, 230V power socket inverter and additional driver assist features such as autonomous emergency braking, lane assist and tyre pressure monitor.
The Amarok PanAmericana gains IQ.Light LED headlights as well as LED taillamps, black sport bar, silver roof rails, metal underbody protection, load box bed liner and upgraded suspension.
Additional cabin features include ‘Cricket’ leather seats as well as a Harmon Kardon audio system, Discover Media infotainment centre with satnav, Adaptive Cruise Control with Traffic Jam Assist, Area View 360-degree camera, Evasive Steering, Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
At the time of writing (September 2023) the Amarok 2.0 BiTDI Style 4Motion was priced at R922,600, while the 3.0 TDI V6 PanAmericana 4Motion was listed at R1,106,300. The former, in my opinion, is all the bakkie you’ll ever need.
Of course, Volkswagen also offers other trims, including the base, starting at R599,000, Life, from R683,500, and the range-topping Aventura, at R1,161,000.