Amarok sales have not been great lately but when the facelifted version arrives things could be different for there’s a pair of range-topping V6 variants that will reset the performance bar for Utes.
The engine itself is modified for use in full-time 4WD Amarok, with a bigger sump, and the motor’s tilted back five degrees, necessary apparently for lubrication when subjected to 45-degree inclines, vertical or otherwise.
And on that, the V6 is good for 550Nm of torque from 1400-2750rpm, overboost temporarily extending that to 580Nm, while adding around 15kW of power (180kW). It’s available for 10sec from 50-120km/h, so is perfect for hasty overtaking. The eight-speed automatic transmission has been strengthened to handle the extra grunt, and in the Aventura shifts can be made using paddles attached to the wheel.
Amarok Aventura qualifies for brute status too, only in this case that’s also short for brilliant ute. This vehicle is set to upset the ute applecart. Nothing to date has had a turbodiesel you could actually say, hand on heart, was an animal. Not until now; this is gutsy, refined, relaxed and just outright exciting to drive. Economical? Well in theory perhaps; you don’t get big power and torque for nothing. On cruise at highway speeds, you’re looking at between 7 and 8L/100km on a good day. Most of the time, we saw averages in the 11s.
Forget that because performance more than compensates. We should just add before going there that this has a braked towing capacity of up to 3500kg, as well as four-wheel disks.
Initial acceleration tests showed promise. In the Sport transmission setting the gearbox seemed to hesitate on full bore upshifts, and we couldn’t better 8.8sec. In context, that’s still 2sec ahead of the four-pot Amarok and over a second up on the quickest ute, Colorado.
That’s impressive, especially given it weighs in at 2290kg. No other ute comes within a bull’s roar. On the overtaking front, an 80-120 time of 5.5sec odd is identical to the best we could coax from a Mazda3 SP25 manual we had in the office at the same time.
Utes continue to be big news here. Ford Ranger plows on with its best-selling status like some runaway juggernaut, leaving former darlings, like rental staple Corolla, in its wake. Trends change, and new vehicle buyers aren’t averse to piloting high-riding vehicles, especially butch ones.
Ranger’s not the only high flyer, Hilux the second best seller overall and the Colorado, Triton and Navara duke it out for the final podium position. Languishing somewhat is Amarok, YTD sales of 500 lagging behind those of 2016 (700).
With a facelift coming, VW felt a change of strategy was needed and the decision to drop all 2WD variants was made. By going 4WD only, they’ve been able to negotiate better deals across the range. Generalising, each model has had a swag of spec added, while cost has either decreased or is unchanged. So it’s an improved value story.
However, the big news for facelifted Amarok is the addition of two new V6-powered turbodiesel models, one of which, V6 Highline, will sell for $73,990, not much more than what’s asked for the top four-potter rivals. A better specified Aventura model with “the lot” including Nappa leather, premium audio, chrome bars, and 20-inch alloys will sell for $82,990, making it the most expensive one-tonne ute on the market, at least until the Mercedes X-Class arrives.
And that brings us to the issue of ride quality, not always a strength of modern utes. However, Amarok has always been at the pointy end of the pack for ride refinement and nothing’s different here. Helping is an ergonomically designed 14-way power-operated seat, evidently certified by German chiropractors. Whatever, it’s encompassing, supportive and helps gives the Amarok the best ride in the business. It’s hushed too, even on the 20-inch rubber, registering an average in-cabin SPL of 65.3dB.
Amarok has amongst the biggest wellsides in the class, especially for width between the wheel arches; it’s the only ute that can fit a pallet. The Aventura comes standard with a spray-on tray liner, and the shiny bars are also standard fare.
In the cheap seats, Amarok has never been quite as generous as the others, at least for legroom. There are no airbags back there either.
Even with its new grille and fascia it may not quite match Ranger for butch styling but it certainly does where it matters; it’s engine is monstering. It makes a gruff noise too, especially around 2000rpm where it pulls like no other, and on road it hikes from 2500rpm onwards. But it isn’t just impressive in a straight line.
The Servotronic steering we found a touch light at times, but this is a confident bend swinger, understeer building progressively and it’s well telegraphed. It also responds nicely to a throttle lift.
Production for the first six months is out of Hanover – you can pick these by their stainless styling bars – and then reverts to Argentina, so if you want a German Amarok be quick.
Available also as a Highline for $73,990 that model gets heated seats and partial leather trim along with sat nav and bixenons. The four-cylinder range now kicks off at $49,990 for the Core model, with a Comfortline model at $57,990 (formerly $62k) and Highline variant for $64,990.
If you’re considering one of the top double cab 4×4 utes, you must add the V6 Amarok to the list. It’s sets the bar much higher for performance, and will shake up the sector.