VW Amarok picks up the refinement baton

Pick-ups are often the poor relation in the motoring world, but not any more, according to motoring writer IAN LAMMING, who has been driving VW’s muscular workhorse.

VW’s Amarok is more than capable when the going gets tough.

SINGLE track lane, wet muddy surface and an indeterminate pick-up flies around the bend.
The test car comes to a safe halt but the runaway truck is now out of control, the only place to go is the verge and ineffectual brakes have to be supplemented by the stopping power of a hawthorn hedge – never underestimate the power of nature.
An embarrassed driver waves in apology, reverses out of the undergrowth and is on his way with an understanding nod from me as I realise this occurrence is often the case with pick-ups.
It’s as if working men and women –  people prepared to get their hands dirty – somehow don’t warrant the attention of designers, the luxuries of cars, the safety devices of modern motoring.
Well, VW has just put that right. The new Amarok (that’s Inuit for wolf, by the way) is a 4×4 to rival any 4×4, it just happens to have a massive pick-up grafted on its cab.
There’s nothing utilitarian about the latest VW commercial. It cossets five, boasts every creature comfort and has more safety features than a council emergency planning manual.
Firstly, from the front, it boasts the new VW DNA, which is evident on the Polo, Golf or Touareg. It is only when you take a step to the right or left does the flatback emerge.
Otherwise passengers and driver could be riding along in any of the aforementioned. The seats are passenger car comfortable, the trim is high spec but durable and the specification is long and impressive.
On the mid-market Trendline the windows are electric front and rear, there’s two-zone automatic climate control, a decent CD player with six speakers, cruise control, a touch of luxurious leather on the three spoke steering wheel, gearlever and handbrake and 17in alloys.
Move up another notch and you even get leather trim , heated front seats and parking sensors – very posh.
But there’s nothing soft and fluffy about the Amarok; as a pick-up it’s the proper job. The heavy tailgate drops to reveal a well-shaped load-bay that will take a full pallet sideways.
The modestly sized 2.0 TDI churns out a whopping 163PS and 400Nm of toque thanks to bi-turbos and it does this from just 1,500rpm, making the Amarok feel extremely powerful. That’s just what you need for carrying big loads, pulling heavy trailers or hauling yourself out of the mud.
There’s no need to rev the motor as it pulls with Herculean strength from tickover. This torquey nature is a boon off road. Select low ratio four wheel drive by pressing a button on the transmission tunnel, point the VW at the steepest of steep bits and it chugs up in an unflustered, unstoppable manner without having to touch the throttle at all.
Coming down is just as easy because it is fitted with the sophisticated hill control descent that you would expect to see on much pricier vehicles carrying the green oval badge. It’s an uncanny feeling being so in control without having to touch any pedals.
On the road the skittish nature of normal pick-ups gives way to the controlled feel of a big car thanks to ABS brakes, electronic stability programme and anti-slip regulation – so no more taking to the hedge.
All that power and poise doesn’t come at the price of economy and emissions. Even the more powerful variant (there’s a 122PS too) can manage almost 36mpg on the combined cycle and 209g/km from the exhaust.
Never again need a pick-up driver come to such an undignified halt. The Amarok loses nothing of the class’ practical working nature; it just gains the comfort and sophistication of a very good car.
Rating: ★★★★★★
THE VITAL STATISTICS
Model: VW Amarok
Engine: 2.0 litre, bi-turbo diesel
Drivetrain: Six speed manual
Power: 163PS
Top speed: 112mph
0-60mph: 11.1secs
Insurance group: 8E
Miles per gallon (combined): 35.8
CO2 (g/km): 209
Price: £19,995.00 + VAT

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