Volkswagen is tempting customers to the dark side with the latest Amarok, says Dan Gilkes.
There seems to be something of a power struggle at the top of the pickup market. Volkswagen’s V6-powered Amarok has ruled the roost until recently, with a 224bhp output. However, with Mercedes-Benz launching a V6 X-Class last month, the bar has been raised.
The big Merc will boast a faintly ridiculous 258bhp output, with 550Nm of torque. Knowing that, Volkswagen has boosted the output of its own truck, to 258bhp and 580Nm. What’s more, an overboost function will allow the power to rise to 272bhp briefly when accelerating, taking VW back to the top of the tree.
All of which is fairly academic for most fleets, though the V6 Amarok has become a popular choice with plant hire and earthmoving companies of late. Of more interest for many, is what’s been happening one step down the Amarok ladder.
Having completely replaced the old 2.0-litre engine, the 3.0-litre V6 is now available with 163bhp and a manual gearbox, or with 204bhp and a choice of manual or eight-speed automatic transmissions. The 204bhp engine can also be had with VW’s permanent 4Motion all-wheel drive system, making it, quite possibly, the pick of the range.
If that is your choice, you can have the truck in regular Highline trim, or as a Dark Label special edition, which lifts the equipment level further. Based on the Highline trim, the Dark Label gets specific 18-inch alloys, a choice of Carbon Steel grey, Indium grey or Deep Black paint and various matt black styling bars and decals.
It’s a similar story inside, where the overriding colour scheme is a rather sombre black and grey, from the heated leather seats to the Dark Label floor mats. You get VW’s Discover Media system, with a 6.33-inch touchscreen and voice enhancer, along with automatic lights and wipers.
The 204bhp V6 still delivers a sturdy 500Nm of torque, from just 1,250rpm, giving the big truck surprising acceleration and it is easy to make rapid progress across country. The eight-speed automatic transmission is also incredibly smooth, slurring between ratios with little more than the engine note and the numbers on the dash to reveal a gearchange.
Of course, there is a price to pay for the power. VW claims that 34.9mpg is possible, but it requires a restrained right foot to achieve. That said, topping 30mpg is fairly easy and the Amarok does provide an incredibly relaxing drive on longer motorway trips.
It’s still not the last word in ride refinement however and it will be interesting to see how the coil suspension on the X-Class deals with the increased power of the V6 engine.
Given the pulling power on offer, it’s also a shame that VW has pegged the Amarok’s towing capacity at 3.1-tonnes. There are plenty of plant hire companies and farmers who want to tow the full 3.5-tonnes where possible.
Despite the premium appeal, the VW is equally capable off the road and not afraid to get dirt on those expensive alloys. It comes with a host of driver assistance systems, including off-road ABS, an electronic differential lock, plus Hill Start and Hill Descent Control.
Pickups continue to remain big sellers in the UK, thanks in part to their tax and benefit in kind advantages. As long as they don’t want the last word in power, VW will have little trouble turning buyers towards the dark side.
What we think:
The Dark Label package adds specification to what is already the pick of the Amarok pack.
MODEL: Volkswagen Amarok Dark Label
BASIC PRICE: £33,650
ENGINE: 6-cyl 2,970cc
FUEL INJECTION: Common-rail
POWER: 204bhp @ 3,000-4,500
TORQUE: 500Nm @ 1,250-2,750
CHASSIS KERB WEIGHT: 2,222kg
MAX BODY AND PAYLOAD: 1,068kg
MAX TRAILER WEIGHT: 3,100kg
LOAD SPACE LENGTH: 1,555mm
LOAD SPACE WIDTH: 1,620mm
WIDTH BETWEEN W/ARCHES: 1,222mm
LOAD HEIGHT (UNLADEN): 780mm
LOAD AREA: 2.52m2
COMBINED CO2/MPG: 212g/km/38mpg
FUEL TANK CAPACITY: 80 litres
ADBLUE TANK CAPACITY: 18 litres
OIL CHANGE: 18,000 miles/2 years
WARRANTY: 3 year/100,000 miles