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Review

First Drive: Volkswagen Amarok car review

05/01/12

VOLKSWAGEN never does things by half measures. Its Passat is a solidly built, refined and polished medium-size car. The Scirocco is an agile, affordable and attractive sports coupe. The Golf is, well, everyone knows what the Golf is like.

All the cars mentioned - and the rest of the range - are benchmarks in their respective classes for a good reason: Volkswagen knows what makes a good car. And it also knows what makes a good pick up, if the arrival of the Amarok is anything to go by.

Volkswagen is well known in trade circles for its commercial vehicles. The company’s vans routinely score highly in customer satisfaction surveys and the company’s trophy cabinet is bursting at the seams with awards. Offering a vehicle in the equally competitive pick up market is a bold move. The established players - Toyota, Mitsubishi, Ford - build some seriously good machines, but the Amarok has been designed to tough it out with the best of them.

Volkswagen aim is to sell the Amarok mainly in Southern Hemisphere countries where demand for solid, dependable pick ups is strong. The UK is also a strong market, and the Amarok slots in near the top of the tree. This is, in part, due to the vehicle’s size; it’s a big machine and further proves VW’s desire not to cut corners.

This approach also filters down to the Amarok’s mechanicals. The big VW is no half baked load lugger, as it can be had with four-wheel drive, locking centre and rear differentials, a beefy six-speed gearbox and manly 2.0-litre diesel motor outputting 163 horsepower. Two-wheel drive variants are available but if you’re interested in something as chunky as an Amarok, there’s a good chance that your daily routine involves more than just the usual nine to five commute across town.

If so, you’ll be pleased to hear that the Amarok’s ground clearance is sufficient for some serious off-roading, while the big VW’s driving position is both comfortable and relaxing - good news if the cabin is likely to double as your office. In ‘double cab’ guise there’s enough room for four occupants, which could see the Amarok double as a family holdall if space on the drive is tight.

It’s certainly refined enough to be a family car substitute - assuming you’re comfortable with the big VW’s size - and inside it feels, looks and behaves just like a regular Volkswagen. All the various controls are familiar and straightforward, while family car extras such as electric everything, a quality audio unit and sat-nav are all within reach.

While there’s an obvious premium feel to the Amarok’s cabin, the pick up is more than capable of taking the rough with the smooth out on the road. It might not be blessed with the largest capacity diesel motor in its class, but the unit’s ample on paper power and torque figures punch above their collective weights in the real world.

A smooth and refined unit when driven gently, the Amarok’s four-pot diesel engine is happy to coast along in urban environments. Push harder and, although the volume increases noticeably, so does the pace. It’s a gutsy motor that’s easily capable of hauling the Amarok up steep gradients and hauling large loads with ease.

This all fits with the Amarok’s intended role in life: it’s a tough, hard-working tool. The pick up’s load bay is huge and with the drop down tailgate access is straightforward and convenient. The option to fit a locking top will enhance security, too. The whole set up is as flexible as your pockets are deep depending on what extras you wish to buy, Even in stock trim it’s a flexible and capacious load bay.

As first attempts go, the Amarok is a pleasant surprise. For obvious reasons it’s a waste of time doubting Volkswagen’s engineering abilities, but for a maker of cars to deliver a pick up this polished is an impressive achievement. Easy to live with and drive, it’s a versatile and practical proposition.

FACTS AT A GLANCE Model: Volkswagen Amarok Highline 163 4Motion Selectable, from £22,575 plus VAT and delivery charges.

Engine: 2.0-litre diesel unit developing 163bhp.

Transmission: 6-speed manual transmission as standard, driving all four wheels.

Performance: Maximum speed 112mph, 0-62mph 11.1 seconds.

Economy: 35.8mpg.

CO2 Rating: 209g/km.

  • Enginesdiesel
  • Power4 (higher than average performance)
  • 0-60 mph
  • Economy3 (average fuel economy)
  • CO2g/km
  • Insurance groups3 (average costs)
  • Airbags
  • Seats4

Motors.co.uk value verdict:    stars

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