What is it?
The original Amarok was a huge hit for Volkswagen. It completely reinvented the pick-up segment and showed that trucks needn’t drive like agricultural vehicles – they could be just as comfy and useable as a regular SUV. It still wouldn’t shy away from a hard day’s work, either, mind you.
But the motoring landscape is a tricky one to navigate alone, which is why Volkswagen has teamed up with Ford on this latest Amarok, with it now built alongside the Blue Oval’s best-selling Ranger. Has this partnership worked? We’ve been finding out.
Being built on the same line means you’ll find many similarities between the Amarok and Ford’s Ranger, but Volkswagen has done plenty to make sure it’s not a cookie-cutter-type setup. The exterior design, for example, is a little closer to the previous generation Amarok while inside we’ve got screens which run Volkswagen’s own software – even if the displays themselves are from Ford.
Volkswagen hasn’t forgotten that for many the Amarok will be a working tool, which is why all models get a variety of chunky, robust features and all-wheel-drive as standard.
What’s under the bonnet?
Only the entry-level Amarok comes with a 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine, whereas the rest – including ‘our’ PanAmericana version – uses a 3.0-litre turbocharged Ford V6 diesel instead. It’s linked up to a 10-speed automatic gearbox as standard, too, while all versions get selectable four-wheel-drive as well.
With 236bhp and a hefty 600Nm of torque, the Amarok is good for a 0-60mph time of 8.8 seconds and a top speed of 112mph. It’s also rated to tow up to 3,500kg of braked trailer, which is one of the best among the pick-ups on sale today.
What’s it like to drive?
Of course, the Amarok is a big beast – it’s longer than a Range Rover – so driving it takes a little getting used to, particularly when it comes to parking. However, when you’re acclimatised, the Amarok isn’t that tricky to drive around. The low-speed ride is very harsh, mind you, and unladen it thuds and spikes through potholes.
At greater speeds, this does reduce and refinement isn’t bad either. The 10-speed automatic – as we found in the Ranger – feels like it has far too many cogs. Press the accelerator hard and it’s left floundering as it decides which of the many gears it needs. A gearbox with fewer ratios feels like it would be a much better fit.
How does it look?
It could be argued that the Volkswagen Amarok is even larger than life in its second incarnation. The first one was hardly a mosquito of a thing, but this latest version feels even brasher and more like the uber-large pick-ups that you’d find over in America.
The front end is really upright and strong, while the variety of chrome elements give it a similar colour scheme to before. The Amarok can only be specified in a double-cab layout, too, whereas the Ranger can be had in a more work-focused single-cab setup.
What’s it like inside?
The previous Amarok was a landmark moment for pick-up interior quality, so it’s a big thing to try and carry this over for the new version. For the large part it’s successful; there are some nice finishes to the dashboard sections while the switchgear has a pleasantly robust feeling to it. There are rotary dials for the four-wheel-drive modes, but everything else is located within the screen. Changing the heating while you’re wearing gloves in cold weather is going to be pretty much impossible as a result.
Rear-seat space isn’t too bad, though there’s quite a chunky transmission hump in the middle. You do get plenty of charging options in the back, too, with USB-C and nine-volt plugs available.
What’s the spec like?
Amaroks in entry-level ‘Life’ brings a pretty bare-bones setup with steel wheels and manual air conditioning – though standard-fit cruise control is a helpful touch. It’s the one to go for if you want a true workhorse, mind you.
Switch up to the PanAmericana like ‘our’ Amarok – which is one off the top-spec Aventura – and you’ll get 18-inch alloy wheels as standard, alongside a Harman Kardon sound system and leather seats. It bumps the price considerably, however, you also get a huge 12-inch infotainment system – shared with the Ranger – which has all of the media and navigation functions included, as well as both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Both work really well on this very large screen, too.
The partnership between Volkswagen and Ford appears to have been a success if the new Amarok is anything to go by. It definitely continues where its predecessor left off, polishing the idea of a premium pick-up while throwing in some clever technology.
We’d like the ride to be a little more comfortable – and it’d be great to have some more physical controls inside, too – but as an overall prospect, the Amarok is just as attractive as its predecessor.
Facts at a Glance:
Model: Volkswagen Amarok PanAmericana
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 diesel
Max speed: 112mph
0-60mph: 8.8 seconds