‘Bigger, more powerful, more athletic, more charismatic.’ That’s right: the new VW Amarok is here. And before the sniggering starts, let’s all remind ourselves that pick-up trucks are tremendously big business. Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles shifted 830,000 units of the first generation, which is a lot by any measure - and even more impressive when you consider that VW doesn’t sell the Amarok in North America. The model has certainly found an enthusiastic fan base in the UK; John was raving about them just the other day, while discussing the relative charms of the Ford Ranger.
This is apt, because to all intents and purposes, the latest South African-built Amarok is a Ford Ranger underneath. That’s because it’s a product of ‘Project Cyclone’ (yes, really), a far-reaching partnership centred on the development and production of commercial vehicles. Obviously for the manufacturers, this means ample cost-sharing; for the buyer, it’ll probably mean that some elements of the pick-up are going to be recognisable between brands. Does that matter? Well, you’d imagine it’s less consequential than finding a BMW gear lever in a Morgan - but who knows? Time will doubtless tell.
Either way, VW - in characteristic style - has endeavoured to give the Amarok a look and feel all of its own. You’ll make your own decision on the new styling, but the firm says it’s all about ‘unambiguous Volkswagen DNA’. Certainly embossing the word ‘AMAROK’ on the tailgate doesn’t leave much room for ambiguity. Perhaps more importantly, the new model is fully 96mm longer than its predecessor. Usable body width has increased, too, and the there’s an additional 173mm in the wheelbase. Obviously this means more room for stuff, but - thanks to shorter overhangs - also means the Amarok’s off-road capability has improved. Apparently the fording depth has increased from 500mm to 800mm. Which is nice.
Volkswagen promises more space for occupants in the four-door double cab version, and you’ll still be able to stow a Euro pallet on the cargo bed sideways. The single-cab Amarok will accommodate two. Depending on spec, you can expect it to handle up to 1.16 tonnes without complaint. Inside, the firm makes a point of reiterating that even though the new model gets a ‘Digital Cockpit’ - including that 12-inch touchscreen in tablet format - it has not ditched physical buttons. The volume control and all-wheel-drive system settings are apparently controlled ‘via hard keys’, which suggests that pick-up truck owners value proper switchgear as much as the rest of us.
Speaking of all-wheel drive, you can expect this to feature on the European Amarok as standard. In some regions there will be a selectable system mated to a six-speed manual - but expect anything UK-bound to come with permanent four-wheel drive, a ten-speed automatic and a two-speed transfer box. Accordingly, VW says you’ll get a choice of four drive modes, including a 2H setting that sends power exclusively to the rear wheels. That ought to make the performance quite interesting because alongside an oil-burning 204hp bi-turbocharged four-pot and 241hp 3.0-litre V6, the Amarok will eventually be available with a 302hp 2.3-litre petrol engine.
Whether or not that version is destined to make it the UK isn’t immediately clear - but it’s probably worth noting that were it to do so, it would eclipse the 288hp offered by the incoming Ranger Raptor. Which is a thought-provoking notion for performance pick-up fans. Either way, the Amarok will come to market in five specifications: Amarok (the entry-level model), Life, Style, PanAmericana and Aventura. Expect to see the latter, with 20-inch ‘high-sheen’ wheels, LED matrix headlights, plenty of chrome and more than a little soft-touch leather, parked outside a pub near you when the new Amarok goes on sale at the end of this year.
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