Volkswagen Amarok 2.0 BiTDI 4Motion Review

Volkswagen is going from strength to strength with ever better vehicles and seemingly  a model for ever need. A glaring omission from their line-up has been a good leisure bakkie, although they have offered the T5 business bakkie for some  time. The launch of the Amarok has been much anticipated.

Wherever you go with the Amarok the guys will walk over to take a look or ask what you think of it. A farmer in the Cederberg

VW Amarok 2.0 Bi-turbo 4x4

had a good look, asked about the motor, thought a bit and then pronounced he would stick with his Isuzu. He did not like the idea of a small 2.0 litre engine powering such a big bakkie. He felt the little engine would be working too hard.

And it is a big bakkie. Only the Nissan Navarra and a Ford F250 match it for size. One of the first people to buy one has had quite a saga with his Amarok. After convincing his wife that he really did need it he just could not afford any more domestic drama. On the second day he accidently swiped the left mirror while pulling out of the garage. This he had replaced the same day. Unfortunately a few days later he removed the right mirror rather violently because he was worrying about the other one. Now he parks the Amarok outside. It’s either that or trade it in or widen the garage.

Divorce may be an option.

On the open road the VW cruises at 120km/h with ease with a light load (in this case camping gear for a weekend). I got 7.6 litres/100km in highway travel at 110km/h. My diesel consumption average was 9.2 litres/100km, which included a lot of town driving. If you need to overtake, change down a gear and you are away. There is more than enough power for normal city and highway use. She is a pleasure to drive on the open road and is very safe because of the electronic stability control. VW says she does 0 -100km/h 11.1 seconds and has a top speed of 181km/h.

I did a little jeep track driving, including some steep stoney bits which the Amarok handled with aplomb. All the controls are easy to use and intuitive. The only problem for me was the rather narrow power band. I struggled to keep it in the optimal area.

If you are going to tow a boat or heavy trailer you may be better off getting the VW T5 Transporter bakkie which has the magnificent VW/Audi 2.5 TDi engine.

If you are going to be driving almost exclusively on tar and good gravel roads you won’t have a problem. If you are going to spend a lot of time on dodgy roads or jeep tracks or go far up into Africa you should perhaps consider something else.

What is there to like about the Amarok?

In the first place the cabin is class leading and feels like a car. It’s big, comfortable, well designed and put together in typical Volkswagen style. In short it’s brilliant. It has all the bells and whistles including climate control, cruise control, fully adjustable driver’s seat and steering wheel and a 12V socket on top of the dashboard. The pockets in the doors are even lined with carpeting. Only the Navarra matches it.

The load bay is huge, big enough to take a euro pallet.

What are the niggles with the Amarok?

This is actually a truck, a very big bakkie. It does not fit into all home garages and parking bays and is a bit of a squeeze in some public parking places especially the roof height. Beware the side mirrors.

A small niggle is a dash mounted cup holder which stands out into the cab, but it can be unscrewed.

The gears take a bit of getting used to and it has that typical VW second gear which just cannot be rushed. After a few days the gears will become second nature. Allied to this is the very narrow power band. It also takes some getting used to. These issues may impinge on its towing abilities.

I did not like the idea of the computer being right next to the battery and I thought the slightly cosmetic bash plate must reduce ground clearance by quite a bit.

There are only four tie down points and all are on the floor of the loadbay. The two front ones are far in and are very nearly useless.

The specs

The engine as tested is a bi-turbo 1 968cc diesel producing  120kW@4 000rpm and 400Nm@1 500-2 000rpm with a 6 speed manual gearbox with low range and diff lock at the back. Ground clearance is 249mm.

Prices start from R316 800 for the base model 2.0 TDI 90kW 4x2Trendline, R364 400 for the 2.0 TDI 90kW Trendline 4Motion® and R342 400 for the 2.0 BiTDI 120kW 4x2Highline.

The Amarok comes with a 3 year or 100 000km warranty, a 5 year or 90 000km maintenance plan (R23,223.00) and has a 15 000km service interval.

Price as tested: R397 900 (2.0 BiTDI 120kW Highline 4Motion®)

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