Best things about the Volkswagen Amarok:

  • Feels far more car-like than you might imagine
  • Well-built, premium interior
  • Workhorse in the week - family car at weekends

Explore the Volkswagen Amarok

Part utility workhorse, part family car; that’s the formula modern pick-ups are built to and there seems to be increasing emphasis put onto the second part. You might be surprised at which brands are joining this sector of the market, with names like Mercedes-Benz and FIAT being fairly recent additions to the more established names such as Mitsubishi, Nissan, SsangYong, Toyota, Ford and of course, Volkswagen and its Amarok being tested here.

I admit at the outset that I like pick-ups and came close to buying one as our latest family vehicle because it fits in so well with our lifestyle. We do own land and go off-road, I do need to tow a car trailer and you know the clincher? The kids love it and think they are much more fun than a hatchback. I wouldn’t argue.  Sadly, we ended up with a lumpy and boring MPV instead, but that’s another story.

Styling: 4/5

Pick-ups are built to their own needs and requirements and brawn will always be favoured over beauty. I don’t know how to call this one, but the Amarok looks more pleasing (less offensive?) than some and it is true to say that many owners are attracted by its looks.

When you add in a few jewellery options like the metallic paint, big chrome roll over bars, blacked out alloys and a few other details, the Amarok is lifted from being a utility vehicle into something that, well, seems a bit more fun and frivolous and what’s wrong with that?


Interior: 5/5

If ever you needed proof that manufacturers are pushing the `lifestyle’ element then a quick glance inside the Amarok will provide it. Leather seats front and back, a reversing camera (handy, as I will explain later), a reasonable spec and build quality as good as anything else you’ll find with a VW badge. The plastic trim looks as if it will last for ever and is several steps up from the slabs of industrial grade plastic which used to be associated with this type of vehicle. It has hands-free phone, a couple of 12V sockets in the front and heated seats, which gives you a flavour of how nice these interiors can be.

There is quite a step up to get behind the wheel, but once there the driving position is good and visibility excellent, something which helps guide it in urban traffic or on narrower roads. The rear seats are perhaps a little short on leg room, but should be OK for children and the load bay behind looks to be about the same acreage as full sized football field.

A word of advice if you’re getting one of these. Pay a little more and order a non-slip floor mat and I’d recommend one of the various covering tops available to protect against the weather or indeed those who may be a little light-fingered.

Driving: 4/5

VW has given the Amarok a beefier engine and my test vehicle had the range topping 224 PS version of the 3.0 V6 turbodiesel. In something like this it is very much a case of the more power the better or more accurately, the more torque the better.  My car had a healthy helping of 550 Nm of the stuff whereas the entry level derivative has 163 PS and 450 Nm of torque. I haven’t driven that engine, but I bet it feels a bit underpowered and you don’t want that in something that will tow up to 3.2 tons.

It has a `select and forget’ auto’ box, so that’s as easy as can be and on a short test I found the Amarok behaved well. Even at 70mph it sits nicely, the steering is acceptably accurate although you need to be aware that you are sitting in something weighing the best part of 2.5 tons. It won’t stop on a sixpence and there is quite a lot of momentum once you get up to speed but so long as you’re sensible about that the VW is easy and pleasant to drive.

Until a few years ago the ride from pick-ups was very agricultural, fun for a mile or two but then frankly just a pain – literally. Today they’re far more civilised and although I was consciously thinking about it and analysing what the chassis and tyres were doing, I bet most people wouldn’t even notice or remark on it, it feels so normal. Sure, the environment’s different because you’re high up and it’s a big vehicle, but in the way it covers the tarmac it feels more car-like than you might imagine.

The Amarok and most of its kind have dual-terrain capability and will genuinely go into and get out of off-road situations that only the toughest and most uncompromising 4x4s would. I did not take the Amarok off-piste, but I recently drove a (very competent) rival in that sort of environment and it sailed round. Pressing the `off road’ button by the gear selector activates a load of mechanical trickery that will make the Amarok a faithful companion to farmers, foresters, builders, vets and anyone else who needs to go off-road.

However, good as it is in that environment, vehicles this big have a fairly fundamental limitation when pressed into use as a family car - try parking one in a supermarket or retail centre. I will leave it to your imagination how that feels when you are in something more than 17 feet long and six feet wide…but the reversing camera and sensors do come in handy!


Verdict: 5/5

Judged purely by the standards of the sector I reckon the Amarok does a very good job, certainly in the more powerful form. It has the load and towing capacity allied to the off-road ability needed by someone using it as part of their business and that ticks the most important box.

But, should you want it as a workhorse in the week and family car at the weekends then yes, the VW does as good a job in this respect, as others in the sector.

There is another factor to take note of, the costs. Depreciation among pick-ups can be eye-watering to say the least, but the Amarok looks after its value better than most and that should be a major consideration.

Explore the Volkswagen Amarok



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