SA thrives on bakkies. Toyota’s Hilux continues to lead the sales charts, while the Ford Ranger consistently snaps at its heels. There is the Nissan Navara in the mix, the stalwart Isuzu KB and the surprisingly good Mitsubishi Triton.
Volkswagen has brought some German engineering to the fold courtesy of the Amarok, while Mercedes-Benz will soon launch the X-Class on our shores. As you can gather, it is a mixed bag of choices that caters for a diverse audience with varying tastes and preference.
Since the launch of the Amarok V6 in May 2017, the model has stamped its authority as the most powerful bakkie in the segment, thanks to its lusty 3.0-litre V6 TDI. To retain that crown, the model will be updated in the fourth quarter in SA when it gets more power — 190kW (200kW in overboost) and 580Nm, which is a significant jump from the current model’s 165kW (180kW in overboost) and 540Nm.
You might be wondering why the upgrade in power? We are not complaining, of course, but there is method to the madness on Volkswagen’s part. You see, when the flagship X-Class, the X350d, arrives later this year, it will sport a 190kW and 560Nm 3.0-litre V6 engine, aiming squarely at the Amarok V6.
To showcase how VW is prepared to take on the advent of the X350d, we went to Oman in the Middle East to sample the upgraded Amarok V6, albeit in pre-production guise.
Seeing as our launch drive included a great deal of sand driving, the models we drove were all fitted with off-road tyres and a rear facing snorkel to cope with the sandy environ.
The engine, to be frank, feels no different to the one in our long-term Amarok in terms of its power delivery and it was rather difficult to conclusively ascertain whether the bump in power is discernible. Safe to say that the snorkel would have restricted the engine’s air intake and therefore performance. In isolation, the Amarok V6 proved its mettle as a go-anywhere bakkie that hurled up the dunes with relative ease while the 4Motion four-wheel drive system, particularly in the eight-speed automatic model we drove, made it seem like a walk in the park.
Meanwhile the air-conditioning coped well in the 40°C plus ambient temperatures. Considering the harsh conditions and the sand that seemed to creep into any human crevice you can imagine, the vehicle hardly skipped a beat.
It is perhaps hard to believe that the Amarok is in its eighth year of existence, yet it still manages to fend off newer entrants into the segment. It still feels solidly hewn, has SUV-matching ride quality and that V6 engine remains an absolute peach. With a starting price of R703 500 for the current Highline model, you can expect a slight premium on the higher powered version when it arrives in the third quarter. But we can expect it to undercut the Merc X350d, which is rumoured to be in the R900 000 bracket.
As bakkies continue to remain popular in SA, it seems the power wars are also filtering into this segment in a big way. – Lerato Matebese