First Drive: 2017 Volkswagen Amarok V6

First Drive: 2017 Volkswagen Amarok V6

In six years, Volkswagen has sold 455 000 units of its Amarok bakkie globally with 81% of sales being of the double cab variety and 80% of buyers opting for the eight-speed automatic transmission over the manual. Conversely, the single cab has sold only 6 000 units in 2011-16 – a rather lowly figure that has warranted the company to discontinue these models altogether.

Subsequently, the double cab range will increase from seven models to 12 to appease the somewhat insatiable appetite for double cab Amarok models.

Finally, Volkswagen’s wolf (Amarok) is now a proper wolf in wolf’s clothing. Since the model’s launch in September 2010, the Amarok has only been available with a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine in varying states of tune that was at the time headlined by a 132kW BiTDI engine.

The latter was good, albeit with a small power band, but it was incredibly frugal, returning as low as 6.0l/100km on the combined cycle when Motor News ran one in its long-term fleet a few years ago. It was also one of the first of its genre to offer true SUV-like ride quality, something only the recent Mitsubishi Triton has managed to emulate since.

While the Amarok was accomplished everywhere else, there were those who were still averse to the fact that it was only offered in a 2.0-litre capacity engine. We were all convinced that the model could do with a flagship, 3.0-litre turbo diesel V6 engine like that in the Touareg for instance, something that the model’s engineers scoffed at.

However, with a constant outcry from the public and motoring hacks alike the world over, Wolfsburg has finally endowed its wolf with sharper fangs, courtesy of, you guessed it, a 3.0-litre turbo diesel V6. It delivers 165kW at 3000rpm and 550Nm at 1400rpm via an eight-speed automatic transmission and 4Motion, on-demand four-wheel drive.

The results of this, as we found out at the model’s launch in the Free State recently, is a silky performer with oodles of shove, particularly during overtaking manoeuvres.

To benchmark the latest V6 variant, we also managed to spend some time in the four-cylinder model and the disparities are quite obvious in this instance. In isolation the 2.0-litre engine remains a commendable performer, pulling convincingly once in the meat of its short torque band but, squared against the V6, there is simply no contest — the bigger motor reigns supreme.

Put your foot down at any point above 2500rpm and the thing just pulls like a steam train. Thanks in part to the 10 second overboost that pushes up power and torque to 180kW and 580Nm, there is never a lack of overtaking urgency.

The model also has a towing capacity of 3 300kg. Things like off-road ABS and multicollision braking (which prevents or cuts the severity of a secondary collision) are all part of the standard equipment on the V6 variant.

The company has also introduced an even more lifestyle-oriented trim level in the form of the  Extreme model, which takes the fight directly to the Ford Ranger Wildtrak. It has a more purposeful visage in the form of an exclusive lick of paint dubbed Ravenna Blue, Talca 20-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, a colour-coded sports bar and a more purposeful interior trim.

The model is available in both the 2.0-litre TDI and, of course, the V6, so buyers do not need to stretch to the V6 to get the cosmetic treatments.

At a price of R487 700 to R673 600 for the 2.0-litre TDI range, it remains within the ballpark of its main rivals, while the V6 models command a premium price from R673 600 to R748 600. The latter, of course, will now fill a niche segment right at the top of the bakkie market where only the Toyota Hilux boasts a V6 engine, albeit in petrol guise only.

The Navara V6 used to occupy this space with the brilliant V9X flagship model, but the current version is only available in a four-cylinder powerplant.

It will also be interesting to see where Mercedes’ X-Class fits into the grand scheme of things. For now, the Amarok has moved from being a competitive bakkie to becoming the leader of the wolf pack in one fell swoop. – Lerato Matebese