Review

2017 Volkswagen Amarok V6 Review: First Drive

  • V6 Highline 
  • | $59,990 
  • | Ancap : 5/5

the verdict

Pros

  • Strong, relaxed, refined V6
  • Better handling than many SUVs
  • Very premium interior

Cc rating

8.5/10

cons

  • Lacks autonomous safety tech
  • No push-button start
  • Nav screen is a little small
Review
Photos
Specs

Editor
11 months ago

When the Volkswagen Amarok launched five years ago, it gave the competition a very rude shock. Despite never having built a pick-up, Volkswagen arrived on the scene with the most refined ute ever sold here. The Amarok, exclusively available with a biturbo four-cylinder diesel, also proved highly capable, with a series of well-publicised outback tours under its belt. For some, though, the diminutive two-litre capacity just felt too small and highly-strung for a heavy, large vehicle.


Well, rival ute makers are about to be hit by the Amarok’s second shockwave: the long-awaited Amarok V6 is here. The V6, previously used in Porsche and Audi SUVs, completes the Amarok package. It delivers strong and relaxed grunt that suits the character of the vehicle. The V6 upgrade doesn’t just improve performance – it also adds a host of new creature comforts to the Amarok, solidifying the message that this dual-cab ute is now quite capable to replace an SUV as a family car of choice.


The 2017 Volkswagen Amarok V6 in brief:


The new V6 engine arrives alongside a complete refresh of the Amarok which brings a more aggressive look. Smart-looking LED daytime running lights complement a stronger front end. Elsewhere outside, the Amarok is business as usual – it is larger than most other utes and asserts itself on the road. Inside, the dash has been darkened and remodelled; there is a new navigation unit, and supple Nappa leather seats are available. Autonomous safety features are not present, which is something to keep in mind.


Of course, the 3.0 TDI550 engine is the big news. It produces 165kW of power normally and 180kW from an overboost mode during hard acceleration. The stout 550Nm of torque is over 30% more than what the four-cylinder can generate. The Amarok feels very relaxed and torquey, rather than outright fast. An eight-speed torque converter automatic channels power to permanent four-wheel-drive with a locking rear differential. Later, a six-speed manual with selectable low range will be offered in the V6 to please purists.


The V6 extends the Amarok’s leadership of the ute class, and it looks like good value. The $59,990 Highline model will shock less powerful Asian rivals like the $61,790 Ranger Wildtrak and $56,390 HiLux SR5, which now seem expensive. The Ultimate trim is $67,990, and will satisfy those looking for a very luxurious ute, with even more premium appointments inside and large wheels.


2017 Volkswagen Amarok V6 water crossing – Chasing Cars

DRIVE

8.5/10

The four-cylinder Amarok delivers impressive performance from a small diesel, but the V6 feels like the engine this ute deserves. It is strong and relaxed, happiest cruising around within its generous wave of peak torque, with 550Nm available between 1,500–2,750rpm.

By nature, the V6 isn’t a performance engine – it’s a cruiser, and doing long distances will be extremely comfortable in this car. It’s impressively hushed, with little road and wind noise entering the isolated cabin. Sitting inside, the engine doesn’t sound like a diesel, producing only induction noise and a pleasant winding exhaust note under harder acceleration. You’d be happy with this level of refinement in a much more expensive passenger car.

Amarok V6 engine

Despite the cruiser persona, nail the throttle and the V6 will tap into its new Overboost mode. For ten-second bursts, peak power can increase from 165kW to 180kW. That will allow a 0-100km/h sprint in 7.9 seconds, but where this feature is most noticeable is in country overtaking: 80-120km/h takes just 5.5 seconds – I felt confident and safe overtaking slow-moving traffic on short overtaking zones.

The handling reminds us of why the Amarok remains such a game changer in the ute segment. Put simply, it drives like an SUV, and a good one at that. Most new utes – even very expensive rivals – are just agricultural, with lifeless steering and lurching body control. By contrast, the Amarok is quite a sporty handler. The power steering still feels too assisted, but it is very easy and accurate to place through corners and body lean is – remarkably – almost absent.

Amarok V6 in silver

The Amarok, too, does an impressive job of hiding the fact that it rides on a separate chassis and has a tray bolted to the back of it, even when unloaded. We drove an unladen tester back-to-back with another car with 260kg in the tray, and the difference in ride quality was negligible. The rear suspension is sorted, with fewer shuddering effects over bumps than in all of its rivals. Only over deeply rutted road can you feel the effect of an empty tray.

Four-wheel disc brakes are standard on the V6, besting the Amarok’s competitors, and it hauls up tidily and without fuss.

Volkswagen directed us through an ambitious off-roading segment with the V6, proving again that a manual and low range aren’t really necessary – though that combination will be offered in V6 form at the end of 2017. The eight-speed torque converter automatic has a very low first gear, allowing for significant torque multiplication. The V6 has even more guts to call on to torque out of sticky situations. There were more than a few ascents that I doubted the Amarok would get up cleanly – but at no point did I even need to engage the rear differential lock. The four-wheel-drive system and gearbox are so capable.

COMFORT

8.5/10

Volkswagen set new standards for how pleasant a ute interior can be with the original Amarok, seeing an early trend of increasing private use of utes. They planned ahead. The competition is now starting to catch up – so the new V6 model has introduced a number of more premium features.

The Highline's optional heated Alcantara seats ($1,890) are nice enough, but it is the Amarok Ultimate’s entirely new seat that redefines expectations for the ute class. With 14-way adjustability and Nappa leather seat facings, they are supple and incredibly supportive. There are SUVs over $100,000 that aren’t nearly as comfortable to sit in. The driving position is genuinely good – except when trying to see over the bluff front-end, though adjusting to the car’s dimensions wouldn’t take long.

The dash-top is now a darker black – it’s still not soft touch – but this is such a large cabin that your legs don’t rub up against any hard plastic. Instead, what you do touch, like the steering wheel from regular VWs and the gear shifter, are soft leather.

A new infotainment screen has been swapped in. The 6.5-inch unit is the same as in the Golf. It’s nice and crisp, though it’s on the small side, and it feels odd that the 8-inch unit from the Tiguan and Passat isn’t optional. However, the unit does support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and it has simple built-in navigation.

The rear seats remain too small. As a six-footer my legs were just up against the front seats, though the tall roof means headroom is not a problem. Still, kids will be fine sitting three abreast in the back.

Many interior components remain durable like the hard centre console, which should protect against spills. It’s practical inside, too, with a tray atop the dashboard and cubbies throughout the centre consoles. One of our favourite features from Volkswagen’s passenger cars – felt-lined door bins – also appear on the Amarok.


Amarok V6 rear seat space

PRACTICALITY

9/10

Traditionally, utes were all about the tray and what they can carry – and just because the Amarok is more comfortable inside doesn’t mean the foundations have been neglected.

Out back, the Amarok’s tray is still the only one in class that can fit a standard pallet with 1,222mm between the wheel arches. The load height of 708mm is low for the class, making it easy to slide objects in and out – which is a good thing, since the tray sides remain very high. This means the load sits low, making for a better centre of gravity when loaded.

Inside the tub, there are four standard load-lashing rings and the potential for two more to be added at the back of the tray. The rings are mounted low to prevent delicate objects from sliding around. There’s also a tray light to help out loading in the dark.

The V6 engine allows for a modest increase in the Amarok’s gross combination mass – the combined weight that it can both carry and tow. The four-cylinder has a GCM of 5,500kg; the V6 allows for 6,000kg.

Like the four, the V6 will still tow 3,000kg, so the GCM increase is actually an increase in what you can carry in the vehicle or tray itself. With a tare mass of 1945kg, this allows for more than 1,000kg of load capacity within the Amarok for people or cargo when towing the full three tonnes.

The Amarok V6 has a standard reversing camera, plus standard front and rear parking sensors.


Amarok tray tub space

RELIABILITY & RUNNING COSTS

8/10

Volkswagen has been known for mixed reliability in recent years. Many of these concerns surround the brand’s complex double-clutch automatic gearboxes – a technology the Amarok hasn’t used. Like the four-cylinder, the Amarok V6 instead uses a traditional torque converter automatic gearbox. A manual will follow later.

Indeed, the Amarok seems to have avoided many common Volkswagen woes on account of its more traditional build. Now that the oldest examples are five years old, we’re in a position to judge the Amarok as pretty hardy.

Most owners that do complain appear to have issues relating to hard driving – worn clutches in the manual versions, squeaking from worn suspension bushings, and the like. The V6 won’t avoid these things, but they can be abated with regular quality maintenance.

The Amarok is built in Argentina, and Australia is the largest export market for the vehicle. Volkswagen has been known for mixed reliability in recent years. Many of these concerns surround the brand’s complex double-clutch automatic gearboxes – a technology the Amarok hasn’t used. Like the four-cylinder, the Amarok V6 instead uses a traditional torque converter automatic gearbox. A manual will follow later.

Indeed, the Amarok seems to have avoided many common Volkswagen woes on account of its more traditional build. Now that the oldest examples are five years old, we’re in a position to judge the Amarok as pretty hardy.

Most owners that do complain appear to have issues relating to hard driving – worn clutches in the manual versions, squeaking from worn suspension bushings, and the like. The V6 won’t avoid these things, but they can be abated with regular quality maintenance.

The Amarok is built in Argentina, and Australia is the largest export market for the vehicle.

We’ll be in a position to evaluate servicing costs and depreciation predictions when we have the Amarok V6 back for a full test.

Volkswagen’s standard 3 year, unlimited kilometre warranty applies to the Amarok.

The Amarok V6 is actually more frugal on fuel – an everyday running cost – than smaller-engined competitors. Once again, we’ll judge it in reality on our upcoming full test, but the official rating of 7.8L/100km appeared to be achievable on launch.

We’ll be in a position to evaluate servicing costs and depreciation predictions when we have the Amarok V6 back for a full test. Volkswagen’s standard 3 year, unlimited kilometre warranty applies.

The Amarok V6 is actually more frugal on fuel – an everyday running cost – than smaller-engined competitors. Once again, we’ll judge it in reality on our upcoming full test, but the official rating of 7.8L/100km appeared to be achievable on launch.

Amarok V6 off-road

VALUE FOR MONEY

8.5/10

In the absence of lower-spec V6 models, only premium specifications are available: a Highline model ($59,990) or the loaded-up Ultimate ($67,990).

4x2 will not be available on the V6; instead, permanent 4MOTION four-wheel-drive and the Torsen locking rear differential are standard.

The Highline is the price-leader here but it is hardly a stripper – not that you’d expect that of a $60,000 proposition. It’s well-equipped, with 18-inch wheels, LED daytime running lights, a stainless steel tray bar and side steps, four 12-volt power sockets (including one in the tray and one in the rear cabin), fog lights, a chrome rear step, satellite navigation (with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), and a tyre pressure monitor.

However, if you’re after a very luxurious ute, spending the extra $8,000 on the Ultimate model is the right idea.

That version adds 19-inch wheels (20s are just $990 more), Nappa leather seats with heating for the front pair, paddle shifters, longer LED-illuminated side steps, a colour driver’s centre display, alloy pedals – and in the tray, a factory-fitted Durabed spray on liner.

There are new colours across the range including the new hero Ravenna Blue – metallics add $590.

Keep in mind, autonomous safety features like active cruise control, lane departure warning and rear cross traffic alert can’t be added even as an option – and they’re standard on competitors like the Holden Colorado.

Amarok V6 in silver

COMPETITORS

The Amarok V6 is a superior drive to all of its rivals – on first impressions. However, we’ve touched on the lack of autonomous safety features as the only real issue here. Keep in mind that some rivals like the Ranger and Colorado have these.

This field is based on the 2017 Volkswagen Amarok V6 Highline ($59,990). There are no other V6 diesel utes available at present.

  • Ford Ranger Wildtrak 3.2L ($61,790)
  • Holden Colorado Z71 2.8L ($57,190)
  • Mazda BT-50 GT 3.2L ($53,790)
  • Nissan Navara ST-X 2.3L ($54,490)
  • Toyota HiLux SR5 2.8L ($56,390)

wrap up

DRIVE 8.5
COMFORT 8.5
PRACTICALITY 9
RELIABILITY & RUNNING COSTS 8
VALUE FOR MONEY 8.5
Total cc score 8.5

Engine

Capacity 3.0L
Fueltype Diesel
Cylinders 6
Configuration V6
Induction Single turbocharger
Power 165kW at 3,000rpm
Torque 550Nm at 1,500-2,750rpm
Power to weight ratio 85kW / tonne
Fuel consumption (combined) 7.8L/100km
Fuel capacity 80L
Average range 1026km

Transmission and Drivetrain

Transmission Automatic
Configuration Torque converter
Gears 8
Drivetrain Four-wheel-drive

Dimensions and Weights

Length 5.25 metres
Width 1.95 metres
Height 1.83 metres
Unoccupied weight 1945kg
Cargo space (seats up)
Cargo space (seats down)