Stuart Martin evaluates the Volkswagen Amarok TD1420 8A in Core mode.
The updated Amarok trumpeted its arrival with an Audi-sourced V6 brute of an engine, but there’s still a four-cylinder in the Amarok pricelist, for those that look for a more practical approach to their utilitarian habits.
The twin-turbodiesel four-cylinder powers the bulk of the Argentinean-built load-lugger’s range, and the Core dual-cab is still one of the most refined and capable utes in the market.
With full-time 4WD and an eight-speed auto, the Core starts from $46,490, which lands it at a price-point near the Ford Ranger XLS at just under $49,000. Toyota’s HiLux SR starts from $46,490 and the Holden Colorado LT in six-speed auto is a tickle over $49,000.
Nissan’s Navara and the Mitsubishi Triton also hover in that ballpark – the former’s ST model asks $46,990 and the latter in top-spec well-equipped Exceed guise starts from $48,000.
The Amarok Core (as-tested) price rose to $47,570 with optional front fog lights, and the driver’s pack that adds front lumbar support, automatic (halogen) headlights, rain sensing wipers and an additional 12-volt socket. It’s covered by a three-year unlimited kilometre warranty that includes 24-hour roadside assistance for the duration of the warranty, with capped-price servicing ranging from $459 for the first service at 12 months/15,000 km to $763 (at the time of writing) for scheduled maintenance at 48 months or 60,000 km.
The Core sits on 16-inch alloy wheels (with 245/70 rubber and a full-size spare), as well as getting a leather-wrapped steering wheel with cruise, audio and trip computer controls on it, plus heated power-adjustable mirrors, power windows and air conditioning. The cabin has some hard plastics and rubber flooring but is a quiet and comfortable interior overall, aside from tight rear legroom.
A tall glasshouse offers a good view all round (the rear window is substantial) from any of the cloth-trimmed seating positions, and the driver gets reach and rake steering adjustment and a conventional handbrake, although it is on the passenger’s side of the centre tunnel. The driver is also presented with a clear and informative instrument panel with traditional dials either side of a centre display with a digital speed readout and trip computer.
In-cabin storage is good, with a useful centre console, door pockets and small glovebox, as well as an open dash-top tray with a second (optional) 12-volt outlet.
The rear seat base folds up for extra cargo space (but there’s no underfloor storage), or it can cart kids thanks to three child seat anchor points in the backrest and two ISOFIX points on the outboard rear seating positions, but there’s no 12-volt or rear vents.
Furthering the car-like feel of the cabin is the CarPlay/Android Auto-equipped touchscreen six-speaker infotainment system, which is also equipped with voice control, Bluetooth and USB inputs, although access to the USB point is a little awkward.
A stint on rural roads at the launch and more time in the country side on test made us realise that the absence of an external aerial had it falling short for radio reception.
One area where it doesn’t fall short though is when lugging a load in one of the bigger rear tubs available in a dual-cab. The tub has four tie-down loops and a light, with a tailgate rated to 200 kg and a handy rear step in the bumper.
The test vehicle had the tub liner, but it’s still able to take a standard pallet between the wheel arches – the width drops to just a little under 1200 mm, but at 1165 mm a standard Australian pallet still squeezes in to fit comfortably.
The tray is 508 mm deep, 1555 mm long, with a loading height of 780 mm and a width of 1620 mm at its widest point, which easily took a half-tonne of grey sand that represented our load for the week.
Volkswagen lists the braked towing capacity at 3000 kg (unbraked is 750 kg), with a 300 kg ball download. With a GVM of 3040 kg and a GCM of 5550 kg this level is just short of the segment leaders.
When talking dimensions, the Core slots among the biggest of the pack for width – it is 5254 mm long (3095 mm is the wheelbase), but at 1954 mm wide (include the mirrors and it increases to 2228 mm) it’s a very broad beast; overall height is 1878 mm.
All that is propelled by a 2.0-litre, bi-turbo, double-overhead-cam, 16-valve diesel, producing 132 kW at 4000 rpm and 420 Nm of torque, which makes its presence felt from 1750 rpm, teamed with an eight-speed auto.
That partnership lays claim to an ADR lab figure of 8.5 litres per 100 km, but our 730 km in the Amarok (doing everything from the school run to country road work with a full tray) yielded 10.6 litres per 100 km from the 80-litre tank, at a 34 km/h average speed, which is by no means overly thirsty given the workload.
The eight-speed transmission is a smooth shifter and was quick to pick the right gear most of the time, ticking over at just under 2000 rpm, at the start of torque curve, at 100 km/h.
Sport mode helped it make its mind up quicker, but it was left in Normal mode for most of our time in the car, with only sporadic use of the lever’s manual change mode.
Fast dirt road work in the Amarok is easily achieved, with a 40/60 front/rear torque split on the all-wheel-drive system, but the power steering is too light for the author’s tastes, resulting in the need to back off more as the speed increases.
The ride quality from the double-wishbone front and leaf-sprung rear is among the best in the segment, but it prefers a load on board as when unladen it can become a little jumpy, but it’s still at the better end of the segment. We added half a tonne of material – its payload is 1018 kg – to the rear tray and it calmed the bum down, taking the load without complaint.
The safety features list is good without being outstanding – there’s the benefit of permanent 4WD, as well as stability, rollover and traction control systems with a trailer sway control function when equipped with the factory tow package. The Core has front disc brakes but the rear drums have been retained, whereas the new V6 gets rear discs. Also on the list is anti-lock and brake force distribution systems, hill hold and descent system and the multi-collision brake function, but Volkswagen is yet to install the automatic emergency braking systems seen on many in its passenger car range.
The absence of airbag coverage in the rear has been an issue for some, with only dual front and front-side airbags offered in the Amarok range, creating an area where it is well short of both Toyota and Holden’s combatants.
The standard fare also includes a high-set rear brake light (that also works as a light for the rear tray), rear parking sensors and a low-set reversing camera, which works well for hitching trailers.
Volkswagen’s broad workhorse is one of the nicer vehicles to drive in the workhorse segment, with car-like quietness, a pleasant cabin, conservatively handsome looks and a decent tray, but the safety gear absences may cost customers looking for rear occupant protection when doing its duty as the family car.