Swinging Singles

VW’s Amarok single cab gets better the harder it works. Words by Chris Mullett

When we discuss ute purchase with our readers, the question of fuel economy is one that always surfaces during the early stages of conversation. The expectation of frugal fuel economy of some makes and models remains just an expectation, as the vehicle never achieves fuel figures that were suggested by salesmen at the time of purchase. This is particularly true of the smaller capacity engines that are working harder, especially when towing a laden trailer or caravan.

The current crop of Japanese styled, but Thailand manufactured, utes all vary tremendously when it comes to how much fuel is sipped from the bowser. There are of course exceptions, with the Isuzu D-Max and its 3.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel showing very good economy figures, even when towing maximum weights.

Another exception is the Volkswagen Amarok. That’s where our test in this issue takes us, as we load up with a full tonne to see just what we can expect this European designed, but Argentinian built, ute to offer.

In this example, we are investigating the credibility of one of the worlds largest vehicle manufacturers, and evaluating how its engine design competes against the more traditional engines of the Japanese suppliers. It’s an engine range that features in vans and people movers as well as cars in a variety of capacities. CARS_UTES_VW-Amarok_4

With a cubic capacity of 2.0 litres, this four-cylinder engine immediately looks undersized for the job ahead. But this is where technology makes the difference.

The Volkswagen 2.0-litre diesel used in Amarok Single Cab is turbocharged and available as either 2WD or 4WD in three different power and torque options. The only transmission available is a six-speed manual.

The TS1300 2WD uses a direct-injection petrol engine, and starts off the clan with a single turbine to produce maximum power of 118 kW at 3,750 rpm and peak torque of 300 Nm rated at 1,600 through to 3,750 rpm.

The TD1340 has a different bore and stroke dimension and switches to diesel fuel as it moves the emissions rating from Euro IV to Euro V with the addition of a diesel particulate filter. This engine again uses a single turbocharger, but benefits from common-rail direct injection. Maximum power is 90 kW produced at 3,750 rpm, with peak torque of 340 Nm rated from 1,750 rpm through to 2,250 rpm.

Sharing the same bore and stroke dimensions as the TD1340, the TD1400 adds a second turbine to its diesel-fuelled, common-rail, direct-injected, four-cylinder diesel. Power output increases to 120 kW produced at 4,000 rpm, and peak torque rises to 400 Nm rated at 1,500-2,250 rpm. This is the largest output version of the engine available in the single cab offering, and it adds all-wheel-drive using the 4Motion Volkswagen system to the driveline.

When it comes to fuel efficiency, the TD1340 comes in first place with a claimed combined figure of 7.3 l/100 km. This beats the 9.5 l/100 km of the petrol-engined TS1300 and comes a close second to the TD1400 of 7.8 l/100 km. Emissions ability is also better for the TD1340 with 192 g/km of CO2 versus the 226 g/km of the petrol engine, and 206 g/km of the higher output TD1400.

The dimensions across the there ute versions are identical with a length of 5,181 mm and a width of 1,944 mm. There’s a slight difference in height, varying from 1,820 mm to 1,834 mm for the 4Motion version, but the wheelbase is identical at 3,095 mm.   There’s also a cab chassis version available for fitment with a locally built tray.

From choice, we would go for a single cab/chassis version with a tray back and 4Motion driveline with the delightful eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. Unfortunately, though, VW hasn’t seen fit to release that spec’ yet, staying with the single cab ute and cab-chassis version with the six-speed manual gearbox.

The model we tested was the TD1400 ute-bodied single cab, and, with 4Motion all-wheel-drive, it presents a formidably good package. CARS_UTES_VW-Amarok_3

Our first task was to pack in a load of 50 x 20 kg bags of cement, giving us a full 1,000 kg of payload. Unlike many Japanese-style utes, which adopt a tail down, nose up attitude at any attempt to achieve maximum payload, the Amarok performed brilliantly. On-road performance and handling actually felt better than when running unladen, and the vehicle sat evenly on the road, without demonstrating any strange habits. Even when negotiating corners with bumps in the bitumen the handling was always predictable.

We ran the Amarok over our fuel economy test route and again came away very surprised at the result. With a full one tonne on board, the average fuel consumption came through at 7.8 l/100 km. Re-running the same route with the vehicle unladen improved this figure down to 6.5 l/100 km. The ute was commendably fuel efficient and consistently better on fuel than the figures claimed by VW, which are 7.8 l/100 km for an unladen vehicle.

We also tried out the 4Motion ability off-road, and came to the same conclusion as when we drove the original models on an off-road test track, prior to their official launch. Selecting all-wheel-drive and low ratio is a push button affair when stationary. Also selectable by push button is a centre differential lock and cancellation of the anti-slip regulation.

The electronic control systems combine to provide excellent performance when off-road, in pretty much any type of ground condition, but this comment comes with a proviso.

The driver needs to recognise that, when in high range, the 2.0-litre engine is not going to produce the same torque at idle speed as a 4.2-litre Nissan Patrol. If you don’t have enough engine revs it is prone to low speed stalling when in high range. With the Amarok, the driver has to accept this fact and remember to select low ratio earlier, perhaps, than with other vehicles having larger capacity engines.

In low range, with the appropriately different gearing, the twin turbochargers can spool up on demand and provide the right delivery of torque. In this configuration the Amarok appears to be almost invincible.

The tub width and length dimensions are common throughout the three single cab models, at 1,364 mm x 2,205 mm – the length of the tub in the single cab version being 650 mm longer than that of the dual cab.

The tub depth can cause access problems to anyone not built with the arms of a gorilla, as it is almost impossible to reach over the tub sides to grab anything lying on the floor. Our tip is to use the support stay that holds up the tonneau cover as a hook to haul items back towards the tailgate. Not surprisingly, that comment is not in the handbook.

What is in the handbook is the description of how to connect to Bluetooth for your phone. If you don’t read the book, you’ll never connect your phone. It’s as simple as that.

Good points for the Single Cab amount to the amazing technology displayed by the all-wheel-drive management system, especially when tackling tricky situations.

Also worth mentioning is the interior spaciousness of the cab, which, with bucket seats, has enough space behind each seat to accommodate something the size of a 20-litre Jerry can. We also really appreciated the coat hooks mounted on each B-pillar.

Seats are comfy, and controls are easy to use, but again you’ll need to read the handbook before realising that your Amarok can tell you its fuel consumption, ambient temperature, distance to empty, etc. You’d think it would all be obvious, but it wasn’t.

We’ll be monitoring the use of the Amarok Single Cab 4Motion over the next few months as part of a long-term test programme, so be prepared to learn as much as we can find out along the way. Stand by for the next installment.

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