Road test review: Volkswagen Amarok Highline
KEVIN Costner danced with them, Michael J Fox was an impressive basketball version in his teenage years but nowadays they're often lone.
In the automotive world, the wolf comes in the form of Volkswagen's Amarok. It's not a wolf in sheep's clothing or vice versa, but Amarok actually means wolf in Inuit Indian translation.
Since it was launched here in 2010, it has been somewhat of a predator within the lucrative dual-cab market.
Possessing car-like performance and improved cabin manners compared to what we've seen more, it helped challenge the competition to lift its game.
Over the past five years there has been a proliferation of new models boasting similar values for those looking to combine work and play.
An upgraded 2017 model Amarok with a turbocharged V6 diesel engine is on its way in the latter part of this year, which will undoubtedly see some impressive deals on this 2016 derivative.
There have been some "Core” models around for about $40,000, but the Highline we tested comes with all the creature comforts for the family while still maintaining workmanlike qualities.
Blending the hardiness required for the work site and some of life's luxuries, the Amarok Highline abandons the rubber flooring and a bench pew in favour of carpet and plush seats.
While there are some hard plastics through the console and dash, all the key touch points have cloth trim.
Like the Multivan, the operations are slightly different from the passenger car range, although it's still typically Volkswagen in looks and operation. Everything is well labelled and it's quick to find what you are after.
Our primary complaint lies with the stereo system, and primarily the radio functionality. It can be challenging to skip through stations easily courtesy of multiple steps, and really forces frequencies to be programed in order to avoid frustration.
There is skill accommodation for five, those in the front just need to be mindful and not roll too far rearward as to impede leg and knee room in the back.
For those sitting in the rear the seat back is typically upright, yet the ride is remarkably good for a ute and unlike the old days you don't need a kidney belt to help survive the drive.
On the road
Early scepticism surrounded this engine, but the biturbo four-cylinder does an impressive job of moving the two-tonne dual-cab.
The early models were among those recalled as part of the emissions scandal, but doesn't affect the latest offerings.
Combining seamlessly with an eight-speed automatic, the ute feels and drives more like a car. Sure it's a big thing, it's 5254mm long, but it doesn't feel unwieldy even in metropolitan environments. Drivers just need to be wary of the turning circle, which nears 13 metres - which is about one metre more than a Passat.
When first getting underway the oil-burner can be noisy until things warm up, yet it settles nicely and gets on with the job without fanfare.
Good ground clearance front and back makes easy work of job sites and basic trails, although and super serious mud-plugging is restricted due to the lack of a low range. With full-time four-wheel drive and an electronic rear differential lock does make it pretty capable so beach sojourns and boggy terrain are tackles with ease.
What do you get?
Standard gear includes a six-speaker CD stereo with MP3 capability and sat nav as well as Bluetooth phone connectivity, dual zone air con, cruise control, tinted glass, rain-sensing wipers, rear parking sensors and camera and carpet throughout the cabin.
Safety incorporates trailer sway stability control (only with genuine towbar wiring kit), electronic stability program, anti-lock brakes, rollover prevention and airbags up front - although there's not curtain airbags for the rear.
Leading the way in the four-wheel drive dual cab genre is the Toyota HiLux SR5 ($53,990), while also worth a look are the Isuzu D-Max LS-U ($46,100), Mitsubishi Triton Exceed ($47,990), Holden Colorado LTZ ($50,990), Nissan Navara ST-X ($51,990) and Ford Ranger XLT ($54,390).
For family duties, the Amarok offers good space and storage spots. Dual cup holders up front and large door bins, able to handle 1.5-litre bottles in the front doors and 1.0 litre in the rear, are excellent.
The rear cup holders are floor mounted which make them awkward for use, and accessing the three rear child seat points mean you have to drop the seatback by pulling the two tabs at either side of the vehicle simultaneously.
Where it excels is getting to work. The rear tub has a depth of 1555mm and a load area of 2.52 square metres.
It can also handle a pallet due to having enough space between the wheel arches. Install the towing pack and you can have a gross weight of the vehicle-trailer combination of up to 5.5 metric tons.
During our test we achieved close to the official figure of 8.3 litres for every 100km, impressive going, and VW also has capped price servicing available.
Wearing flared wheel arches, big stainless steel sports bar in the back and side steps, along with aluminium wheels as well as the chrome rear bumper with integrated step, make the Amarok a tough and imposing ute.
Playing a major role in lifting the dual cab ute market game, the Amarok is an impressive all-rounder.
Balancing work on weekdays and then fun duties on weekend, the car-like attributes make it a genuine family alternative.
With the updated model on its way, a more powerful Amarok will see it flex more muscle and appeal to the lucrative grey nomad market.
Model: Volkswagen Amarok TDI420 Highline.
Details: Five-seat four-door four-wheel drive dual cab utility.
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder bi-turbo diesel generating maximum power of 132kW @ 4000rpm and peak torque of 420Nm @ 1750rpm.
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.
Consumption: 8.3 litres/100km (combined average).
Towing: 3000kg (braked), tow ball 300kg, payload 791kg.
Bottom line plus on-roads: $56,990.
What matters most
What we liked: Car-like performance which is easy to drive, thrifty fuel consumption.
What we'd like to see: Better stereo system, 60-40 fold of rear seat, additional tie-down points and drainage points in the tub liner.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty with roadside assist for the same period. Capped price servicing is available for the first six series, scheduled every 15,000km or 12 months. Average service price is $537.