Volkswagen Amarok -

bigger is better

VW Amarok, offroad action
VW Amarok, side action
VW Amarok, front action
VW Amarok, offroad rear
VW Amarok, dashboard
VW Amarok, front seats
VW Amarok, dash detail
VW Amarok, engine

IN the world of cars everyone's looking to smaller engines. Yes, you've guessed why; they use less fuel, or they ought to.

In the world of light commercial vehicles Volkswagen has decided to do things differently. Its latest Amarok pick-up, due here before the end of the year, has an engine half as big again as the unit in the truck you can buy today.

Out go the current 2.0 litre, four cylinder diesels, with 140 or 180 horsepower and in comes a 3.0 litre powerplant with six cylinders (borrowed from some Audis) and with enough performance to make it the GTI of truckland.

And the reason for this surprising looking move to more cylinders and more cc's?

Buyers of the first Amaroks were happy to pay more for what they saw as a premium product (which it was), but reckoned that should mean more power than was available from a mere 2.0 litres.

Then, by the end of this year the old, smaller engine would need to be expensively upgraded anyway, to meet tougher new Euro 6 pollution limits.

So it was an easy commercial decision to ditch the little 'un, go large and make more potential owners happy.

The official fuel consumption test all new vehicles have to take reckons the bigger-engined Amarok will manage 37.2mpg and nip under 200g/km of tailpipe emissions (just, at 199g/km). That is actually a bit thirstier than before but a little less polluting.

Those are figures for the beefiest of three engines that will eventually power this heavily revised four door load lugger.

This 224 horsepower V6 TDI is coming first and takes the Amarok to 120mph and from zero to 62mph in a spritely 7.9 seconds.

That latter figure would not disgrace a hatchback with sporting pretentions, let alone a machine built to take the rough and tumble of a working life (although the taxman sometimes wonders how hard they are worked, apparently).

Some time in 2017 the Hanover-built Amarok will be joined by engines with 163 and 204 horsepower and, presumably, still better economy figures and a lower price tag - the precise sizes of which will not be revealed until nearer the launch date. Current prices start at £25,419 and expect a gentle uplift.

Turning to physical size, this latest Amarok is precisely as long, wide and tall as the original version which made its debut in 2010 and which attracted 3,908 UK buyers last year.

VW thinks the new model will sell to the same sort of person, attracted by something that is both technically advanced and tough with a solid helping of comfort thrown in.

Minor changes to the outside include new bumpers and radiator grille and a new emphasis on horizontal lines that make an already wide machine look wider still.

New alloy wheels and a third brake light with LED technology will also help the anorak distinguish the newcomer from the older model. Oh, and new front mud flaps cut the aero drag.

There are bigger changes inside, where an already car-like feel is reinforced by a new dashboard where we find a touchscreen, radio and navigation, along with standard Bluetooth and the option of CarNet and App Connect systems.

Some versions have a microphone above the front seats, relaying everything you say to rear passengers through a set of speakers. You can turn this off!

VW has not changed the Amarok's running gear, which means the four-wheel drive system can be switched to front-wheel only when linked to a manual gearbox, or is permanently all wheel drive with the eight speed auto 'box.

A front drive only version is linked to a six-speed manual gearbox with the least powerful engine. Thanks to its light weight, this model actually has the biggest payload of the lot.

It won't attract many buyers here. We Brits like our Amaroks pretty posh, so most will have auto gears and be in top trim level with the second most powerful engine.

Most will then add a top over the huge load bay (big enough to take a Euro pallet, if that floats your boat) and then revel in the repayment of the 20 per cent VAT that business users enjoy, thanks to the Amarok's one ton load capacity.

On the smooth roads around Munich, where the pick-up is being launched, the most powerful model pulled like a train and made no more noise than a decently refined car, which it resembled to the tiniest detail inside.

Its simple (or crude in modern car terms) solid rear axle and cart springs only betrayed their lack of sophistication on concrete sections, where they set up a noticeable bobbing motion.

A trip read out of precisely 30mpg seemed respectable - a moderately challenging off road course proved that the Amarok will shrug off anything an owner is likely to throw at his dream machine - but the 7.4mpg recorded on the rough stuff might be incentive enough in itself not to risk a scratch.

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