THE pick-up arena is becoming a fiercely competitive sector with quality vehicles from the likes of Toyota, Mitsubishi, Nissan and even Mercedes-Benz battling for attention.
Now the latest Volkswagen Amarok has really upped the ante thanks to an impressive power hike.
The double-cab Amarok is available in three well-equipped trim levels called Trendline, Highline and Aventura, all of which are driven by a 3.0-litre V6 TDI diesel engine.
This powertrain has three outputs - 163ps, 204ps and 258ps - and that latter figure has just been increased from 224ps.
We tried the mid-range Highline Amarok powered by the latest V6 258ps diesel engine mated to a slick eight-speed automatic gearbox and it was up to the challenge both on and off road.
Boasting VW's impressive 4MOTION four-wheel drive system, along with excellent towing and load-carrying abilities, the Amarok is a striking four-door pick-up that's packed with technology but not afraid to graft for a living.
With a rugged, muscular design, bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, darkened rear light clusters, privacy glass and massive 19-inch wheels, the Amarok is a go-anywhere vehicle that has real road presence.
But it has a softer side too with the likes of heated Vienna leather seats, full smartphone connectivity via Mirror Link, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a six-speaker audio set-up, a navigation system and plenty more besides.
The interior is designed for longevity with lots of hard surfaces that would easily wipe clean making the Amarok a practical option.
There is ample space for five adults to travel in comfort and despite its larger-than-life dimensions, the vehicle can sprint from 0-62mph in just 7.4 seconds, maxing out at 127mph.
According to official figures, the Amarok can deliver combined fuel economy of 33.6mpg with carbon emissions of 220g/km.
There is plenty of manual seat and steering wheel adjustment so getting comfy is easily achieved and the driver benefits from excellent all-round visibility. That said; the front and rear parking sensors, along with the rear-view camera, are most useful when manoeuvring into tight spaces.
Out on the open road, the Amarok is nicely composed and it's easy to forget you are behind the wheel of a pick-up.
You do have to give bends a degree of respect, but generally the road-holding is confident and assured. I should mention that our vehicle was carrying a pallet of sand that weighed 550kg and that would be beneficial to the car's ride and handling.
But one thing is clear - that power hike is very noticeable. There is a constant stream of power on tap at all times and short bursts of acceleration for overtaking are easily accomplished.
With farmers, builders and tradesmen accounting for much of the pick-up market, the vehicle needs to tick all the right boxes when it comes to practicality and the Amarok does just that.
After proving its metal on-road we took to a boggy off-road course in torrential rain.
Once again, the Amarok impressed as it clambered up hill climbs with muddy ruts trying to drag it off course, it scrambled over rocks and the hill descent system worked effortlessly lowering the vehicle down steep gradients.
The Amarok can scale slopes of 45 degrees (with a full load on board); it has slope clearance angles of 29 degrees at the front and 24 degrees rear, has a ground clearance up to an angle of 23 degrees and a wading depth of half a metre.
It can also tow a trailer up to 3.1-tonnes and the cargo bed can accommodate a Euro-sized pallet up to 1.1 tonnes in weight.
But there is a downside - the prices of pick-ups are certainly creeping up these days. The Amarok line-up ranges from Â£25,800 for the entry-level Trendline model with the lower-powered engine up to a whopping Â£39,970 for the range-topping Aventura - and these prices are exclusive of VAT.
Our model cost £35,765 without VAT but with a number of optional extras such as a lights and vision pack, a Discover Media navigation pack that allows you to communicate with back seat passengers via the speakers, a tow bar and a centre high-mounted LED brake light, the cost rose to £46,199 which is VAT inclusive.
On the safety front, the Amarok was tested for its Euro NCAP rating back in 2010 and achieved four stars.
Features include hill descent assist, off-road ABS with hill-hold assist, electronic stability programme, electronic trailer stabilisation, load safety, numerous airbags and VW's award-winning automatic post-collision braking system which can reduce the chance of a secondary accident in the event of a collision.
All in all, the latest, more powerful Amarok is a worthwhile contender for sales and would be the perfect choice for anyone looking for a true workhorse of a vehicle.
It would also appeal to anyone looking to escape the multitude of SUVs on offer these days.