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First drive: New VW Amarok TDV6 ute

After much speculation, social media chatter and — for some punters — anticipation, the Volkswagen V6 Amarok has finally launched on Australian shores. And the timing, quite frankly, couldn’t be better


The dual-cab ute market is booming; in fact, they’re the best-selling vehicles in Australia at the moment.

We saw major updates and all-new platforms arrive locally in 2015, but for 2016, with the exception of the updated Holden Colorado, Volkswagen has the stage pretty much to itself.

The current 2-litre/4-cylinder diesel Amarok has not exactly been a sales slouch. VW director of commercial vehicles Carlos Santos says the company has put 41,000 Amaroks on the road since its 2011 debut. 

The 4-banger is a pretty good thing both on and off-road, but there have been mutterings about small stature of the bi-turbo 2-litre.

With Nissan dropping the V6 STX-550 Navara before the arrival of the NP300 in 2015, the Australian market has been wide open for a premium 4×4 dual cab ute.

Mercedes Benz is a good 12 months away from launching the X-Class and the Renault Alaskan isn’t due here any time soon. So Volkswagen has stepped into the breach with a timely assault on the Aussie premium ute market. 

As Santos puts it, “We’ve been hoping and wishing for this vehicle for some time.”

In the lead up to the launch Volkwagen dealers had already fielded 7,311 leads, 70 per cent of which were believed to be hot-to-trot customers.

“For us Australia is important,” says Volkswagen director of international sales Dr Jan Michel, who was also on hand at the Aussie launch. “Australia represents the biggest market for Amarok by volume worldwide.”

But, tellingly, as other manufacturers shy away from the term ‘ute’ in favour of ‘pickup’ and ‘truck’, Volkswagen representatives, including Michel, keep running with the ute line like an intended stamp on the Aussie market.

The TDV6 will be available in Highline and Ultimate form. The Highline sits on 18-inch alloys while the top end jigger sits on 19s.

The usual assortment of kit is also present in the form of climate control, a 6.33-inch touch screen multi-media interface with rear-view camera, and electronic anti-crashing tech — including a multi-collision brake that slows the car to 10km/h after an impact to prevent further crashes if there’s no input from the driver.

The TDV6 also now gets 4-wheel disc brakes and tyre pressure monitoring.

The exterior has copped a freshen-up with a new grille and fog light arrangement. Ultimate and Highline models are easily spotted with different sports bars gracing the tub. The Ultimate also gets the option of Nappa leather upholstery and 14-way adjustable electric seats.

But, as VW product marketing manager Nick Reid says, “It’s all about the engine.”

The 3-litre, common-rail, turbo-diesel V6 has been used in other VW family products as well, namely Audi and Porsche.

In the Amarok it scores a single variable geometry turbo, a larger baffled sump and heavier-duty pistons and cylinder linings designed to cope with low speed/high load applications.

It’s a 24-valve OHC engine that shuns a belt drive for a chain. The common rail fuel system blows dinosaur juice into the donk with 2000 bar of force. On the emissions side it uses both EGR and SCR to clean up the exhaust nasties so it does need AdBlue. 

The V6 oiler makes 165kW of power at 3,000 rpm and 550Nm of twisty force at a very flexible 1,500 rpm. This torque curve runs up to 2,750 rpm. But it’s also got an overboost ace up its sleeve that gives an extra 15kW of power for 10 seconds when the loud pedal is nailed. After that you have to back off on the pedal for 5 seconds before tapping into the extra oomph again.

For the time being the TDV6 is auto only and uses a ZF-sourced 8-speed torque converter auto. The 4×4 system is actually an all-wheel-drive set up with a Torsen centre diff and a 60 per cent drive bias to the rear wheels.

For off-road duties there’s an off-road mode selected via a console mounted push button. This is the same as the current 4-cylinder auto models.

A 6-speed manual/2-speed transfer case model is slated for release mid-2017.

Payload for the Highline is 911kg while the Ultimate gets a payload of 864kg. But the interesting thing about this ute is the tow rating versus the GCM.

The Volksy is rated for 3,000kg (braked) towing, 500kg shy of the segment benchmark. But it’s now got a GCM of 6,000kg. In short this means you can tow 3 tonnes and still carry 800kg in the tub. Many others can’t.

Other VW hallmarks haven’t changed, including a low 780mm load height and the ability to fit an Aussie-sized pallet between the wheel arches.


VW Amarok TDV6 ute on the road


On the road

On climbing aboard the TDV6 I was still greeted by an unashamedly commercial dashboard, even if my butt was nestled in black leather.

The ‘big’ 6 under the bonnet was silky smooth when fired up. Given the power rating I was maybe expecting power to be delivered with a shove. Instead it unfolds.

In fact, the most noticeable gain in performance is in the middle of the rev range, plant the foot when rolling and the Amarok reels out its power in a strong yet measured fashion. Like the wolf that is its namesake, on the open road it lopes along with ease.

The TDV6’s road manners are somewhat startlingly refined for this kind of vehicle. Low-speed steering through the bush and on dirt is excellent, however at highway speeds (and above) the wheel feels very light and gives a twitchy feel to an otherwise solid-riding ute.

Handling on winding roads is actually quite linear, which feels weird in a ute!

The V6 doesn’t have a commercial sound even when working hard. In fact, from 3,000 to 4,000rpm it has quite a throaty rasp to its soundtrack.  We drove the Ultimate both empty and loaded with 260kg, and it went better, handled better and rode better with some weight in the tub.

The comfort pack rear spring option won’t be available until 2017.

Ultimately, the Amarok TDV6 is a plush yet punchy work/play proposition. And the bigger engine has made it a very cohesive package on the road and in the dirt.


VW Amarok TDV6 ute prices

Volkswagen Amarok Highline TDV6 — MRRP $59,990

Volkswagen Amarok Ultimate TDV6 — MRRP $67,990 



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