At a time when most pickup manufacturers are downsizing, Volkswagen bucked the trend and dropped its fabled 2.0-litre ‘EA189’ engine in preference of a much more boastful 3.0-litre V6.
So far, this has paid off for the German manufacturer with sales up 40% in 2018, but is the new engine worth the extra outlay? Read on for our Volkswagen Amarok Highline V6 road test.
Sitting on the widest chassis on the market, the Amarok creates a real presence on the road but its face – having remained relatively untouched since its launch in 2011 – is starting to look a little long in the tooth.
The Highline sits above the Trendline and below the Dark Label in the Amarok pecking order, although it’s easy to mistake it from mid-spec trim from its subtle appearance – highlighted by the rather bland 18-inch five-spoke ‘Manaus’ alloys.
However, the lack of chrome – in many ways – has had a positive effect. Restricted to the grille, fog light surround, side bars and sport bars, it isn’t overpowering to the extent where it becomes tacky like on other models.
Volkswagen Amarok Highline specification
Inside, the Amarok maintains its low-profile appeal. While bland in many respects, there’s no questioning the functionality. At 1,575mm wide, the Amarok has the widest and most spacious cab in the sector, and there’s plenty of storage compartments including the large central cubby and on top of the dashboard, and no fewer than three 12v sockets.
The seats have been made more comfortable by placing soft cushion below the Vienna leather upholstery, and they are heated for both the driver and passengers but, surprisingly, they are only manually adjustable.
Other creature comforts included is the carpet flooring, ‘Climatronic’ air conditioning and cruise control, while infotainment is provided by a Composition Media DAB+ radio CD player system with 6.33-inch touchscreen display, voice enhancer, App-Connect and USB, Bluetooth and auxiliary connectivity.
Volkswagen Amarok Highline V6 engine and transmission
In terms of driveline, Volkswagen has it sussed. As mentioned, the Amarok is now powered by the hair-raising 3.0-litre (2,970cc) V6 diesel which is available in three power ratings. Our test model was the mid-range 201bhp/500Nm, which is capable of reaching 62mph from standstill in just 9.1 seconds.
Both the power (3,000-4,500rpm) and torque (1,250-2,750rpm) bands are extremely broad, so the Amarok is never lacking – even when towing heavy loads. The engine is mated to an equally-impressive 8-speed ZF automatic, which offers everything one could ask from an automatic; smooth, swift and decisive.
Ride and handling
The broad stance and low riding height give the Amarok excellent driving characteristics. There’s minimal body roll going into the corners, while the lengthened leaf springs make light work of soaking up the bumps and divots of everyday driving – although not quite to the same degree as the coil-sprung X-Class, Navara or Musso. Despite its colossal size, the engine is remarkably quiet with only a faint grunt produced during heavy acceleration.
There’s usually a trade-off between good on and off-road driving abilities on pickups; but the Amarok performs well at both. The solid live rear axle means there’s long suspension travel, making sure the rear wheels maintain ground contact on uneven surfaces.
The permanent 4-wheel drive system, named 4Motion, has a self-locking Torsen central differential to deliver a 40:60 power distribution and there is an optional rear diff-lock for more extreme operations.
However, the low chassis is a big of a hinderance off the road. The approach (29.5°), departure (18°) and ramp over angles (15.6°) are fairly low, as is the ground clearance (195mm) and wading depth (500mm).
Loading and towing
The Amarok’s large stature is reflected in the size of its load area. Measuring 1,620mm wide by 1,555mm long, it’s the largest load bed in the double-cab sector although it sits fairly high at 780mm which means loading and unloading can be a bit of a pain.
The Volkswagen Amarok payload is rated at a generous 1,112kg thanks to the larger 3,290kg gross vehicle weight. Despite having the most powerful engine on the market, the Amarok’s towing capacity is restricted to a disappointing 3.1 tonnes.
Cost of Ownership
‘Quality comes at a price’ as the old saying goes, and the Volkswagen Amarok is no exception. At £30,990 plus VAT, the VW Amarok Highline V6 201bhp is one of the few pickups with a plus £30k price tag and running costs aren’t exactly cheap either.
The Amarok officially returns 34.9mpg on the combined cycle although we put the figure at just over 30mpg during our week-long test. While this is well behind the market leaders, it’s considerably better than the Ranger’s 3.2TDCi engine.
Service intervals are set at a fairly lengthy 25,000 miles or two years, although the Amarok didn’t fare too well in the Pickup Truck Reliability Survey. The Volkswagen Van Centre network (around 72-strong in the UK) is expensive for both parts and labour.
Volkswagen Amarok Highline V6 verdict
While the Amarok Highline doesn’t have the flamboyant appeal of say the Ranger Wildtrak or L200 Barbarian, there’s no doubting its comfort and practicality. The engine and transmission combination of the V6 and ZF automatic is by far the best in the sector, supplying lavish amounts of seamless drive to the wheels. The two things letting the Amarok down are the costs and towing capacity but, if you don’t have a 3.5t trailer and money is no option, this machine has to be at the top of your shopping list.