Long Term Update: Volkswagen Amarok Off-Road

With its super-smooth automatic transmission, refined 3.0-litre V6 engine and excellent composure going into the bends, the Volkswagen Amarok has won plaudits for its excellent ride and handling on the road, but is it equally as capable off-road?

Like the Mercedes-Benz X-Class, Volkswagen offers a choice of part-time (selectable) and permanent 4-wheel drive systems on the Amarok; the entry-level 163hp output is selectable while ours (the 204hp) and range-topping 258hp ratings are both permanent.

Amarok Off-Road: 4Motion System

Volkswagen’s famed 4Motion system provides better traction off-road through an automatically-locking Torsen central differential, providing a 40:60 front to rear power distribution. The central diff engages on demand, and – although it takes a while to cut in – it was extremely effective during our test as it didn’t need to stop and activate when required, as with mechanical diffs. Volkswagen offer a mechanical rear diff as standard for more serious operations.

Volkswagen Amarok off-road

Amarok Off-Road: Dimensions

While it provides excellent on-road driving characteristics, the low ride height of the Volkswagen Amarok is a limiting factor when it comes to off-road driving. At 195mm, the Amarok has the lowest ground clearance of any double-cab pickup which means there’s more chance of a nasty bump or scrape.

The 29.5° approach angle is fairly high, but the 18.0° departure and 20.1° ramp-over angle (ours was even lower because of the towbar) are very sub-standard. The low centre-of-gravity does help increase the tilt-over angle (best-in-class at 50°) but the 500mm wading depth is below par.

Volkswagen Amarok off-road

Amarok Off-Road: Systems

Hill Descent Control allows you to drive down slopes in a safe, controlled way, thanks to the engine management’s ability to govern the engine speed, and apply the brakes when driving off-road if necessary. The vehicle’s speed is maintained at a constant crawling pace – varying between 1 and 19mph – and there’s a reduced first gear on the eight-speed automatic for lower speeds.

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When setting off uphill, Hill Hold Assist keeps the brakes locked until there is enough torque being supplied to the wheels for the vehicle to move forward, which prevents the vehicle from rolling back on inclines and simplifies hill starts.

The ‘Off Road’ button next to the gearstick helps increase traction and safety by locking the wheels on loose surfaces for longer periods, which digs the tyres into the surface and creates a wedge to reduce the braking distance.