Driven: Volkswagen Amarok V6 Aventura Black Edition Review

When Volkswagen turned up to the pickup party with its Amarok V6, it was clear that some serious effort had gone into making sure it ticked boxes for both professional and lifestyle users. However, 10 years on from its introduction, there’s a sense that Volkswagen has given up and is just biding its time until the result of its joint venture with Ford gives a lower risk, less costly route to market.

Despite that, Volkswagen is persevering with the V6-powered model that, once the Mercedes-Benz X-Class disappears, will be the only one of its kind – although its days are numbered.

Is that something to celebrate and, ultimately, missed, or should it go the way of the dinosaur and give way to more modern technology?

Volkswagen Amarok Aventura review

Volkswagen Amarok V6 Aventura: Exterior

There’s something about the Amarok that just looks right. Some will argue that it doesn’t look aggressive or tough enough, that it stays too close to the family Volkswagen style led by the passenger car division, but there’s a classy look that other trucks just haven’t managed to match. And that includes Mercedes.

Squared-off wheel arches add a rugged edge, but the profile is fundamentally quite understated. It’s also very colour dependent, with the Amarok looking great in the bold blue of our test model, but perhaps a little drab in flat black.

For those wanting a bit more pizzazz, there are sidebars and running boards available, and Volkswagen’s range of sports bars liven up the rear end, but can also look a little clumsy. Choose wisely.

This Aventura Black Edition model sits on 20-inch alloy wheels, shod in 255/50R20 tyres, which fill the arches nicely but, at 5,321mm long, everything needs to be a decent size to remain in proportion. Other trucks are a little longer, but the Amarok is wide, wider even than the Mercedes-Benz X-Class.

Volkswagen Amarok V6 Aventura review

Volkswagen Amarok V6 Aventura: Interior

As well as that car-derived design on the outside, there’s very much a car-like ambience inside. The dashboard looks like it’s been lifted in its entirety from a 2013 Golf, and there are quite a few pieces of switchgear that have been.

What it lacks in curves it makes up for in ease of use, with a layout that’s obvious and clear. Heating and ventilation controls sit a little too low in the centre stack, but the physical knobs make adjusting temperatures on the go a simple task. A 6.3-inch infotainment screen dominates the higher part of the dashboard, with shortcut buttons on either side to take you the relevant screen. This is an improvement from those systems that rely entirely on a touchscreen, something that’s difficult to operate with gloves on, wet hands, or on bumpy tracks.

Volkswagen Amarok V6 Aventura interior review

The infotainment system includes a decent smattering of equipment, including a DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as European navigation and smartphone mirroring through either Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.

It’s all as close to a premium experience as you’ll find – and that includes the X-Class. There’s also a suitably plush amount of room available in the cabin, which is available as a double cab only. Legroom in the back is decent enough, and rear-seat passengers also benefit from a 12-volt socket to charge their devices from.

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Up front, there is a 14-way adjustable ‘ergoComfort’ seat, which is spectacularly comfortable. You’ll also find multiple charge points in the front, along with a slot to store a phone or even laptop.

Volkswagen Amarok V6 Aventura rear seat review

Volkswagen Amarok V6 Aventura: On the Road

There’s only one engine available in the Amarok, although it is produced in two states of tune. The entry-level Trendline model gets the 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel that produces 204hp, while this top-of-the-range Aventura Black Edition gets a boost to 258hp. The models in between get the choice of either output but, let’s be honest, there’s only one you’re going to go for.

It’s quick, certainly. Should you need to sprint to 62mph from a standing start, you’ll be able to do that in just 7.4 seconds before getting on with the rest of your day. Those brave enough can go on to 129mph.

Ride comfort is excellent. So good that you might, briefly, forget you’re in a pickup. It rides long motorway undulations with pleasing indifference and can cope with imperfect country roads with aplomb. An occasionally inconvenient pothole or crest will send a shudder from the rear, but it copes with most situations well.

It rolls in corners, as you would expect, but that’s kept well-controlled and allows you to gauge the level of grip available well. Tight corners need a lot of steering input though, as the steering is slow. Handy for off-roading, but less helpful on the tarmac.

At speed, it’s hushed and refined, with the eight-speed automatic gearbox shifting rations smoothly. Only noise from those wide 50-section tyres upsets the calm.

Volkswagen Amarok V6 Aventura: Off Road

There’s one big problem with the Amarok, and that’s its low ground clearance. At just 192mm, you’ll have to be careful to avoid scraping the bottom of the truck on anything beyond a damp field. It also impacts the approach and departure angles.

Despite that, and the 20-inch wheel clad with low profile tyres on this test model, it’s a capable thing off the beaten track. There’s permanent four-wheel-drive, called 4Motion in Volkswagen-speak, backed up by enough assistive technologies that you’d expect it to drive itself.

It won’t do that, so please don’t try. However, pressing the Off Road button by the gear lever switches everything on, including osm innovative technologies.

A self-locking Torsen central differential provides a balanced 40:60 power distribution. A mechanical differential that can be manually locked is an optional extra and provides improved traction on sandy and slippery terrain. Without that, you’re relying on things like hill hold assist and hill descent control to keep things under control, as well as the impressive 4Motion system that moves power around automatically.

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There’s also an impressive off-road ABS system that allows for a useful amount of wheel blocking without leaving you simply sliding into oblivion.

Approach angle (°)29.5Climbing angle limit (°)45.0
Departure angle (°)18.0Ground clearance (mm)192
Ramp angle limit (°)20.1Wading depth (mm)500
Side angle limit (°)50.0

Volkswagen Amarok V6 Aventura: Payload and Towing

The Amarok’s significant size pays dividends when it comes to the load area. At 1,555mm, it’s got the fifth-longest load bed on the market, at least for now, while its 1,620mm width is more accommodating than most. Between the wheel arches, that reduces to 1,222mm, but it’s still enough to squeeze a Euro Pallet into.

Despite the low ride height, the base of the load bed is quite high at 780mm, making manual loading a more physical exercise than on some rivals.

Thanks to some heavy wheels, a huge sports bar, and those electric seats and other equipment, the payload for the Aventura Black Edition is just 1,030kg, but lower-spec models fare better; the Trendline model can take a more impressive 1,147kg. It’s still some way off the best in class, however.

Disappointingly, towing is limited to 3,100kg, short of the 3.5 tonnes that other pickups can pull. A gross train weight of 6,000kg puts paid to towing any greater loads, at least on the road.

Kerb weight (kg)2,260Load bay length (mm)1,555
Gross vehicle weight (kg)3,290Load bay width (mm)1,620
Payload (kg)1,030Load bay height (mm)508
Gross vehicle mass (kg)6,000Load bay capacity (l)2,520
Towing capacity braked (kg)3,100Towing capacity unbraked (kg)750

Volkswagen Amarok V6 Aventura: Verdict

It’s a shame that the Amarok will be killed off before its time, as there’s so much to like about Volkswagen’s first foray into the market. Yes, it’s now 10 years old but, straight lines apart, you’d never be able to tell as it’s still the finest riding, most powerful machine on the market.

Official fuel economy figures aren’t strong, but then it’s powered by a large V6 engine rather than a downsized unit you might find elsewhere. Volkswagen says 27.7mpg is possible, while our testing managed a slightly more impressive 29.6mpg. However, that included a disproportionate amount of gentle motorway cruises. In urban environments, you can almost see the fuel gauge dropping.

The Amarok’s load-lugging credentials aren’t even near the top of the class and, while it will venture off-road, it’ll be left behind by everything else once the going gets really tough.

But if you’re more of a road-based user, ploughing the motorways rather than fields, with just occasional need for the abilities afforded by a pickup, then there are so many positives to the Amarok. Yes, the near-£42k CV OTR price is steep, but you can get most of the extras and improved abilities by opting for the £37k Highline model. Sacrifice 54hp and you can save an extra £3,500 or so on top of that.

At that point, it starts making a lot more sense.

Model tested: Volkswagen Amarok Aventura Black Edition 3.0 V6 TDI 258 PS

OTR Price£50,282CV OTR Price£41,995
Reclaimable VAT£8,199CV Price Range£29,560-£41,995