First Drive Review: 2010 Volkswagen Amarok

First Drive Review of the 2010 Volkswagen Amarok
By James Stanford

We're very happy that Australian correspondent James Stanford agreed to drive the new Volkswagen Amarok on our behalf in Argentina. You may remember James' first drive review of the Holden VE Ute and the Australian Sh-Ute Out that he wrote for us. He's come through once again.

If you live in the U.S. and would like a midsize pickup with workhorse capability and European refinement, you had better stop reading this.

You will only become jealous of Australians, South Americans, Europeans, South Africans and even Russians who will be able to buy the new Volkswagen Amarok. I’m sorry to say it, but the Amarok won’t be introduced in the U.S. for a very long time, if at all.

I know this ute (Australian slang for pickup) is deserving of the envy, because I’ve just driven near-production prototypes on grueling roads near Cordoba in Argentina.

Volkswagen said it developed the Amarok with the almighty Toyota Hilux firmly in its sights. We’ll have to wait for a proper fully-loaded test drive on familiar roads to make sure, but the early test suggested it could give the Toyota quite a kick in the teeth.

First Drive Review of the 2010 Volkswagen Amarok

It is set to take the lead in terms of comfort, refinement, safety and the new engines bring a new level of economy to the class too.

The Amarok might be European-designed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s soft. Despite early predictions of a unibody chassis, like the Honda Ridgeline, it’s a conventional body-on-frame workhorse with MacPherson struts at the front and leaf springs at the rear.

It will only be available as a five-seat crew cab when it goes on sale in early 2010, but a regular cab with a longer cargo box will follow about a year later.

Our test trucks, which ran with light camouflage that included black tape and an upside down Mitsubishi badge in a token attempt to hide their identity, were fitted with some ballast in the back to aid the ride and simulate payload.

In the hands of customers, the Amarok will be able to carry 2,300 pounds (1,150kg) in the back and tow a handy 5,600 pounds (2,800kg).

First Drive Review of the 2010 Volkswagen Amarok

The Amarok looks big to us Aussies, and certainly is longer and wider than the Hilux, but then again we don’t have pick ups like the F-Series and the Ram Down Under.

Without the tape on the nose, the VW appears a bit plain. It doesn’t have the Japanese look of the Hilux or Mitsubishi Triton, which appear either futuristic or just plain weird. The Amarok isn’t all that aggressive either.

It’s a relatively simple exterior design and this flows through into the sizeable cabin. The dash and instrument cluster looks just like what you’d find in a VW passenger car. That is a step up on most of the current competitors. The design is well thought-out and gives an impression of quality and everything is easy to use. The main difference between it and a car interior is the plastics, which are hard rather than soft to the touch.

It’s spacious inside, and is 64 inches wide, which is almost 5 inches more than the Hilux and is easily the widest in the class. There’s ample headroom and more than enough legroom in the back too. You could fit four big blokes in this thing comfortably without having to rub shoulders. Drivers wanting to use the Amarok after work will be happy to know three kids would have enough space in the second row to be comfortable for long distances.

The entry-level Amaroks will be basic rigs with manual window winders, steel rims, etc but VW had us driving the upscale Highline-trimmed trucks, loaded with everything from leather seats to satellite navigation. It’s a nice option to have if you are flush with cash.

First Drive Review of the 2010 Volkswagen Amarok

More important than comfort features is what sits beneath the hood.

A gasoline direct-injection turbo four-cylinder will come in a year’s time, but for now there are two turbo diesels, both common rail and both 2.0-liters in size.

The base motor has a single variable geometry turbocharger. It is good for 122 horsepower and 250 pounds-feet of torque. Volkswagen left that one at home and only let us try the premium engine, which is essentially the same but has another turbo to help out.

The more powerful TDI engines is rated at 163 hp and a stump-pulling 295 lbs.-ft. of torque at a low 1,500 rpm. It doesn’t seem right that such a small engine can be used to pull such a big ute, but it seemed to do just fine on our test.

There is a nice surge of torque from 1,500 rpm through to 2,800 rpm, which makes the Amarok quite entertaining. It’s a smooth oil burner with linear power delivery. The two turbos work seamlessly together. Only once on the drive did it seem to lose its boost and pause before getting going again. It has ample urge with minimal weight in the back, but the real test will come when it’s towing a serious load.

The engines promise class-leading fuel economy too and, thanks to a 21-gallon tank, VW says the Amarok can go 600 miles between fills.

First Drive Review of the 2010 Volkswagen Amarok

The Amarok’s six-speed manual transmission is impressive. Six cogs are better than five, which are usually standard for this class. The box is also a pleasure to use with clear gate access and a light clutch.

The automatic? Well, there isn’t actually an automatic at the moment and it looks like we will have to wait up to three years to see one. That is a big blow for the truck in Australia, where a lot of blokes really can’t be bothered changing gears themselves.

The Amarok will be available as a rear-drive or with two different types of four-wheel drive. There’s fulltime all-wheel drive, which VW recommends for slippery tarmac as well as light gravel duties.

If you want to work the Amarok hard off the beaten track there is a part-time four-wheel drive system with a center locking Torsen differential (60/40 rear/front torque split) and low range. Both 4WD systems offer significant traction advantages on loose gravel and a short test that included a run up and down a river bank showed how capable the part time 4WD Amarok is.

All Amaroks have 11 inches of ground clearance, which makes them pretty handy for a trip into the bush.

Its electronic stability control system also lends a hand off road. When you’re driving on low traction surfaces, just hit the Off Road button and the stability system lets the truck move around a bit rather than killing the throttle at the first sign of any slip.

It also modifies the anti-skid braking technique to allow the tires to gather up a block of gravel to help it pull up faster.

There’s also the added benefit of an automatic hill descent control system to help you down the really steep gradients. At speeds under 19 mph, sensors recognize when you’re heading down a big hill and the truck automatically takes over the braking and throttle and clutch input. It can be in gear or in neutral, it doesn’t matter.

First Drive Review of the 2010 Volkswagen Amarok

The Amarok’s running gear is well suited to tough conditions like the bumpy backroads we drove in Argentina. It’s a comfortable setup, but the Amarok doesn’t wallow around too much either.

VW has done an especially good job with cabin noise suppression. It’s eerily quiet on the tarmac and still pretty serene on gravel too.

What stands out most though is the rigidity of the body. There are none of the vibrations and jiggles you usually feel come through the body of a body on frame workhorse. It feels solid.

The last-stage prototypes we drove stood up quite well. There were a couple of rattles, the engine/clutch calibration was a bit off, so they were easy to stall at low speeds, and the doors felt a bit too light and took a couple of tries to shut.

We’re still waiting to hear about the price, which will be important in the highly competitive global small truck market, but VW has claimed it wants to match the Hilux where it can.

Apart from the lack of an automatic transmission, the Amarok is a convincing package and a brilliant first attempt at a workhorse by Volkswagen.

If only they sold it in the U.S.

First Drive Review of the 2010 Volkswagen Amarok

Comments

Yikes, it's becoming typical for vw to rebadge products!

Hopefully mahindra teaches pickup manufacturers the US consumer wants small diesel pickups.

" Yikes, it's becoming typical for vw to rebadge products! "


Don't mistake the Mitsu badge on the grill and tailgate as badge engineering. It's actually camoflauge, to hide the Amarok from would be spy photographers. Not very effective camo at that.

NO AUTO DSG BOX ? LOST 7 SALES IN THE UK ALL READY. SORRY

Please bring it to the USA! Love it. I have an F150 for towing and a Jetta TDI as a daily driver. I wish I could have just this instead.

Sorry no Automatic for 3yrs!!! That ios not going to cut it, no matter how "car like " it is.

What are decisions such as this based on? How do car companies decide where and where not to sell their products? It seems the U.S. market is flush with every conceivable sedan and Lux Utility Vehicle, but no small trucks.
With the Ranger fading, Mitsubishi gone, and the Dakota more a midsize, it seems Americans would be all over this VW...
Are they afraid of the competition from an Indian-made pick-up? I don't get it. Please explain.

Greg B,

If Americans want compact trucks they need to start voting with their wallets and start buying them over Silverados and F-150s. Currently the big trucks have the highest sales numbers while trucks like the Frontier trail far behind.

The truck companies are simply building what sells. Small trucks don't, and you can't blame it on the small trucks getting bigger either, because in that case even this Amarok wouldn't be small enough for you.

NO AUTO BOX FOR 3 YEARS IN UK ? BIG BIG MISTAKE. HUGE . MORE THAN HALF THE COUNTRY SITS IN TRAFFIC ALL DAY.

The reason small pickups do not sell well in the U.S. is based on comparative shopping. When you compare a Nissan Frontier with a F150 for example, the price is about the same, the F150 is usually about $2K to $3K more. That results in $10 to $20 more in monthly payment, and the fuel cost difference is minimal as well. As a consumer, I can get a lot more room with a F150, more towing, more power, and easier resale for not much more money? Then the choice is clear. If we could get small trucks with fuel efficient diesel for at least $5K cheaper than full-sizes, I bet they will sell well.

Holy crap!!! The Amorak is awesome. I really hope that Mahindra is reading these comments.

It is the TR-40 with a better engine and styling, and equal or better performance (assuming equivalent MPG ratings). VW has certainly been in the diesel business longer than Mahindra and, with it's current U.S. diesel offerings boding well with consumers, has less to prove than Mahindra. I'm with Greg B. - send this thing over here!

For U.S. marketing purposes though, they might want to consider a different name.

I would buy it. It is exactly what I need: a pick in which I can put 2 children seat in the back row, with 4x4, which can tow more than 2000 lbs and with the economy of a diesel engine. In Canada, if you take GM for example the small pickup with crew cab, the colorado, is only available in 2x4 with the 2.9l engine. with 4x4, you need to take the 3.7l engine that consumes too much fuel.

The ford range with the 2.4l engine with great fuel consumption is only available with a single row seat and no 4x4, so it's pointless.

When they will bring it, I'll buy it.

"The automatic? Well, there isn’t actually an automatic at the moment and it looks like we will have to wait up to three years to see one. That is a big blow for the truck in Australia, where a lot of blokes really can’t be bothered changing gears themselves."

If Australia is a major market, why launch anything without an automatic option? It does not make any sense whatsoever. Also why an average by Asian Pickup standards towing and hauling capacity? Where is the diversity of body types that allows the Hilux to sell well? A 2 litre diesel no matter how impressive is NOT going to be great selling point. Sorry VW you have come up with a half finished product and to sell at all it will need to undercut the Hilux prices. Something I cannot see happening.

Sirs,

This article is crap.
The pick up would not only be selled in the US, it would be also produced in Chattanooga ....

Knowing how poor VWs are when it comes to the reliability department, I don't think the absense of this trucklet from this market is such a big loss.

VW is a name drivers in the U.S. know and respect. I would imagine they can build a high quality truck. It sounds like it tops the Mahindra in several areas- ground clearance, horsepower and torque, fit and finish, soundproofing of the cab etc. If they were anywhere close to the same price, there would be no contest. As many similarities as there are at first glance between the two trucks, I would say the VW is a first class product and could command a much higher price than the Mahindra. Why can't we have the same choices here that the rest of the world has? More power to the folks at Mahindra for making the effort, now how about VW? Toyota Hilux? The U.S. buyers are finally changing, maybe Ford or Chevy or Dodge is paying attention?

Love at first sight! I've had three VW diesels since 1980, the latest an '09 Jetta TDI, and they've been excellent. Would love to buy the Amarok, VW would be wise to bring it to the US with a choice of stick or auto to please everyone. Fuel economy is a critical aspect, that's why these would sail off the lot. I agree that it beats the Mahindra thoroughly. Bring it here, build it here, sell it here VW, you've got a winner and could double your sales number projection of 100,000.

Adam, 3 years ago I needed to upgrade my Ranger to a 4 door crew (baby). I went midsize because I thought the Ford/Chevys were too poor on gas miledge/ too big. (I feel different now) I bought a Nissan Frontier NISMO 4x4 Crew Cab for 24k, List 28,300k, I looked for similar in a Ford F150, FX4, cheapest I found was 34k, List 40k. If I could have found a similar Ford F150 for 2-3k more I would have considered it at the time. My nissan get poor 16 mpgs, the bed is too small, back seats are small, sits too low, I lose teeth when I go over potholes, etc. Still though, I would rather drive a high end froniter/tacoma than a stripped f150. (im not a aftermarket person). I have to admit though, I owe 5k on my truck and its kbb is @14k, even though at 70k miles I think I have replaced or need to replace almost everything on the truck. By the way I did look at the canyon thingy but god it was awful. When it is time for a new truck, I think the improvements over the last year to the 150/silverados/rams are awesome.

VW PLEASE TAKE NOTE OF Robert Ryan | Dec 4, 2009 2:01:05 AM. HE IS 100% RIGHT ALSO FOR THE UK MARKET TOO. NISSEN , TOYOTA , MITSUBISHI , ISUZU , OUR MAIN SELLING PICKUPS . ALL OPPSIONAL AUTOMATIC . BIG SELLER DUE TO TRAFFIC CONDITIONS EVEN THOUGH 50% SOLD IN THE UK ARE FOR JUST TAKING KIDS TO SCHOOL . REGARDS. ONE MAGER PI**ED OFF INDERVIDUAL THAT HAS BEEN WAITING FOREVER FOR SOMETHING GOOD TO COME OUT OF VW TO GET A KICK IN THE TEETH . CHEERS. NICE LOOKING TRUCK THOUGH...

Greg B
[ The truck companies are simply building what sells ]
NOT IN THIS CASE
I'm sure the VW AMAROK could wipe the floor with the pickup market in the UK if they get it right the first time like . RANGE ROVER SPORT 18 months waiting list AUTO. AUDI Q7 15 months AUTO .NISSAN NAVARA 12 MONTHS FIRST IMPRESION . IF YOU DONT GET IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME YOU WILL MISS THE BOAT .

After Taking U.S. Bailout, Chrysler Hires Italian Agency:

http://adage.com/article?article_id=140855

I really like the sound of the all wheel drive.
But two things concern me.
The fact it is 5 inches wider than a Hilux, which makes access in tight areas an issue.
A two litre engine for a work vehicle of that size! how long would you expect the engine to last towing heavy loads?
I'm interested to see what Toyota come up with.

i think maybe take the bluemotion 3.0 engine and auto box out of the touareg and put it into the amarok then you may have the perfect pick up. anyone agree?

"i think maybe take the bluemotion 3.0 engine and auto box out of the touareg and put it into the amarok then you may have the perfect pick up. anyone agree?"
I think that would have made a great start. What with 8000lb towing capacity, a pretty good automatic and no doubt very good fuel economy.

I didn't like. If the final design is the one we are seeing here it is the same old face VW has, nothing new. It seems like a high Golf or Gol (like we have in Brazil). When you see the others manufacturer that have this kind of trucks (like Toyota, Mitsubishi and etc), they always have an imposing front and something different.

This vehicle has a greater towing caoacity than the recently released Toyota Prado 5 door (2,500Kg). Prado put on weighjt but lost 500 Kg towing capacity over the previous model.

OK the lack of an auto is a downer...but at least it offers the stick where other automakers are reducing or deleting the "manny-tranny" availabilty. And it has available AWD or full-time 4WD? I am so jealous. Take that you Frontiers and Tacomas. I'll stick to Dodge Ram or GM truck til you put full-time 4WD available in your compact/midsize pickups...American manufacturers are so far behind the times. I do hope they come with a bigger V6 available...I agree with Marty Australia about such a small engine at risk of being overworked. But it should get awesome gas/diesel mileage. I know this truck wont be offered in US but these offerings and issues would be a beckoning for US truck manufacturers to think about.

wow! a turbocharged motor that can only muster 160 hp and a measley 300 pounds of torque? my 62 galaxie that i used to drive everyday up until a few months ago, had 200 horses and 300 pounds of torque, and it was the smaller 292 block, not the 390. why does it seem like, with 40 years of new technology, safety and comfort, they havent advanced the engine per se. i dont care about the price of gas. even my 01 f 150 has the same stats as my galaxie, which is an insult to the truck, not the car.

Mahindra is going to sell a lot of small diesel pickups because VW doesn't offer trucks like this one in the US or Canada.

I would much prefer VW technology and a 6-speed manual, and a truck with their 12-year anti-corrosiion warranty, over the uncertainties involved with a Mahindra truck. But when there is only one light diesel pickup available, then that's the one for me.

Great Truck ! They sell it everywhere else BUT here. My question simply is WHY . We probably have a market with open arms towards the small/efficient truck market, but great ideas like this never make it here. Maybe they should consider it at least, just give us some type of hope... Also something to write about at the least !

Great truck! At least for us in Brazil...

Great truck!! At least for us in Brazil...

Well said Ray Ray. Full size pickups will win against small pickups in price comparison pretty much every time. For minimal cost you get a whole lot more truck. I think that auto makers would see that there is a market for vehicles like this if they can manage to make them more affordable. Which isn't easy to do.

Also, I don't think it would be worth it for Volkswagen to bring this truck to the US without an automatic. Unfortunately, manual transmissions are disapearing from our vehicles more and more. Even the cars and trucks that do offer automatics here are usually hard to get.

That being said, this truck looks like practically the perfect vehicle for me. Seating for 4, room for cargo, towing capability, 30 mpg, and its not another SUV. And I would take it with the 6 speed for sure.

VW has done it again and I have no doubt it will be a winner. Look out Hi Lux you have a serious contender on it's way. Bring it on

I know the Mahindra is coming, but that sounds more like a straight up work truck. This Amarok sounds like it would be perfect for hauling the family, or some cargo, or both. While pulling your boat. Try doing that with anything else on the market and staying up around 30 mpg. What do we have to do to get this or something like it here?

In the US? Sorry, won't work. Here's what reviewers would say. "No cupholders..!" "Engine feels small.." "Cannot tow an 18ft trailer like domestic trucks..." "No automatic tranny.." "This thing could use a V8...".

I think you're right Sala Mandra. How about this then...take this platform and turn it from a midsize truck into an SUV. Because we don't have enough of them on the market or anything. Then MAYBE consumers in the US would consider it. I could settle for it as an SUV if I still got the diesel engine and manual transmission.

Some people can't get past their "size" fixation, which has been in part responsible for the situation the American automobile industry is in. How many people use the Ram's towing capacity at full? Get over it, if you build modern engines, you don't need a 6-liter fuel-eating monster to get decent, realistic torque.

I have a VW Jetta with a "puny" 2-liter, turbo-charged engine that cranks out 210 hp and 280 Nm/rpm torque (factory). I've taken it to 140 mph (GPS-controlled speed) and it still had a tad more room to go. The engine (TRSI) was voted Best Car Engine in Europe a couple years back; low emissions and so. All this from a "domestic" car, not a sports-one.

On the other side, I have a year 2000 Nissan Truck with a 3.2-liter, 110 hp, 4 cilinder engine, no turbo, that can't get past 75 mph with a 1.000 lbs tow even if I fart all the way.

Two liters might seem small for a truck, but I am sure the engineers at VW are not stupid and have taken their time to test the Amarok's engine fully, and I am sure it can deliver realistic torque for a realistic amount of miles with a very competitive fuel economy; a vehicle suited to realistic needs, not over-muscled. If anyone really "needs" unrealistic towing capacity (anyone works pulling-out logs from a Canadian river?), Rams and F 150's are there for the taking. Sad to see, however, that most are used by soccer-moms.

I don't understand why Volkswagen wouldn't want to sell this truck in the United States. Is it a brand image problem?

With its new 20% stake in Suzuki, it would be nice to see this truck AS A TURBODIESEL replace the Equator in Suzuki's lineup.

It's too bad it doesn't have a solid front axle and differential locks in the 4x4 models, but it's still better than anything Toyota, Nissan, Chevy, or Ford offer anymore! If nothing else, maybe Toyota will read all these comments, realize how much demand there is for a solid-axle turbodiesel Hilux here in America and FINALLY answer all our prayers!!!

People of the U.S. Band together and email vw or toyota or whoever makes a diesel you like and tell them you want these diesels brought to our shores ASAP!!!!!! The only way to change their point of view is to give them the message that the demand is here!

Who needs an automatic. Automatic is for lazy people, time take the bulls by the horns. I live in South africa and will see this in the last term of the year. Think about it, why the hell do you want automatic gears if te driving experiance is so much beter in manual. Start driving manual and some manufactures might think of sending you some more small trucks.

Then you think a 2 liter is to small for a truck. Mazda and ford got 2.5 liter turbo diesels giving 100 bhp and use 2 miles per galon, but the amarok is giving 160bhp at +- 3-4 miles per galon, not bad.

Sorry, got my convertion screwed up. Consumption on amarok is 30 to 35 miles per galon.

Yes, we want this in the US, Volkswagen! I'm another one that could use a 4-door pickup from VW. I've been a loyal customer for 20 years. I would run out this afternoon and buy one of these if they were in the US. Even if they are only niche-marketed, there are still buyers over here. Please send us some!

The main reason why USA gets no Amarok is quite simple.

As a whole, historically you guys are petrol (gas) crazy.
In the old days Diesel didn't give that smooth driveability as petrol (gas) did and thus almost all mum-and-dad cars were petrol (gas) powered. That matched with your higher taxes on Diesel & your mentality of "Bigger is better" has resulted in Diesel falling by the wayside.

It has only been in recent times that the USA market has opened up to Diesel vehicles for mums and dads because petrol (gas) has rocketed in price and finally you guys acknowledge that "Hey! The Europeans aren't so stupid after all! They are onto something here!"

Don't worry, they will come in time.

I dont believe it will take 3 years to get an automatic, VW have the technology and see the benefit in all other models.

Carravel and Toureg both have Auto`s and the toureg has a proven low range gearbox. Use it!

I`m in South Africa and CAN NOT WAIT to take this for a drive... :)

Yikes, it's becoming typical for vw to rebadge products!

You should get your facts right KEN, VW have a factory in Argintina. This car is a re-badged nothing.

I can't wait I will have one.

Heck, bring back the VW Rabbit pickup with diesel. Hauled all I needed and then some and did it getting up to 45 mpg all with 4 cylinders and no turbo! Love to have another now just to putz around in. The F250 can be a handful even going to the grocery store!

These foreign companies build some awesome rides for every country but the US. Most share a lot of common parts with those coming here. So meeting the requirements to get them imported shouldn't be a problem. At least I wouldn't think it would be. So take a chance. You're already building them, send a few to the US and see what happens!

The state of the compact/midsize pickup segment is so frustrating. It has declined over the years because no manufacturer has a vision for it. From being highly efficient vehicles, trucks in this segment have become highly inefficient (low fuel economy and insufficient payload). The phasing out of the Ford Ranger, Dodge Dakota and, possibly, the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon do not bode well for people that want a simply, rugged and utilitarian workhorse.

We should all welcome with open arms trucks like the Mahindra TR20 and TR40. Their trucks really stand out amongst the current compact/midsize offering. It’s great to know we’ll be able to get our hands on a pickup with excellent payload and fuel economy that's not the size of a house. And let’s not forget its clean diesel engine – finally!

I must be staying on another planet! How anyone can compare a Mahindra to a Volkswagen product baffles the mind! I am not familiar with the prevalence of Mahindra vehicles in USA but in South Africa you would be regarded as daft to even try to compare a Mahindra to what the Amarok promises. In all respects of performance and built quality the Amarok will kill the Mahindra. It will be a real threat to the Hilux if it can be sold at more or less the same price. I suspect its going to replace the Hilux in a very short time as the double cab of choice.

i too am puzzled with the mahindra comparison..... the mahindra looks like a cartoon drawing or a lego model car...

i am going to replace my car with an Amarok - the 160 HP TDI engine and 6 speed gearbox is great value for money on any vehicle - here in Argentina the list price is USD 32 K



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