By Robby DeGraff
The Volkswagen Amarok was named International Pickup Truck of the Year from MotorTransport, a U.K. newspaper dedicated to everything trucks, during the IAA Commercial Truck trade show last week in Hanover, Germany.
Heavy-duty and consumer truck manufacturers from around the world displayed their newest models and technology at the large annual expo. Testers judged the performance of seven globally sold pickup trucks from automakers such as Isuzu, Mazda, Nissan, Ford, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Volkswagen. Through extensive on- and off-road tests at Mondello Park in Kildare, Ireland, the testers narrowed the field down to a few podium place winners.
Because of the so-called U.S. “chicken tax,” which slaps a 25 percent tariff on trucks built and imported from most countries outside the U.S., the Nissan Frontier, Suzuki Equator and GM’s midsize truck twins are the closest you can come to buying any of these capable small pickups domestically. Even then, you’d still be missing the diesel engines that power these trucks overseas because of diesel’s high cost and emissions regulations in the U.S.
Mazda/Ford brought out the latest European-spec Ranger/BT50 — which is due to be replaced next year by an all-new truck— touting its durability and responsive engine. Toyota’s Hilux pickup truck lagged behind other newer models. Nissan’s Navara midsize pickup truck — which is strikingly identical to the U.S.-spec Nissan Frontier and its cousin, the Suzuki Equator — won highly in terms of styling points and interior design and comfort, but it lost some points in ground clearance during the deep off-road tests. Isuzu’s D-Max, which shares a platform with the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon, may not be the best looking, but it was surely one of the best performing and what jury members called "very impressive" in terms hardcore off-roading. Mitsubishi’s L200 was the most powerful pickup in the competition at 175 horsepower, and its overall off-road driving comfort was nearly unmatched.
The Amarok earned the top honor from MotorTransport, the first time the publication has ever given the award.
Introduced in 2009, the Argentina-built Amarok proved its off-road capability by landing a role as the key support vehicle in the challenging 2010 Dakar Rally. Powered by a turbo-diesel 2.0-liter engine, the Amarok can be equipped with two-, four- or all-wheel drive. Buyers can choose from a single or double cab, along with three trim levels.
Testers at MotorSport were eager to drive the new Amarok on the test grounds and praised it for its well appointed and spacious cabin. Despite the Amarok’s victory, jury members said its overall off-road performance needs to be improved to be a stand-out among the competition.