Text: GG van Rooyen
We have to admit it — the last few months haven’t been easy. In fact, they’ve been downright torturous.
Since February we’ve been eyeing the calendar like an inmate awaiting his parole date. And despite our best efforts to be patient, time seemed to stand still. It was infuriating. At one point we almost lost hope. Almost.
May was a particularly difficult month. We were inspecting some of the exhibitions at the annual Nampo agricultural show when we detected a commotion. One of the exhibits was attracting a lot of attention.
Could it be? Was it really there? We had heard that it would make its South African debut at the show. We pushed eagerly through the crowd.
There it was. The Amarok!
But, unfortunately, it was there for display purposes only. We could look at it. We could touch it. We could sit in it. But we couldn’t drive it.
Although it was great to see it again, it was a frustrating experience. We were looking forward to the glorious day when the double cab would finally appear on showroom floors. And that date was still months away. We left the show in a sombre mood.
June was also tough. The Amarok appeared at shopping centres across the country, but we didn’t attend any of the events. It would’ve been too painful.
Why couldn’t VW just stop teasing us and launch the bakkie?
At the start of August we reached our lowest point. August, after all, was initially set as the launch date for the vehicle. As the days passed, we started to lose heart. Would this mythical double cab ever be unleashed on South African roads?
Then everything changed.
In the middle of August we received an invitation to the local launch of the Amarok in Port Elizabeth. It was official: the vehicle would be unveiled to the local media in September and go on sale in October.
So, by the time you read this, VW South Africa will be gearing up to throw its hat into the double cab ring. After months of marketing hoopla, the Amarok is just about ready to start challenging market heavyweights such as the Nissan Navara, Isuzu KB and Toyota Hilux.
LEADER OF THE PACK
Unfortunately, the Amarok was launched on 7 September – after our October deadline – so we can’t report on the launch in this issue. But that doesn’t really matter, because the local iteration of the vehicle is basically identical to the one that we tested in Argentina earlier this year (issue 72, page 18). And as you might remember, we were very impressed with it.
In fact, we wrote that VW “did not design the Amarok to be among the front-runners in its class. Instead, they designed and developed it to be the new benchmark in its class. The clear leader of the pack. Now, after spending nearly 300km in the Amarok’s company, on all kinds of surfaces, we believe VW has achieved its goal.”
If you struggle to recall why we were so taken with it, here’s a quick rundown of the Amarok’s most striking features.
Firstly, the vehicle doesn’t sport the standard three-litre diesel powerplant one would expect to find in a double cab of this class. Instead, VW has opted to power the Amarok with the aid of a two-litre diesel engine that has a two-stage, bi-turbo set-up.
Why did the company do this, you ask? Simply put, because it creates loads of power while keeping fuel consumption and emission levels very low. With the help of its two turbos, the two-litre engine creates an impressive 120 kW of power and 400 Nm of torque. The bi-turbo set-up also ensures that power is distributed linearly and is available from low-down on the rev-counter. At low engine revolutions one turbo provides boost. When the engine starts to work harder and more thrust is needed, the second turbo kicks in.
And it creates all this power while remaining incredibly economical. According to VW, the engine requires only 7,9 litres of diesel every 100km. With an 80-litre fuel tank, the bakkie boasts a potential range of more than 1000km.
If you’re looking for even better fuel economy, a single-turbo version will also be available. This engine creates 90 kW of power and 340 Nm of torque, and consumes only 7,7 litres every 100km.
While a 4×2 version of the Amarok will be available for those interested in the utility aspect of the bakkie, VW has created a 4×4 model that will satisfy any off-road enthusiast. Of course, it sports “must haves” such as low-range gearing, a rear differential-lock and excellent wheel articulation, but it also has features that none of its competitors possess. For instance, it has a Hill Hold Assist system that prevents the vehicle from rolling back – even against a 45 degree incline. And if you’re travelling down a steep slope, the Amarok’s Hill Descent Assist system will ensure that unintended acceleration doesn’t occur.
It also has an off-road ABS system. Normal ABS systems prevent wheel-lock on gravel roads, and because of this they aren’t terribly effective. VW’s new system allows the wheels to be locked sporadically, thereby creating a gravel “wall” in front of the tyres and reducing stopping distances significantly.
Finally, the Amarok’s design is very attractive. To be sure, it’s not terribly original. It follows the same design cues as the other members of the VW line-up, and from the front it looks rather like a Golf on steroids. But it’s still a good-looking double cab. The interior is especially striking. Climb into the cabin and you’ll encounter a level of comfort usually associated only with SUVs.
GOING FOR GLORY
The Amarok is an impressive vehicle, but it faces a monumental task. If it wants to be the local double cab champion, it will have to take on the Mohammed Ali of bakkies, the Toyota Hilux. And dethroning this legendary machine won’t be easy.
It will also need to tackle fast and agile contenders such as the Nissan Navara (which now offers 141 kW of power and 450 Nm of torque) and the always popular Isuzu KB.
Does the Amarok have what it takes? The tale of the tape suggests that it does. After all, VW’s bakkie has more weapons in its arsenal than any of its competitors.
But the only way to be sure is to let the contestants thrash it out in the ring. So that’s exactly what we’ll do. Look out for our double cab shoot-out between the VW Amarok, Nissan Navara, Mitsubishi Triton, Isuzu KB and Toyota Hilux next month.