Text: Jannie Herbst
When a new vehicle is launched, car manufacturers’ public relations departments normally commission a specialist route-planner to devise a test route on which the new vehicle will be driven and tested by motoring journalists. A route that will highlight the vehicle’s strong points and not show up any weak ones.
What the heck, then, did the route planners at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles smoke when they devised the test route for the new Volkswagen Amarok double cab bakkie, near the city of San Carlos De Bariloche in Argentina?
There we were, driving the Amarok on a gravel road so terrible that our pothole-infested roads in South Africa seemed as smooth as a German autobahn in comparison. It was really, really bad. It started off with slippery pebbles and dust, then potholes, rocks, slow-moving trucks and other passenger vehicles. This route also included a demanding 4×4 course specially built for the occasion. A serious one, for serious 4x4s.
Man, someone had got it very wrong.
And to think that prior to the international launch of the Amarok, VW’s engineers had spent eight million kilometres testing the bakkie over all kinds of surfaces, in all kinds of temperatures. But the route planners had lost the plot.
On the loose gravel surface the Amarok was stable, compliant, comfortable, and consummately capable. Even at more than 120 km/h on the slippery surface the rear-end refused to be unsettled, despite some fair attempts by the driver. And when Sir Isaac Newton’s law was finally overstepped, the standard electronic stability programme (ESP) would, in milliseconds, bring the Amarok’s tail back in line.
Then came the really bad part, with the potholes, corrugations, and dust. Cruising along quite comfortably at 100 km/h on this very rough section, potholes would jump out in front of the VW bakkie’s wheels. And there would be no “thud!” No “bang!” No frenetic oversteer situations. No dramas at all. Just a little shrug from the Amarok.
The 4×4 test track included a claimed 45 degree incline on a paved section. Extreme axle articulation tests. ABS braking tests on gravel. Long descents. Long ascents on loose surfaces. Mud and soft sand. The Amarok made mincemeat of it all, thanks to an armada of specialised 4×4 electronics and a good dollop of mechanical ability.
In other words, the route planners on this launch knew exactly what they were doing – and left motoring scribes in no doubt about the off-road capabilities of this new bakkie.
Absolutely no doubt.