The Volkswagen Amarok 2.0BiTDI 4Motion is our reigning #fastbakkie champ, as decided earlier this year by rally legend Hannes Grobler over a short rally course. But now VW has added the 3.0TDI V6 to the Amarok line-up so a bit of a duel was always going to be on the cards. Like a drag race, at Tarlton International Raceway.
Early in 2017, we hosted the inaugural #fastbakkie challenge. Racing legend Hannes Grobler piloted eight double cabs against the stopwatch on a rally track to find out which bakkie really is the fastest of them all. That proved to be the Volkswagen Amarok 2.0BiTDI 4Motion, much to, well, just about everyone’s surprise. The twin-turbocharged two-litre diesel engine was well suited to this type of driving, not minding the higher engine revolutions as much as some of the other oilburners. Another arrow in the Amarok’s quiver is the Off-Road function, activated via a button next to the gear lever. This function allows for the ABS braking system to lock the wheels up more on a gravel road, effecting shorter stopping distances on that surface. The free-revving engine, the extra few metres of late braking the ‘Off-road’ function allowed and the composed handling saw the Amarok beat the likes of the Ford Ranger 3.2TDCi and the Toyota Hilux 2.8GD-6 against the stopwatch.
But a few months ago, VW played its trump card in the double cab segment: it introduced the much-anticipated 3.0TDI V6 model. This three-litre V6 turbodiesel mill, which is used in Volkswagen-related models such as the Porsche Cayenne, Audi Q7 and VW Touareg, is good for 165kW of power and 550Nm of torque, the latter available at a low 1 400r/min And, for short overtaking bursts, there is also an overboost function, for up to 10 seconds power is hiked up to 180kW, and torque to 580Nm. The V6 engine is linked to an eight-speed automatic gearbox and VW’s 4Motion permanent four-wheel drive system. The sum total of all these factors is that this VW is fast. Very, very fast. When our colleagues at our sister publication CAR tested the 3.0TDI V6, they recorded a 0–100km/h time of 7.82 seconds: not too long ago the hottest hot hatches would have been proud of such a time.
This is not just a shoehorn-a-lumpy-and-powerful-engine-into-a-bakkie-and-hope-for-the-best kind of deal either. The Amarok’s braking system has been upgraded and it is the only double cab to run a full disc brake set-up (compared to traditional discs in front and drums at the back in other bakkies). Its stopping power is really impressive, recoding times that are more in line with high performance vehicles than commercial ones. This Amarok is no featherweight: it weighs in at a hefty 2.2-tons. Comparing the latest 2.0BiTDI 4Motion AT to the V6 is a bit like, well, comparing boxing rivals Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather against each other. Each is a champion in his own right. But the hard-hitting V6 is pretty much in a league of its own in the performance stakes. There is no question about that. For all intents and purposes, our test would determine the measure by which the V6 has moved the ‘fast’ goal posts, compared to our reigning #fastbakkie champ.
The quarter mile sprint – setting the scene
The stock standard VW Amarok 2.0BiTDI 4Motion AT, driven by former SA drag racing champion Raymond Goble, produces 132kW of power and 420Nm of torque (the latter peaking at 1 400r/min). Its ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox is one of the best in the game. In the top two-litre application, one can choose between Manual, Sport or the default Drive modes. Changing the gears ‘manually’ in the 2.0BiTDI requires the driver to push the gear lever forwards for upshifts, and pull it backwards for downshifts. After some experimentation, Goble decided to let the gearbox sort out the shifting details, revving the engine to the red line in manual mode actually proved slower than letting the gearbox decide the ideal shifting points. In the V6 we had also been experimenting. In the 3.0TDI model, the ZF eight-speed gearbox features paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. These shifters proved more effective than most of these superficial systems. When you hit the paddle, the gearbox actually changes gear (unless you are trying to gear down to first gear at 100km/h, of course).
Following a race meeting a couple of days before our test, the Tarlton strip was pretty sticky. Raymond mentioned typical drag racing terminology such as Trackbite and ‘the groove’ and staging… all we knew was that there seemed to be enough grip to ensure the V6 did not lose traction despite all of 580Nm of torque attempting to make the 19-inch wheels light up. After a few tests runs we decided that short-shifting at around 4 000r/min – as our colleagues at CAR magazine had also determined – was the fastest way to get the Amarok V6 to the quarter mile light beams. Also new was the use of the Tarlton Christmas tree, or starting lights. Since we had never used this lighting system before, experienced drag racer Goble gave us the lowdown on what happens when and where. After explaining the staging part, where you slowly edge forward until both staging lights for your lane are illuminated, you watch the ‘tree of lights’ – they are illuminated one by one from the top, and when you get to the green one at the bottom, you go. Then you simply go as fast as you can for the next 400m.
So with the basics taken care of, it was time to get down to business. Drag racing champion Raymond Goble had ‘the look’ in his eyes. You know, that kind of twinkle in the eye a big male lion gets just before he goes in for the kill. He’s quite an optimistic chap, we thought… up to 180kW versus 132kW. We’d have to mess it up pretty badly to get this wrong.
In the Amarok V6 we selected the manual function. We slowly edged forward, until both the staging lights were illuminated. Left foot on the brake pedal, right foot on the accelerator chasing the revs to the 2 000r/min mark. Wait for the green light… wait for it… Go! Off we blasted. Within the first 20 metres the V6 had already pulled out a small lead. By 50m the lead was bigger, as the rev counter needle swung around the 4000r/min mark. Hit the paddle shifter, 4 000r/min. Hit the paddle shifter. After 200m we had pulled outa big lead on the two-litre. We blitzed past the 400m marker. Our first run yielded a 15.7335 sec time, at a terminal velocity of 135.74km/h. In the 2.0BiTDI 4Motion the determined Goble managed an impressive 17.9288 (at 118.61km/h).
We went for another run. In the Amarok V6 we were ever so slightly faster with each pass, as we got to grips with the Christmas tree business. After a few more runs we called it quits. Goble had been extremely consistent in his runs, but his best run remained that first pass, stopping the clock at 17.92 seconds while travelling at 118.61km/h. In the V6 we managed to crack a 15.52 second run, at a speed of 137.95km/h. Numbers are just numbers right. So here are some comparable quarter mile times in other machinery, courtesy of myquartermile.com.
1990 Nissan 300ZX
2003 Porsche Cayenne S
2011 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor 15.2 seconds
Back to the two Amarok bakkies. There was a gap of just under two-and-a-half seconds between the new V6 and our #fastbakkie. That is apparently quite a lot of time on a drag strip. In the real world, it’s probably not quite as important.
A practical test
We decided to add a dimension of practicality to the deal, and hook up a caravan behind the Amarok V6. This after some punters lambasted our #fastbakkie concept, stating that we should rather focus on issues that real drivers encounter… like towing a caravan. Well, here you go. It’s not just any old caravan either. This is a special Jurgens that was used to create the production version of the new Penta. This unit was a tent mule, and carried more weight than its production-ready siblings. It tips the scale at just over 1.8-tons. Which is quite a lot. With the added weight of the Jurgens and a slight headwind, we were curious to see how the Amarok V6 – with its extra 160Nm of torque – would fare against the stock 2.0BiTDI 4Motion AT over the same quarter mile. For the record, the Amarok V6 has a tow rating of 3 300kg (braked trailer).
One thing was for sure, when 2.0BiTDI driver Goble saw the Penta caravan in the flesh, and had a closer look at its sheer girth, he perked up no end. “I tell you what,” he started, a smirk on his face. “I’ll give you a head start. Then I’ll take off about five seconds later… and I’ll still beat you. That is an airbrake you’re towing there.” He whipped out his best mathematics for the occasion, too. “In drag racing we used to say that 100kg equals about half-a-second over the quarter mile. Not only is your bakkie heavier than mine to start with, you will also be dragging nearly two tons behind you. So you will be like, er, about, a lot slower than me. This race is soooo mine,” he said, brimming with delight. Mind you, he probably had a point.
The jovial Mr Goble was not quite finished yet. “Maybe you should have organised something smaller to tow, maybe something like a Venter trailer,” he went on. There was just no containing his excitement at the prospect of a landslide victory. To be quite honest, we were thinking the same thing at that moment. This Penta was a huge drag behind the V6; this was definitely going to be a one-horse race. And that horse was going to be the 2.0BiTDI 4Motion AT, with a grinning driver behind the wheel. Urgh. Let’s get it over with then.
The caravan race
We lined up on the starting line again, with the huge caravan in tow. We’re sure it looked completely and utterly out of place. The staging lights lit up. Then the countdown light sequence started. Red, yellow, yell… Go! Oh dear. This time our getaway was not nearly as eloquent as earlier. With the extra weight behind the Amarok V6, the wheels briefly started spinning, which caused the traction control system to believe we were going to have an accident. The computer cut the power, just enough for the Amarok to bog down ever so slightly before taking off again. By this stage the silver Amarok 2.0 was at least three car lengths in the lead. And it maintained that lead all the way to the 400m mark, pulling away ever so slightly to finish about three-and-a-half bakkie lengths ahead of our hefty train. Our train though, was running silky smooth, tracking dead straight, never feeling flustered. Sure, we had been defeated, but we had been much closer to the bakkie-with-no-caravan than we ever thought we’d be. Behind the 2.0BiTDI’s steering wheel Raymond wasn’t smiling quite as broadly as he had been before.
If we can just get the start on the money, it could be pretty close. So we lined up again. This time we switched the traction control off. Watch the lights, watch the lights, nail it! This time all four of the Amarok V6’s wheels spun briefly before gaining traction, the rev counter rushing around the clock at speed. Second. Third. Fourth. Fifth. And over the finish! We had been even closer to the two-litre. If we get the take-off just right… we switched lanes for the next run. This time we got that take-off on the money. Hanging on to the twin-turbo two-litre’s tail, the smaller-engined bakkie pulled out a narrow gap to the finishing line. It was time to compare the numbers.
The 2.0BiTDI 4Motion AT had managed a best time of 18.03 seconds (at 109.43km/h), racing in this round. The Amarok V6, with the huge caravan, had managed a best time of 18.74 seconds (at 109.52km/h). The Amarok V6 and the Jurgens Penta had been less than a second slower to the quarter mile mark than our #fastbakkie champion, the Amarok 2.0BiTDI. Everyone was impressed. Even Mr Goble. “Jeez. This bakkie is impressive,” he nodded. The rest of the congregation gathered there was in agreement. The Amarok V6 and caravan had come unexpectedly close to matching the already fast two-litre over the quarter mile. It was mainly thanks to the V6 engine’s low-end torque, and short-shifting it at around 4 000r/min kept the engine ticking over right in the meat of all that torque.
Our #fastbakkie winner, the two-litre Amarok with its twin-turbochargers is fast. No question about that. But this Amarok V6… it takes the fast to a whole new level. Some years ago, Nissan introduced the V9X three-litre turbodiesel in its Navara and Pathfinder. That engine was rated at 170kW, but the numbers (sadly) never quite lived up to the real-world performance. It was brisk, but not really fast. It was strong, but not like “jeez like!” strong.
The Amarok V6 is fast, and “jeez like!” strong. Of course, there is the question of the money; this bakkie is not cheap. But you know what they say about the good things in life, right? And the VW Amarok V6 certainly counts in that category.
VW Amarok 3.0TDI V6 4Motion AT
Engine V6 turbodiesel
Displacement 2 970cc
Power 165kW @ 3 000r/min
Torque 550Nm @ 1 400r/min
Transmission Eight-speed automatic
4WD system Permanent 4Motion
Traction aids Traction control, stability control, trailer sway control
Towing capacity (braked) 3 300kg
Consumption 10.2 litres/100km
Price (standard) R665 700
VW Amarok 2.0BiTDI 4Motion AT
Engine Four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel
Displacement 1 968cc
Power 132kW @ 4 000r/min
Torque 420Nm @ 1 500r/min
Transmission Eight-speed automatic
4WD system Permanent 4Motion
Traction aids Traction control, stability control, trailer sway control
Towing capacity (braked) 2 800kg
Consumption 9.8 litres/100km
Price (standard) R602 400
Special thanks to
This feature would not have been possible were it not for the following people and venue:
* Former SA drag racing champion, Raymond Goble
* The Tarlton International Raceway staff
* The Jurgens Ci staff
* VWSA’s William Kgatlane
* Gert van Rooyen senior
Text: Danie Botha
Photographs: GG van Rooyen