Bakkie with bains
The all new Volkswagen Amarok has enjoyed its official launch. But is it tough enough to take on the wild, blue South African yonder? That was the question we posed to multiple South African off-road champion, BUKS CAROLIN …
Amarok, a word from Inuit mythology, refers to a gigantic wolf that hunts alone. Therefore, meeting the all new Volkswagen Amarok in the Baviaanskloof biosphere seemed apt, considering that it is the ideal vehicle to explore the stunningly beautiful mountainous terrain. The unspoilt World Heritage Site nature reserve, which covers
200 km2, seemed the perfect environment in which to put the Amarok through its paces.
The Amarok has already received extensive publicity. Having undergone over eight million kilometres of testing on four continents, the Argentinean built vehicle did not disappoint with regards to the build quality. It is what we expect from the German giant – solid automotive engineering.
Given the fact that it faces some stiff competition, it was vitally important that the Amarok differentiate itself from the opposition. It does this by offering a number of innovations such as off-road ABS braking, ESP with a trailer stabilisation system, electronically activated diff locks, hill descent assist as well as the controversial 2-litre bi-turbo diesel engine. At the launch, Volkswagen made a big song and dance about the fact that this is a “smart 4×4”… in other words, it’s a bakkie with brains.
Churning out 120 kW of power and 400 Nm of torque (power and torque normally associated with petrol sapping V6 engines) Volkswagen has probably started a trend towards smaller, more frugal engines in the bakkie market. This mighty little diesel engine is impressive and boasts fuel consumption of 7,9 l/100km. While Volkswagen claims that the Amarok will cover 1 000 km on the standard 80-l fuel tank, our actual test drive indicated that a 900 km range is more realistic.
The spacious cabin of the Amarok is well appointed and offers numerous well thought-out storage compartments. The steering wheel can be adjusted for both reach and height. The front seats are comfortable and also offer both reach and height adjustment. The rear seats can fold up with a 1/3 to 2/3 split, which allows for additional storage capacity. The 4Motion four-wheel drive system can be selected “on the fly” up to a speed of 100 km/h.
So what’s it like to drive? I was suitably impressed with the vehicle. You can get yourself into the perfect driving position, because the seats are fully adjustable. Visibility both fore and aft is excellent and the voluptuous side mirrors allow the driver to keep the tail end of things covered. There is also a nifty rear light that allows you to see inside the cargo area at night. The controls are well positioned (apart from the hand brake that has not been adapted for right-hand drive). With two bottles of water in the console’s drink holders, gear selection and hand brake use was impaired. Another small concern was the tailgate. While it is double skinned and well secured, there is a gap of around 15 mm between the tailgate and the load bin and a gap of a few millimetres on the side of the bin.
The electronic driver aids are easy to operate and make the driving experience dead easy. On regular sand roads it is advisable to engage four-wheel drive as the vehicle can be skittish without a load (this is typically experienced in many bakkies, not just the Amarok). Hill descent control allows the driver to concentrate fully on the obstacles en route and the anti-slip control affords the novice 4×4 enthusiast the confidence to make full use of the vehicle’s abilities.
Unfortunately we were not provided with the chance to tackle any serious 4×4 tracks and passes and this left a slight question mark on my scorecard. The everyday obstacles that we encountered with the Amarok were soaked up in its stride.
So, do I like the Amarok? Yes. However, it would certainly be interesting to see how it copes with more arduous off-road terrain, and how it manages a full load.