New LCV review

Volkswagen Amarok review

The Volkswagen Amarok is every bit as comfortable and capable as the Ford Ranger, but is arguably a more stylish offering

The last-generation Volkswagen Amarok won many fans — particularly the V6 model — but didn’t make Volkswagen any money, so it was dropped in 2020.

Since then, the company has jumped into bed with Ford to share everything from platforms to technology, and it did so just as Ford was developing its new Ranger pick-up. A bit of redesign work in Wolfsburg later, and the Volkswagen Amarok was reborn.

This means that, under the skin, the two models are more closely linked than you would expect. However, Volkswagen has gone its own way with design and specifications, putting clear air between the two rival-but-related models.

You’ll need to find £33,000 plus VAT to get into the new Amarok, but that gets you the entry-level Life trim, with an underpowered 2.0-litre engine developing 170hp. Spend more – £46,200+VAT in the case of our PanAmericana test vehicle – and you’ll get more kit, more capability and, crucially, a modern 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel engine.

Is it worth splashing out on the most expensive pick-up on sale in the UK, Ranger Raptor excluded, when there’s an equally talented model wearing a different badge?

What’s new about the Volkswagen Amarok?

Everything! Volkswagen is no stranger to the commercial vehicle world, and it’s had a crack at the pick-up market before, so it’s taken what it’s learned and put it into making the new Amarok.

While it’s clearly a Volkswagen, there’s no similar model in the VW Group to borrow parts from, which explains the assistance from Ford. That means the Amarok comes with a lot of parts unique to the model, including the 2.0-litre diesel engine and the attention-grabbing 3.0-litre V6 unit. 

Inside, it’s unlike any other Volkswagen model, with a vast vertically mounted infotainment screen to operate most functions. Alongside a digital instrument panel, it’s arguably the most tech-laded Volkswagen yet — and I include its ‘ID’ range of electric cars in that.

What there isn’t is any sort of hybrid or electric model. A plug-in hybrid is on its way, eventually, but the prospects for pure electric power for this generation are low.

How does it look?

Each Amarok has a subtly different style, but all share the same basic shape. You’ll find a blunt, upright grille topped by LED headlights that wrap around to the squared-off wheel arches along the side. At the back, the tailgate has been stamped with AMAROK in giant letters, ensuring everybody knows what you’re driving.

The nose is where you’ll find the most differentiation between models. The Life model has a hint of Touareg SUV about it but beefed up. A body-coloured front bumper is lifted by a faux-brushed aluminium insert, with a black grille above. Style trim adds more chrome detailing around the grille.

The Aventura extends the lower insert to create a silver ‘X’ motif across the front of the vehicle, with a matt silver finish dominating the front end. Finally, our PanAmericana darkens the X emblem to create an imposing aesthetic.

A variety of different-sized alloy wheels, side steps, roof rails, sports bars and mirrors are mixed and matched across the range, with some bright chrome options, some body-coloured, and some in black. There’s an Amarok to meet your style.

What can you get in the back?

At well over five metres long, there should be plenty of room in the cargo box of the Amarok. It’s an almost perfectly square space, measuring 1.62m long and 1.59m wide. The wheel arches impede a little, but at 1.22m between them, there’s still space to squeeze a couple of Euro pallets in the back.

Payload limits vary from model to model but reach a peak of 1,113kg, dropping to 1,054kg on our PanAmericana test vehicle. Commercial users need to be careful, though, as the range-topping Aventura model can only take 877kg, making VAT reclamation a tricky process.

Every model (except for the entry-level 170hp Life model) can tow 3.5 tonnes, and the Amarok will do that without any complaint. However, bear in mind that the gross vehicle weight is set at 6,500kg, so you won’t be able to tow the maximum load while also loading the cargo box to its full capability.

You can load up to 85kg on the roof, although this comes from the total payload figure, so it doesn’t add anything extra. For the campers amongst us, the roof will take 350kg when parked, opening up the possibility of fitting a roof tent.

What’s the spec like?

There are four models in the Amarok range, starting with the Life trim. Despite being the entry-level model, there’s plenty of kit included. You’ll find a 10.0-inch infotainment system with DAB radio, air conditioning, adaptive cruise control, parking sensors all around with a rear camera, and a vast swathe of safety gear, including automatic emergency braking.

Style adds a 12-inch infotainment centre, navigation, wireless phone charging, climate control, LED matrix headlights and 360-degree cameras. There’s a little more panache, too, with a chrome sports bar and 18-inch alloy wheels.

The top of the range is split into two. The off-road focussed PanAmericana gains a load of dark styling touches, a leather-clad interior, Harman-Kardon sound system and, crucially for those venturing away from the tarmac, a locking rear differential.

Alongside sits the Aventura, a lifestyle-friendly model with flash 21-inch alloy wheels, heated seats and steering wheel, plush leather seats, and the same Harman-Kardon eight-speaker sound system.

What’s the Volkswagen Amarok like inside?

Volkswagen will tell you that it’s aiming the Amarok at the premium end of the market, and that shows inside; it’s topped the dashboard with leather, with contrast stitching that gives a horizontal line running across the width of the vehicle. Faux-aluminium trim highlights the air vents, and there’s some not-carbon fibre around the leather-wrapped gear selector.

Our PanAmericana model also has subtle Harman-Kardon badges on the speakers, LED lighting throughout the cabin, and a glossy 12-inch infotainment screen that looks a little like a top-spec iPad has been bolted to the dashboard.

This sits above some glorious knurled rocker switches for quick access to ancillary controls. It looks a million dollars, especially compared to the pickup trucks we’re used to.

It flatters to deceive in places. The door handles feel cheap and flimsy, there’s a lot of hard plastics when you look below the level of the steering wheel, and those rocker switches aren’t as solid feeling as they look. It’s no Range Rover, then, but it wouldn’t look or feel out of place in many mainstream SUVs.

After growing by 10cm over the last model, the new Amarok feels spacious in both the front and rear seats. Headroom for all is plentiful, and rear leg room, even for taller than average adults, is impressive.

What’s under the bonnet?

Few people will pick the entry-level Life model, with its 2.0-litre engine producing 170hp. Popular will be the same engine but tuned to deliver 205hp.

Style buyers can choose between the 205hp unit or upgrade to the 3.0-litre V6 and the 240hp it gives out. The £2,500 plus VAT required to make the step might make some think twice, especially as there’s ‘only’ a 35hp boost, but it’s a wonderfully smooth and progressive engine. However, you will see the economy, officially at least, drop from around 32mpg down to 28mpg. 

It’s also the only engine you’ll find in the PanAmericana and Aventura, which shows how hard Volkswagen is pushing the premium angle.

All models get the same ten-speed automatic gearbox and selectable all-wheel drive. 

What’s the Volkswagen Amarok like to drive?

We took the Amarok around a farm, through mud-filled ditches and across water, to test its off-road prowess. The reality is we barely scratched the surface, with the Volkswagen taking everything in its stride. Experience elsewhere shows the pickup will cope with more extreme terrain than you might think possible.

All models have a locking central differential to help get through the slippy stuff, with the PanAmericana also getting a locking rear diff for when the going gets even trickier. You’re unlikely ever to need it.

On the road, it’s delightful. The V6 engine is smooth and responsive, with the ten-speed automatic gearbox keeping the power available at all times. With 600Nm of torque, it catapults itself away from a standstill, despite its 2.3-tonne weight, and reaches motorway speeds in under ten seconds.

It’s almost too good at speed, as you’re so isolated from the outside world that it’s remarkably easy to lose track of how fast you’re going. The speed limiter fitted as standard might be a feature you want to learn to use.

The long travel suspension absorbs most bumps, with barely a jiggle from the back of the pickup over smaller imperfections. It’s not quite car-like, but it feels closer to a full-size SUV than any pickup before has managed.

In town, the sheer bulk is sometimes tricky to work with, especially as the high, flat bonnet limits visibility directly in front. Happily, parking sensors are standard equipment, while you only need to go up one grade to get a 360-degree camera.


Do we talk about the elephant in the room? The Ford Ranger is, mechanically at least, near identical to the Amarok, yet it undercuts the Volkswagen by around £3,000 on a like-for-like basis. So why splash out the extra on the Amarok?

Company users will face the same tax bill, whether it’s got a VW or Ford badge on the front, which might make the decision easier. Those paying in cash will likely get much of the increase back when it comes to resale, too. Over three or four years of ownership, the difference in cost should be minimal.

At that point, it’s easier to make a case for the Volkswagen. It’s every bit as comfortable and capable as the Ford but is, arguably, a more stylish offering with more on-road (and off) presence.

Similar vehicles

Ford Ranger | Isuzu D-Max | SsangYong Musso | Toyota Hilux

Key specifications

Model as tested: Volkswagen Amarok PanAmericana, £57,231
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 diesel, 240hp
Gearbox: Ten-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 3,270 mm
Max gross weight: 3,350kg

Towing capacity: 750kg (unbraked)
Vehicle dimensions: 5,350mm (L) x 1,910mm (W) x 1,888mm (H)
Turning circle: 12.9m 
Fuel consumption: 28mpg
Warranty: 4 year / 120,000km warranty and a 5 year / 100,000km maintenance plan

Phil Huff
Phil Huffhttps://frontseatdriver.co.uk/
Phil Huff has been writing for national newspapers, magazines, regional titles and countless websites since 2003. Specialising in travel and the automotive world, Phil is happiest when exploring foreign lands in foreign cars. Phil’s company, Huff Media, supplies automotive content for multiple titles.

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