Wolf in bear’s clothing

2014-11-21 00:00

VOLKSWAGEN Commercial Vehicles calls its Amarok a mid-size pick-up truck. Built since 2010 and introduced to the South African market in 2011, this truck consists of our traditional body bolted onto a ladder-frame bakkie riding on MacPherson struts.

I spent a few days with the 2,0 BiTDI Double Cab Highline Auto, courtesy of Kevin Pillay, dealer principal of Barons in Armitage Road, and walked away very impressed.

My thanks also go to Meredith Willis, used-car sales manager at Barons, who was never too busy to assist.

OVERALL STYLING

Designed by the great Walter de Silva, Amarok means “wolf” in Inuit (Eskimo) and could be related to the home of the Volkswagen brand in Wolfsburg, Germany. In fact, until the eighties, the Wolfsburg crest, featuring a wolf’s head, used to be displayed on VW products.

De Silva made the Amarok look even bigger than it is, with the exterior styling defined by tall, squared wheel arches, within which its 17-inch wheels look a little lost.

Built to work, the load bin has an integrated step to make loading easier, and a rear light to illuminate the load bin at night.

INTERIOR

While the outside is all steel-capped boots and hard hats, the interior of the Amarok I drove was finished in luxurious black leather more suited to a family than to the dusty world of work. The CD-aux-radio system is excellent and a 12 V socket is provided.

The climate-control system ensures a pleasant ride, which is important in the KZN summer.

Access to the rear is easy, with wide-opening doors leading to supportive, comfortable, adjustable seats, which can fold forwards to provide additional space. The front seats are individually adjustable for height and ergonomics, with convenient drawer space beneath.

The dashboard reminds of the one used in the Tiguan. Controls for engaging the off-road programme and diff lock are in an easily accessed centre console, adjacent to the leather-covered gear lever.

SAFETY AND SECURITY

The Amarok is a safe vehicle, awarded four stars from the Euro NCap in 2010/2011 and in 2011 it also received five stars from the Australian New Car Assessment Programme (ANCap).

The vehicle is equipped with conventional and off-road ABS, as well as an electronic stability programme, hill start and descent assist, a diff lock, air bags for the driver and front passenger, and seat belts for all.

On the security side, there is an immobiliser, central locking and theft alarm, with automatic flashing lights if the vehicle is tampered with and an automatic lockdown for the engine cover and fuel cap.

PERFORMANCE AND HANDLING

The Amarok 2,0 BiTDI Double Cab 4Motion Auto puts out 132 kW and 400 Nm via an eight-speed automatic gearbox. The 0-100 km/h run takes about 11 seconds and tops out at about 180 km/h. My fuel consumption in a brief combined cycle was close to 10 l/100 km.

The vehicle is comfortable, competent and easy to drive in the city, although I did find that berthing such a large vehicle in a cramped shopping centre parking lot required care.

For the traffic light racers among our readers — at a light in the city I found myself next to a young man in a red Golf GTI revving his engine and looking at me expectantly. I put the Amarok into off-road mode and floored the throttle. My message to that young man, if he reads this, is “never underestimate an old man in a big bakkie”.

On a visit to friends whose farm road is notorious for its muddy surface after rain, the Amarok had no real problem in the poor conditions which made walking difficult.

GUARANTEES, COSTS AND

THE COMPETITION

The Amarok comes with a three-year or 100 000 km manufacturer’s warranty, a five-year or 90 000 km service plan and a six-year or corrosion warranty.

The single cab at entry level comes in at about R275 000 and the double cab entry-level model at about R379 000. The top-of-the-line Amarok reviewed here comes in at about R515 000 — not cheap, but remember you are getting a luxuriously appointed family car, a formidable off-road vehicle, a tow car which will serve all your needs and a really useful loading platform that will take over 800 kg.

The marketplace is always competitive and here you should look at the Toyota Hilux, the Mazda BT-50, Ford Ranger and Isuzu KB.

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