Paarl - Volkswagen's social test drive programme sees the automaker delivering much needed supplies and equipment to disadvantaged communities in South Africa.
Wheels24's Charlen Raymond attended one of the social programmes aimed at providing assistance for abused and vulnerable women and children in Paarl, Western Cape and experienced the VW Amarok's new eight-speed auto transmission.
Tough market in SA
Despite offering a solid bakkie package, the Amarok can’t seem to grab a bigger slice of the market compared to the aforementioned leaders. The new Hilux reclaimed its throne as SA's bakkie King while the Ranger maintains its position as the second best-selling bakkie in SA.
And the Amarok? It achieves sales of 300-400 units per month locally.
Unheard of 8-speed gearbox
As is the case with the market leaders, the Volkswagen Amarok is available with six-speed manual and auto transmissions. The Amarok is equally at home tackling the rough stuff as it is performing family-orientated duties as a "lifestyle" vehicle. To enhance its bakkie’s value proposition, Volkswagen added an eight-speed auto to its Amarok line-up.
Taken from the Volkswagen Touareg, the new eight-speeder is a revelation and welcome addition to combat the manual ‘boxes used in rival offerings. Gear shifts are conducted in near silence. On the open road the only indication that I was in a eighth gear was when I glanced at the dashboard and saw ‘100km/h, D8’. The seamless characteristics of this gearbox is amazing in its segment.
At home off-road
The new gearbox is, fortunately, not one-dimensional and can adapt itself to varying road conditions due to its permanent 4Motion all-wheel drive system (with off-road mode and rear-difflock).
By flicking the gearbox into ‘Sport’ mode, gears are engaged for longer periods.
Gallery: Volkswagen Amarok
With its 4x4 systems activated, the Amarok becomes a true off-road machine. Going downhill, the system will check and regulate driving conditions and with absolutely no throttle or brake application, the Amarok will soldier on. It remains the driver’s responsibility to steer the bakkie on a clear a path as possible.
For novice drivers, going uphill, one good push of the gas pedal will set the Amarok in motion and at a leisurely pace the bakkie will crawl up obstacles. For the more experienced driver constant throttle inputs will get you up and over obstacles in a jiffy.
Does the ‘box get the nod?
Depending on what you want your double cab to do will ultimately be the deciding factor when you have to make a decision. But given how smooth the new gearbox’s application is in the Amarok, it can’t be denied that Volkswagen’s gamble has paid off. This is a bold move - unheard of for a bakkie to be equipped with a gearbox with so many ratios. But the gearbox fits the Amarok and it adapts to various road conditions without any hassles.
VW social outreach
The day was capped off by delivering two washing machines to AHOS (Athlone House of Strength) - a safe haven for abused and vulnerable women and children in Paarl.
When we arrived at AHOS after a good few hours of putting the Amarok through its paces, the washing machines were still firmly in place in the loading bays with not a single dent or bit of damage. As we pulled up, the women and children received us with smiles and gratitude - evidence that this deed did not go unnoticed.