VW's Ama(t)rok breaks cover

VW’s has released details of its forthcoming Amarok bakkie, bound to significantly realign the local bakkie landscape.

The Hilux challenger from VW will be available in two cab configurations (single or double), with three drive and two engine options. VW says there will be no extended cab version.

Packed with technology, yet designed for rugged markets like Australia, Latin America and ours, the Amarok might be the first double-cab bakkie from VW for local buyers (discounting the T3/5 Kombi double-cabs), but it promises to be well worth the wait.

Big bakkie, small engine?

Although most local bakkie buyers will scoff at the diminutive engine capacity on offer, VW’s latest generation 2TDI compression ignition powerplants offer class competitive outputs and outstanding fuel economy.

The 2TDI engine will be available in two grades, either a bi-turbo 120kW/400Nm version or a variable geometry turbo TDI worth 90kW and 340Nm.

Both engines drive through a six-speed manual transmission and VW is claiming sub 8l/100km consumption figures for its new bakkie, which should ensure outstanding operational range courtesy of the 80l fuel tank.

From a workhorse perspective the Amarok boasts 1 150kg loadbay carrying capability and a 2.8t tow rating. Perhaps the most interesting part of the new bakkie’s make-up is its diffuse drive configurations.

Customers can choose rear-, part-time or full-time all-wheel drive, depending on their traction requirements.

All models (even the rear-wheel drive bakkies) can be optioned with an aft axle differential lock, which should appeal to rural buyers who need limited traction security and wish to do without the expense of a transfer case enabled vehicle.

About as traditionally chunky as a bakkie can be styled with current pedestrian crash safety regulations, the Amarok looks good. Very good. If we were Nissan or Toyota, we'd be worried...

Bakkie with a centre-diff?

The 4MOTION switchable all-wheel drive system is geared more towards wet weather on-road or gravel driving, and actuated from rear- to all-wheel drive via a centre clutch system.

For more demanding customers there is the permanent all-wheel drive option, geared to distribute torque between both axles via a Torsen centre differential geared to provide a 40/60 drive split. This should make Amarok only the second bakkie to provide permanent, centre-diff driven all-wheel drive capability - the other of course being Land-Rover's very low-volume Defender bakkie models.

Both all-wheel drive Amarok configurations are low-range equipped. Off-road capabilities are further buoyed by ABS modulated traction control (TC), a far superior system to traditional ECU power rationing TC.

The Amarok TC system intervenes on wheels which have surrendered traction (by selectively pulse brake actuating them), thereby vectoring torque to the drive wheels still in contact with the obstacle being negotiated.

Other off-road goodies include terrain based ABS, which shores up braking ability (and shortens stopping distances) on substrate surface and gravel roads. There’s hill descent control too, which should be another Amarok first for local bakkie owners.

Ignore the Highline trim 17-inch alloys here. Amarok's mid- and low-grade models will roll on 16-inch wheels, which is the off-roader's choice for serious 4x4 missions into Africa.

Three trim levels

Aside from the Amarok’s impressive blend of powerful and efficient (if apparently small) engines and neat drivetrain technology, the new bakkie will be available in three trim levels (Base, Trendline, Highline), catering for both robust and lifestyle oriented applications.

Amarok's Base version will feature good old manually operated windows, door locks and side mirror adjustment, whilst aesthetically the front bumper, door handles and mirrors are finished unpainted, in plain black plastic.

Beyond a lack of exterior colour-coding, Base Amaroks will be easily recognisable due to their 16-inch steel wheels.

One grade up is the Trendline, which adds colour-coded body mouldings and electric operation of all the Base’s manually actuated cabin features. Comfort and convenience amenities are added too, such as Climatronic, a radio/CD player and cruise-control.

From a styling perspective, Trendline Amaroks will ride on 16-inch alloy wheels (which is rather comforting if you plan on off-roading beyond South Africa’s borders) and sport front fog-lights.

The range will be headlined by the Highline trim level, which features exterior styling embellishments such as chrome accents and a fender extension kit to make room for those 17-inch alloy wheels. Highline cabin trim upgrades include leather detailing (seat trim remains fabric though) and a high-end sound system.

Amarok's cab design accommodates four airbags to ensure occupant safety.

Cabin is very passenger car-like in layout, texture and configuration, which should appeal to lifestyle buyers. Will is be tough enough (with sufficient stowage spaces for miscellaneous items) for farmers and construction crews though?


Dynamic safety is catered for by an advanced ABS brake system, whilst Amarok’s optional ESP system should be another first for the local one-ton bakkie market.

Distinctively styled and sporting a surfeit of features (especially first-in-class driver aids) it’s abundantly clear VW's done a lot of homework when planning and positioning the new Amarok.

With Amarok introducing a host of first-in-class features (hill descent control, ESP, off-road ABS/TC, and Hill Hold Assist) it will significantly raise the game in the local bakkie market.

With the three trim derivatives effectively guaranteeing a broad model spread (offering various price entry points) the Amarok, as a range, should undoubtedly be Hilux’s most accomplished competition yet.

VW’s greatest challenge will be to get local bakkie buyers to grasp the concept of a sophisticated 2TDI engine being able to power a full-sized bakkie with aplomb.

Amarok is set for international release early in 2010 and should go on sale in South Africa during the third quarter.

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