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Driven: Volkswagen Amarok Double Cab 132kW

Date: 27 Jul 2012 Author Type: Registered Journalist
Author: Julian Lurie edited by Gary Mackay

The Volkswagen Amarok Double Cab, launched locally in September 2010, has been a great success for Volkswagen with the sales figures showing that over 7 200 units has been moved since the launch.

However, responding to certain media reports and concerns from a few potential buyers, that the Amarok could do better with a more powerful engine, Volkswagen said that they listened and acted upon those reports and have now replaced the 120 kw motor by a more refined, stronger and yet fuel efficient 4-cylinder 2.0 litre BiTDI 132 kW engine, an increase of 12 kW over the outgoing 120 kW motor, but with torque output retained at 400 Nm, but still delivered at a low 1 500 – 2 250 rpm.

This power increase, we were told, was achieved by tweaking the computer chipping, and changing the engine mapping and two-stage control bi-turbo of the common rail direct injection 2.0 litre BiTDI diesel engine.

Volkswagen claim a remarkably low combined fuel consumption figure of just 7.9 litres of diesel per 100 kilometres for the 4x2 version and 8.0 litres per 100 km for the 4MOTION, with acceleration times for the 0-100 km/h dash of 10.3 seconds, and a top speed of 184 km/h for the 4x2 and 10.6 seconds and 183 km/h for the 4MOTION.

The 90 kW four cylinder TDI engine with turbocharger with variable turbine geometry, which makes an impressive 340 Nm of torque from1750 rpm, is retained. This motor consumes 7.7 l/100 km, does the 0 to 100 km/h dash in 13.5 seconds, and 13.7 sec for the 4MOTION, with top speeds of 163 km/h and 161 km/h respectively.

Also carried over is the turbo charged 2.0 TSI petrol engine with 118 kW and 300 Nm of torque available from 1 600 rpm. It will sprint from 0 to100 km/h in 9.9 seconds, has a top speed of 180km/h, with combined fuel consumption given as 9.6 litres per 100 kilometres. All Amarok double cab models come with a six-speed manual transmission.

In both concept and style, the Amarok is clearly influenced by the latest Volkswagen Design DNA. One of the most prominent features is the visual unit formed by the horizontal headlights and radiator grille, with its louvers and decorative trim accents.

Extending rearwards from the front, the surface develops over the fender contour to the side windows and encloses them in an arch. The cleanly sculpted curvatures of the double cab’s side body panels and engine hood give the Amarok a rugged look, while at the rear the prominent VW logo on the tailgate is framed by the taillights with their distinctive ‘night’ design.

The dash and instrument cluster are virtually the same as in a VW passenger car, which is a step up on most of the current competitors. The design is well thought-out and gives an impression of quality and everything is easy to use. VW has also come up with multi-function apertures halfway up the dashboard that can be used to mount an extra cupholder or maybe cellphone holder.

The Amarok is very spacious inside - a lot wider than the Hilux and easily the widest in the class. The front seats are well shaped, comfortable and multi-adjustable, and legroom at the back is the best I’ve seen in a double cab. You could fit three big rugby players comfortably on the rear seat without having to rub shoulders. With only two aboard, the rear seat can be folded to increase interior cargo space.

The Amarok offers two different driveline versions - switchable four-wheel drive 4MOTION - and rear-wheel drive - 4x2. The Amarok 4MOTION with switchable four-wheel drive is identified by a red “4” in the badging. This is an ideal vehicle for off-road excursions when the going gets tough, but is equally at home in an urban environment.

It utilises a typical ‘rigid’ system for its four-wheel drive, a system that is practice-proven in the bakkie segment. Engaged at the press of a button, power is transferred equally to both axles, and for more extreme conditions, a low ratio transfer case provides exceptional traction for even the worst of road conditions.

VW state that even a slope angle of 45 degrees at full payload, would present no obstacle for the Amarok 4MOTION. An electronic diff lock with automatic braking intervention is standard on all versions, while a mechanical rear diff lock is available for rugged driving conditions.

Two equipment lines are offered - Trendline and Highline, but the new 132 kw version comes only with the Highline spec. Standard features include height adjustable front seats, lockable glove box and load bed lighting, the front bumper and door handles painted in body colour,  part-chrome side mirror mirror housings, lockable tailgate, electric windows, door locks and side-mirror adjusters, Radio/CD with 6 speakers, automatic climate control, multi-functional display, cruise-control, front fog and various chrome accents outside and inside the vehicle, and it rides on 17-inch alloy wheels with 245/65 tyres. The Highline also has a colour contrasting instrument panel, and classy fabric seat covers.

The load bed is the biggest in its class, so much so that for the first time on a mid-size bakkie, it is possible to load two Euro pallets sideways. The payload capacity of up to 1.15 metric tons makes it easy to transport sports equipment like quad bikes or bulky items such as machinery, and there are four tie-down eyes at the corners of the load-bed secure the cargo while on the move.

The safety package of the Amarok sets new standards in this category and includes driver and front passenger airbags, and head/thorax airbags, ESP, and all models come with trailer preparation.

Another feature is “Off-Road Mode” activated at the press of a button and is enabled up to a vehicle speed of 100 km/h. In this mode, the ESP system, Electronic Diff Locks, ASR, and ABS are all tuned for challenging off-road conditions. When “Off-Road Mode” is activated at less than 30 km/h, Hill Descent Assist is also activated; and holds driving speed constant on steep descents by means of targeted brake actuations. On vehicles without ESP, “Off-Road Mode” comprises ASR and Off-Road ABS systems.

For the test drive my colleague and I selected to drive the 4MOTION version of the 132 kW double cab. The set route took us from Sandton in Jo’burg, around the Hartebeespoort Dam to a game lodge somewhere north of that, and to get there we had a fairly long stretch of gravel road. On the gravel surfaces, the body felt extremely strong, even over some of the nastiest bumps, but the poor washboard surfaces did unsettle the Amarok a bit, however this was sorted when I selected the 4-wheel drive mode.

The efficient 132 kw diesel engine is also a highlight. It’s extremely quiet in the cabin, and road and tyre noise is limited. Cruising along the freeway the Amarok is very car-like and at 120 km/h in 6th gear, the motor spins at just 2 000 rpm, and even at 160 km/h it registers just 2 800 rpm, but as 4th is a direct ratio and 5th and 6th are overdrives it is necessary to drop a gear or two up steep inclines, but the gear-change in quick and positive.

Torque is plentiful from low down in the rev range and is especially strong from around 1 600 to 2 800 rpm, and how this translates into load lugging is hard to say, as the test vehicles carried no load, but undeniably, the new 132 kw bi-turbo is a strong powerplant.

I found the Amarok to be a far more comfortable vehicle to operate than other double cabs that I’ve recently had on test. The suspension is on the firm side, yet it still allows the Amarok to maintain good control, and cushions occupants from the worst of the bumps. Around corners, even at fairly high speed, the Amarok handles more like a car than a bakkie, and the extra power of the upgraded powerplant definitely makes it a lot more flexible and enjoyable to drive, and with the light steering, it’s easy to drive around town as well.

Prices for the full range are -

Amarok Double Cab 2.0 TSI 118kW       Trendline 4x2                   R313 500

Amarok Double Cab 2.0 TDI 90kW         Trendline 4x2                   R341 700

Amarok Double Cab 2.0 TDI 90kW         Trendline 4Motion         R391 900

Amarok Double Cab 2.0 BiTDI 132kW    Highline 4x2                   R375 100

Amarok Double Cab 2.0 BiTDI 132kW    Highline 4Motion             R425 300

Prices include a 3 year/100 000 km manufacturer warranty and 5 year/90 000 km Automotion Service Plan, and a 6 year anti-corrosion warranty with service intervals every 15 000 km.

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