Offering ample performance both on- and off-road, unimpeachable build quality and respectable fuel economy, VW’s Amarok 4x4 – the name means ‘wolf’ in the Inuit language – is a deserving winner of our Pick-Up of the Year award for 2012.
Power comes courtesy of VW’s ubiquitous 2.0-litre TDI common-rail direct-injection diesel, with either 122hp (single turbo) or 163hp (twin turbo) on tap. The latter carries the BiTDI designation.
A six-speed manual gearbox is standard but the eight-speed automatic unveiled at September’s Frankfurt show is scheduled to appear on this side of the Channel in mid to late 2012. In a package that includes a 180hp version of the 2.0-litre, Bluemotion technology and stop/start, it will return an average 37mpg says VW.
Admittedly, the choice of body configurations currently offered to UK Amarok buyers is restricted – at present VW only imports the four-door double-cab from the factory in Argentina and there are no immediate plans to ship in the single cab – but at least buyers can choose either selectable or permanent four-wheel drive.
Three different trim levels are up for grabs too, ranging from the entry-level Startline to the top-of-the-range Highline, and taking in Trendline specification along the way. All offer plenty of goodies.
Nor is the Amarok short on clever ideas when it comes to safety. We especially like its intelligent ABS system, which cuts in slightly more slowly than usual if you attempt to pull up quickly on gravel. The way it works ensures that a wedge of pebbles builds up ahead of the front wheels when the brakes are applied. That allows the driver to retain control and stop the vehicle without sliding all over the place. To make it function in that way you press the Off-Road Mode switch next to the gear lever, which you may do at up to 60mph. You’ll trigger Hill Descent Control too if you hit that button at up to 18mph. It keeps driving speeds constant on steep descents by means of targeted brake actuations, enabling travel down some surprisingly acute slopes without encountering disaster. Hearing the brakes being applied, released and re-applied is soothing – especially if the incline is precipitous – rather than intrusive.
To go back up that nightmare slope again, Hill Hold Assist should ensure you don’t roll backwards.
The Amarok’s built-in safety package also includes Electronic Stability Programme, Brake Assist System, Traction Control System and Trailer Stability Control.
The vehicle offers remarkably good handling on tarmac, with none of the lurching and wallowing through bends traditionally associated with big 4x4 pick-ups. Take to the fields and it will resolutely claw its way along muddy, heavily rutted tracks, pock-marked with deep potholes overflowing with water, without getting bogged down.
Four load tie-down points are to be found in the cargo box, which is mounted on a beefy ladder-frame chassis. Access to the load area is by means of a sturdy tailgate that can be locked horizontally.
Gross payloads go up to 1119kg depending on the variant selected.
This year Mitsubishi’s iconic L200 4x4 pick-up has to content itself with our Highly Commended accolade, but that should not be viewed as a disgrace. It remains a competent and praiseworthy package.
On offer with three different body styles – single cab, club cab and double cab – and available in long bed as well as standard bed guise if you opt for the last-named, it is powered by a dependable 2.5-litre diesel at either 134hp or 175hp.
A variety of different levels of specification are marketed – Warrior and Barbarian are among the best-known – but if you want a real treat, then check out the Walkinshaw Performance Double Cab with its fully independent five-point multi-link rear suspension and 20-inch alloy wheels. It deserves an award all of its own.