Almost every mainstream light commercial vehicle manufacturer active in the UK is wading into the purpose-built 4x4 pick-up market.
Newcomers to the sector include Fiat Professional with the Fullback, while Renault is scheduled to launch the Alaskan later this year. Mercedes-Benz aims to put the upmarket X-class on sale towards the end of the year or in 2018, while PSA (Peugeot
and Citroen) has an offering in the pipeline too.
Existing players are not taking the challenge lying down and are upgrading their products. Volkswagen, for example, has introduced a revised Amorak 4x4 four-door five-seater double-cab with a new engine, which makes it the only V6 diesel pick-up available in Britain.
Replacing the old four-cylinder 2.0-litre TDI, the Euro6 3.0-litre V6 TDI pumps out 163hp, 204hp or 224hp depending on which version you choose. That makes the latest Amarok more powerful than its predecessor, which generated a maximum 180hp.
Amarok anoraks can identify the newcomer by its redesigned front grille and bumper.
Customers can opt for either an eight-speed automatic gearbox or a six-speed manual, although manual models will not appear on this side of the Channel until later in the year. Three different levels of trim are up for grabs, from entry-level Startline through Trendline and all the way up to Highline.
At present, you can go one rung above Highline if you opt for the 224hp special edition Aventura automatic. Only 240 were earmarked for the UK and we’ve been driving one.
Access to the cargo bed is by means of a tailboard released by a single, centrally mounted handle.
The lockable tailboard drops down horizontally and is held in place by steel restraints. Letting it fall further would be impractical because it would foul the rear step and bumper.
The step allows you to hop up and see what’s in the back before
Four load tie-down points are provided and the load area was fitted with a plastic liner to protect it from damage. A 12V power point is installed – one of four dotted around the vehicle.
Gross payload capacity is over a tonne so registered businesses should be able to reclaim the VAT.
Cab and equipment
While the Volkswagen Amarok Aventura’s interior styling cannot be described as innovative, few drivers are likely to complain about a lack of creature comforts.
Its heated front seats are more than welcome in wintry weather while the Climatronic climate control package should allow you to maintain a pleasant interior temperature all year round.
The ParkPilot park distance control system’s sensors and alerts should stop you denting either the front or the rear of the vehicle during low-speed manoeuvring. The package includes a highly effective reversing camera and gives you a bird’s-eye view of the Amarok’s close surroundings.
Cruise control is included in the deal as are three in-cab 12V power sockets – two in the front, one in the back – and front fog lights with cornering lights. Bi-xenon headlamps are fitted with separate LED daytime running lights. Electric windows are installed in all the doors and the exterior mirrors are electrically adjustable.
At the heart of the onboard infotainment package is a Discover Media navigation system with a 6.3-inch touch-screen and a voice enhancer. A DAB radio is standard, and a USB interface and aux-in jack are included in the deal, as is Bluetooth connectivity and VW’s
App-Connect, which allows you to bring your smartphone apps onto the touch-screen.
Safety features include driver and front passenger airbags along with side and curtain airbag protection. Automatic Post-Collision Braking System is fitted as standard and immediately applies the brakes after a smash to forestall any secondary impacts.
ABS is installed as are ASR (Anti-Slip Regulation, or traction control), Hill Hold Assist and ESP (electronic stabilisation programme). You can switch off the ESP when you venture off road.
Also worthy of note is a stabilisation package that responds if any trailer being towed starts to sway and looks as though it might be going out of control.
The steering wheel and the driver’s seat can be altered for height. Surprisingly, the seat’s reach adjustment is manual rather than electric given that the Aventura is a top-of-the-range model, not that it makes much difference.
The cab is leather-trimmed throughout, including the multi-function steering wheel, gear shift cover and seats.
Oddment stowage facilities include a small lidded glove box as well as a large lidded box between the front seats along with a tray and a couple of cup-holders. One of them plays host to a removable ashtray. There are two more cup-holders on the floor in the back of the cabin.
You will find a shelf on top of the dashboard plus bins with bottle holders in all four doors, and somewhere to put sunglasses above the windscreen. Look under the front seats and you will also find storage compartments.
All three rear seats come with lap-and-diagonal belts plus height-adjustable headrests. Sit your tallest rear passengers on the outboard seats – legroom for the middle passenger is somewhat restricted.
The light commercial’s rear seat cushion can be folded back and lashed into position to create more floor space should you be transporting bulky bits of equipment that you do not want to leave exposed and insecure in the load area. The offside seat’s cushion can be folded back separately giving a one-third/two-thirds split.
Fold the entire rear seat-back forwards having first released the restraint catches and you can get at the jack and tools.
The Aventura is finished in metallic paint with colour-keyed front bumpers, door handles and mirror casings.
Complete with a particulate filter, the vehicle’s 24-valve common-rail V6 produces maximum power at 4,500rpm. Top torque of 550Nm bites at 2,750rpm. The automatic gives drivers the choice of either D or S mode. Flick the shift lever to the latter setting and the gearbox will change up at higher engine speeds.
Tap it to the right and you can change gear manually by pushing the lever towards or away from you. It’s easy, but there seems little point in doing so on ordinary roads – we would advise leaving it in either D or S and let the gearbox do the work for you.
Four-wheel drive is continually ready to kick in whenever it is needed in automatic models thanks to VW’s 4Motion system, but it has to be selected by the driver on manual versions. An electronic diff lock is fitted in both cases.
Chassis and steering
The Amarok’s ladder frame chassis is equipped with a MacPherson-type strut suspension at the front and leaf springs at the back. Our Aventura sat on 19-inch alloy wheels shod with Continental Conti Sport Contact 255/55 R19 tyres.
A Servotronic electronically controlled rack-and-pinion steering system comes as standard.
There is no denying that the 224hp version of the V6 has ample power on tap – an over-boost function temporarily whacks it up to 240hp – and the eight-speed ’box ensures
that it is delivered jerk-free. Hit the accelerator pedal and the Volkswagen surges away from rest, with a highly effective kick-down facility allowing sudden bursts of strong mid-range acceleration to be delivered if, for example, you are joining a stream of motorway traffic from a slip road.
The lurching and wallowing that used to accompany any attempt to push a pick-up through a bend at anything much above walking pace have long since been banished from all mainstream models, and the Amarok is no exception. Drivers can corner with confidence, with lots of feedback though the steering and next to zero body roll.
The ride is firm in typical German fashion, but not to the extent that you are bounced around, with the Amarok making a heroic effort to squash bumps flat. In-cab noise levels are well under control.
The V6 encourages and rewards enthusiastic driving and as a consequence burns more fuel than the official stats suggest. Volkswagen quotes a combined fuel economy figure of 36.2mpg, but we averaged closer to 28mpg on a mixture of A and B roads and motorways and with some weight on board. The cargo included a pile of fly-tipped rubbish, which was
disposed of by Herefordshire Council’s ever-vigilant VW Caddy-driving fly-tipping squad.
Off-road, the Amarok is impressively competent. Muddy fields and slippery inclines hold no terrors for it, with Hill Descent Control – it keeps your speed constant by applying, releasing, then re-applying the brakes – proving invaluable when going down really steep slopes.
Also worthy of note is the ABS off-road mode, which causes the technology to intervene slightly more slowly than usual on loose surfaces to stop the truck sliding all over the place under braking.
It’s pleasing to see a grab-handle on the front passenger-side A-pillar plus grab-handles for the rear outboard passengers on both the B-pillars. If the driver is going off-road then you might just need to hang on to something.
Buying and running
The Amarok does not come cheap, with ours weighing in at almost £32,000. That is a lot for a business to spend given that there are so many less-expensive alternatives around.
VW’s latest offering is protected by a three-year/100,000-mile warranty, which includes three years of breakdown assistance. A three-year paintwork warranty is provided as well, along with a 12-year anti-perforation corrosion warranty. Customers can opt for fixed or variable service intervals. With the former you’ll take the truck to a workshop for a major service every two years/20,000 miles; with the latter it will be every 18,000 miles or thereabouts, depending on its duty cycle.
We alluded to the Amarok’s fuel consumption earlier, and it’s worth remembering that compliance with the Euro6 exhaust emission rules means that it will require topping up with AdBlue periodically too. The filler point for the 13-litre reservoir is under the flap, which also conceals the diesel filler point. The reservoir will typically require replenishing every 3,250 miles.
Finally, it’s good to see that a steel spare wheel with a temporary spare tyre is supplied rather than an inflator with sealant.