Having put in a stint of more than six months on What Van?’s long-term fleet, our VW Amarok has left the fold.

In some ways, the timing was unfortunate, with the big 4×4 departing just before the nation was subjected to weeks of heavy rainfall that led to unprecedented and widespread flooding. With the reassurance of the Amarok’s ability to master the elements, I may have undertaken planned excursions to badly hit areas close to the rivers Severn and Wye, which I postponed due to the saturated conditions.

This would have given the Amarok a chance to atone for a frustrating last few weeks on the test fleet during which its load space was out of use due to a jammed lock on the hard-top’s tailgate. A combination of the fault occurring in the run-up to Christmas and the fact that the parts had to be ordered from Germany meant that the problem could not be rectified before the vehicle went back to base. Hard tops can be an invaluable accessory but are an aftermarket fit, and as such remain, to an extent, out of the franchise network’s control.

Our previous visit to a VW dealership, Beadles of Dartford, had been positive. A minor glitch with the driver’s door caused by a loose door-lock plate was fixed with minimum fuss, and the workshop also carried out the free-of-charge 28-point visual health check VW introduced across its CV network last year. This involves technicians carrying out checks on the vehicle’s main wear-and-tear items and ensuring fluid levels are correct and the battery in good condition. The whole process, including the warranty-covered repair, took less than half a day.

According to VW, it sold 2559 Amaroks in 2013 – a healthy increase on the 1749 shifted the previous year. This would suggest the pick-up is gaining traction in the market as operators become accustomed to its many virtues. Primary among these on our top-specced Amarok Highline was the eight-speed automatic transmission we opted for. This works harmoniously in tandem with the powerful 180hp version of the 2.0-litre diesel engine utilised across VW’s commercial line-up, and gives it an edge over the six-speed auto ’box employed by its most natural rival at the top end of the pick-up sector, the Ford Ranger.

The Amarok also boasts a lower loading height than the Ranger – 780mm compared with 835mm – but in other areas it loses out. Its payload capacity of 1077kg cannot match the Ford truck’s 1152kg, and its towing limit of 3200kg, although decent, falls short of the Ranger’s 3500kg. What’s more, the Amarok is still only offered as a double cab whereas the Ranger comes in single and super cab guises too.

However, in terms of ride, refinement and interior quality, the Amarok is at least a match for the Ford. The cabin is spacious with plenty of legroom for rear occupants, and the leather
seats are both comfortable and easy to clean after wet and muddy passengers have left. The height-adjustable driver’s seat is supportive and the steering wheel is adjustable for height and reach, which is certainly not a given in the LCV sector. Overall, the level of luxury does not fall short of what you would expect to find in an upmarket SUV.

Also, for such a large vehicle it is surprisingly agile (there are no clunking gear changes to contend with), and with good vision from the driver’s position and excellent parking sensors, one can venture into tight spots that would otherwise prove prohibitive. The Bluetooth and touch-screen satnav are user- friendly and there are none of the fiddly little dials and buttons that afflict the dashboards of some pick-ups.

Curiously, however, for a vehicle that otherwise feels generously specced, there are no steering wheel-mounted controls for the six-speaker radio/CD player. The Highline does not offer DAB as standard.

But on balance the Amarok is an impressive package. Its off- road prowess is complemented by fine on-road manners. With unimpeachable build-quality and a high level of refinement, it marks a successful return to the pick-up sector for VW.